Have a problem? I can solve it. Have something on your mind? I can listen to it. Want to talk about the deepest, darkest corners of your soul? I can empathize. Ask me to do the same. I freeze. I realized that today at work when I was faced with an outpouring of emotion when it was known I was leaving. I didn’t know what to do when my team members cried. I couldn’t allow myself to feel. I came back home and thought what it is that stops me from expressing to anything apart from Microsoft Word.
Emotions are difficult. There is no manual that someone thrusts into your hand when you are in kindergarten that tells you how to deal with them. How do you know what you should feel when the boy at school pulls your plait? How do you know what you should feel when someone molests you on the bus? How do you know what to feel even when people you love slip away into the dark night? Over the years, I have learned to store away my emotions. I can cry easily at a movie because I fool myself into thinking it is not real. I bottle it up when facing life. The first time was at my brother’s death many years ago. I will never know why. I froze even before that when my grandmother died when I was but a kid. And then, another grandmother died. Uncles. Cousins. For many years, I carried my feelings ice-thawed, wrapped in icicled tombs. It hurt to touch them. It hurt to acknowledge they existed. Happiness. Joy. Sadness. Melancholy. Grief. Intense shearing grief. Mind-liberating happiness. Check check check. Coffined. Till I went to China for the first time and there I was. On the summit of the Flower and Fruit Mountain in Lianyungang with an Indian businessman only because the Chinese government wanted me to keep him company. We drove almost all the way to the top. And then climbed the last few steps, and there I saw it. It had snowed. I wasn’t expecting it. There had been no sign of snow in the city when we left. I didn’t know how snow looked or felt. Snow was hanging off the boughs of trees. I removed my gloves and gathered a fistful. It was cold. And something thawed in me. That moment crystallized itself into happiness. For that one moment, I was truly happy. Just me and that cold and a person I would never meet again taking pictures of me standing in the snow. Happy.
I learned to feel more since then. I found a wonderful friend who made the coffin I carried inside slip away. I learned to share my feelings or emotions, even if it was only with this one friend. Every little thought that lodged itself in the crevice of my mind. I could finally talk. Free of the burden or encumbrances of perceptions. I could be free to be stupid. To be vulnerable. To show that I am not ‘strong,’ as many think I am. There, I could be a mouse. I could be the virtuoso. I could finally articulate. I could start a sentence with “I feel..” and end it without making needless alterations. That thawing that began in Lianyungang was slowly beginning to melt years of walking on an emotion-less desert. I was never able to be as free with my emotions as I was with this friend. And that too, is a dangerous thing, as I have learned. In the darkest night, I found my soul. But just before dawn, you find that the light was an illusion. That the brightest light burns low. And then the fire dies. You feel the threads of a new winter wrap itself around you. And I know I am back where it all began. Cold. On top of a mountain. Wishing I could thaw. Because for so long have I been opening up to just one person, that I no longer know how to get back to talking with anyone else.
I am frozen now when the closest person I have ever known walked away. Again. But I will try. Because I much as I like winter, I don’t like staying there forever.