If you watched the Golden Globe awards Sunday night, then you saw the epic speech that actress Meryl Streep gave after winning the Cecil B. Demille Lifetime Award. Now while the entire speech was awesome, the part that lingered in my ears long after the speech concluded was a quote that she gave from Carrie Fisher.
So simple, and yet so strong. And true. If you create anything or consider yourself an artist of any kind, then this sentiment is not new to you. The idea of creative expression being the outlet for your pain, your love, your all. It’s part of what makes your art a part of you.
But I know that not everyone gets how awesome and real that statement is. After all, today you see so many people on the “anti-feelings” brigade that to actually express feeling and emotion seems more like an anomaly than not. Because having feelings isn’t in-style, going a step further and saying you had your feelings hurt, or worse: had your heart broken, is a no-no. It’s like admitting defeat or admitting a shameful secret.
It’s also the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.
Yet it’s real because essentially admitting that you had your heart broken is equated with admitting you involved your heart in the first place. Because we all know that you shouldn’t involve your heart in anything. Not if you’re smart. Not if you know what’s good for you. Right?
Part of me wants to ask what it is about feelings & emotions that so many people are so afraid of. But I can’t act like I don’t know. I get it. Getting your heart broken sucks. It feels horrible. Loving someone that doesn’t love you back is a mind fuck that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. Wanting someone that doesn’t want you back doesn’t feel particularly cool either. But still, these are all a part of life. Love is not a bad word. Having feelings is not a sign of weakness. But in these games we play with people, it’s like having either can be used against you. People spit those words out like they’re trying to get a bad taste out of their mouth. I’ve had conversations with guys where they talk about catching feelings like it’s equivalent to a disease. And I can’t help but wonder: where did we go so wrong as a society that that is a legitimate comparison to some. Seriously?
I don’t necessarily think we should have to go around wearing our hearts on our sleeve. But I hate how showing you have heart and care about people can literally be something that people try to use against you or will distance themselves from you for. It’s created this world where you feel like you have to have your guard up and hide your emotions. I know that most people I know, myself included, have this smart mouth and are quick with the verbal venom because that’s the instinctual defense mechanism we have. That’s the result of what can happen when you feel that showing you have a heart is a problem. That’s what happens when anger or indifference are considered more ideal feelings to show than loving and caring. When you pride yourself on being strong and “unbothered”, you end up focusing on showing that to the world and basically stifling the hurt and pain that you sometimes feel.
I should know.
I am a recovering queen of hiding my feelings- or trying to anyway. Even though I threw away and rejected the “strong Black woman” archetype, and the negative connotations and consequences that come with it, a long time ago, I can’t deny that parts of it lingered on. After all, that was a badge of honor that many of my friends and I looked up to growing up. “Be strong.” “Never let ‘em see you cry.” “ Always keep your head up.” Those were mottos I lived by. As with any kind of script or ideal that you grow up with, it can be hard to shake that mindset when you get older. Even when it works against you and you find your self face-to-face, having to deal with the exact feelings you denied having, ignored, and pushed aside.
And yet, it’s necessary.
I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with showing strength or keeping your head up. I still believe in that. But I do think we have to redefine what showing strength is. Or, more to the point, what it is not. Living life with the goal to avoid pain or heartbreak isn’t living. That’s existing. I completely get having your guard up and trying to be intelligent about who you give your heart to and who you care about. Even though the heart wants what it wants, there is a such thing as being able to see clearly and realize that despite what you feel, someone or some situation is not good for you. That makes sense. But at the same time, there’s a difference between being discerning about your love life and being absent of love in your life. We have to take the good with the bad. Even though I would rather things be positive and I always feel good and positive, I know that feeling that way 24-7 is not real. The good comes with the bad. Has my heart been broken a few times, yes. But I don’t feel dumb or ashamed about it. Even while I’m going through it I can sit back and take stock that I tried to love and be loved. It didn’t work out, because sometimes things just don’t. But still I tried. That’s life.
And that’s where the art comes in. I think that being able to have the gift of an art is a blessing when it comes to dealing with life. You have this arena where you can pour your heart and soul into. Additionally artists show us the beauty that can come from heartbreak. They show us how it’s a part of life and how we can persevere in the midst and in the aftermath of it. They also show us how really, love is everything. And even when it doesn’t work, even when your heart breaks, it’s all a part of this journey called life.