My purest memories tend to stick in my head as sensations. Perhaps I’m just better at remembering feelings than actual events.
A memory that is often brought to the surface is that of me as a kid, watching "The Wonder Years", hearing Bob Seger’s song "We’ve Got Tonight" play perfectly behind the angst of two teenagers overwhelmed by life and love.
Until a recent internet search, my visual memory pictured Winnie and Kevin kissing in a storm shelter in the last episode. In reality, the moment took place on Winnie’s roof after she was in a car accident with older high school boys. Kevin climbs to her window to see her. Through their sadness, they smile at each other and whisper, "I love you."
It doesn’t matter that I didn’t remember the exact scene or episode. What matters is the impression it left on my heart. Kevin aches to be the something that Winnie is grasping for while in a downward spiral. Kevin is Winnie’s something, but there is nothing to do, other than to acknowledge the existence of the moment. The feelings of vulnerability and the rawness of life are what stayed with me.
The heartache of unrequited love was tangible for me as a closeted gay kid. My teenage desperation to fit in and simultaneous desire to be anywhere other than around the people who knew me was such a permanent, internal battle. Yet the validation that big and messy feelings are normal was and still is a comfort.
Twenty-six years, a wife, and three kids later have not dulled the big, passionate emotions I feel. Their circumstances have changed, but the rawness with which I feel them has not. Yet I still find myself fighting them from time to time. I'm fighting them now and looking for another Winnie and Kevin moment. I am looking for comfort. Maybe you are, too.
Lately, I have been overwhelmed by life. I've wanted to eat all the food and drink all the drink. I have wanted to buy all the things, "like" all the posts, read all the articles. I've wanted to be anywhere other than in the moment. I have been weighed down with resentment, anger, and an overactive mind. I know parenting is tough, but on some days it feels harder than it should be.
The details of why are important, but not as much as the way I feel them. Some days I look at my kids with such frustration; I wonder what I've done wrong. Some days I look at them with such love; I wonder how I will ever be able to protect them from the world. Some days I look at my kids with such admiration; I wonder how I got so lucky.
My reasons for feeling the effects of life could be your reasons. Likely they are not. Our journeys can be different, but equally important.
Lately, I've been overwhelmed by love. Not because of losing it, but because of its power and ability to grow. Being loved sometimes feels uncomfortable, and sometimes I say thank you because my instinct is to apologize. I am still teaching myself to accept praise, support, and kindness with the same willingness I'm able to give it to others. Giving myself compassion feels like weakness; taking it from someone else feels like stealing.
One of my favorite sensations is the way a certain song can cut through me with a force strong enough to relax my shoulders and warm me like a shot of gin. Memories sit heavy, good and bad heartbreaks collide, and enlightenment washes over me.
What I feel is not overwhelming in those moments. I could stay in those moments forever because details are replaced with the thousands of tiny impressions that have been placed on my heart by strangers, friends, my partner, and my kids.
I am trying to remind myself that the details of work, parenting, and life are fleeting. The events that make days hard and wonderful will change and fade. The emotions will not. We and our remembered experiences are important. The rawness of our stories will keep us telling and living more of them.
At the end of the day, we are either Winnie or Kevin, looking at other parents, our kids and our partners, sifting through feelings, crying or smiling because of and in spite of love.
I know it’s late, I know you’re weary…Why don’t you stay?