The past few days have been glorious summer. The sky is that deep, deep blue that feels like the essence of blue. The trees and grass are rich late summer green, and a breeze keeps the sun from completely baking you. When you stand under the shade of a tree, the world feels very nearly perfect.
But it’s not.
As far back as I can remember, I’ve felt everything deeply. As a little girl, I would start to cry if I thought about my parents dying, or about children in Africa with no shoes and no food. I hated being away from my parents, especially my mother, and would get so upset if she had to leave for the afternoon that she wouldn’t tell me until the day of if she had an appointment. But I experienced beauty and joy the same way – almost unbearably. The night before a trip, I would tingle all over with joy as I lay waiting for sleep in my bed. The way the light sparkled patterns in our pool, a sunset, the feel of gulf sand under my feet – I remember feeling beauty so deeply that I literally ached.
I don’t feel things nearly as sharply as I used to, but I still feel intensely. When I was in high school, this felt like a gift. Once OCD manifested, it felt like a curse. I know that I can’t trust my feelings all (or even most?) of the time. I also know that I’m a feeler, one hundred percent, and that’s a huge part of how I experience the world. It’s why I write and read poetry, it’s why I think literature requires scholarship, it’s why I try to decorate my living space with beautiful things that feel like “me.” The feeler part of me is also why I have such a hard time relating to God when I don’t feel his goodness, his love.
I recognized a long time ago that maturity -growth- involves trusting something other than my feelings. But I’m still figuring out how to do that while not simply shutting down my feelings.
How do you trust the goodness and beauty of the world–of God –when you’ve been hurt? How do you say “thank you” without looking over your shoulder, without waiting for the other shoe to drop? How do you rest in the good things that happen when your brain, your feelings, are telling you it’s too good to be true, that it can’t be true because you don’t feel it?
I don’t know. I don’t have an answer for those questions. I just have this prayer:
“Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.” -Frederick Buechner