I was once told that I have emotions seeping out of every pore in my body.
It doesn’t take a plethora of scientific studies to prove that artists are sensitive (though many studies have).
At risk of sounding incredibly cliche, I find my own sensitivity to be a blessing and a curse. If you are having a bad day, I’m a good listener; I’m also fairly decent at reading other people’s emotions. I feel deeply and fiercely, and most decisions I make are made with my heart.
Emotions are also kind of a pain in the ass. Sometimes, I am brought to tears just because Drew said something really nice. For instance:
Me: I’m afraid I’m going to trip while walking down the aisle.
Drew: That would be hilarious.
Me: What the hell!? No, it wouldn’t!
Drew: I mean, I’d laugh, but then I would just think, “That’s the woman I fell in love with.”
Me [eyes shining with tears]: AWWWWWW.
So, yeah. I have emotions seeping out of every pore in my body.
That’s why I write, and why others paint or make music or dance. Art has a funny way of helping us understand and appreciate this beautiful, messy thing called life.
Perhaps this hyper-sensitivity is also why art so easily lends itself to social justice. If sensitive artist types like myself are already FEELING ALL THE FEELS and then catch a segment of the evening news, we’re going to start feeling even more feels. And, like everything else buzzing around our minds, those feelings have to go somewhere.
That’s why I continue to write. There are plenty of stories that are just for me, and there’s something beautiful in that, too–but I will have truly answered my call to create if my words can help make the world a better place.
In the past, I wrote about social justice and politics sporadically; in other words, I wrote about justice when I didn’t know what else to do. Words were the best way–the only way–I knew how to change myself and the world around me. I took my anger, threw it back at the world, and said, “Ha! I made something beautiful. You can’t hurt us anymore.”
“Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.”
― Cornel West
After the 2016 election, I vowed to do everything I could to stand for justice and social change. I would march. I would call my Senators. I would write letters to Donald Trump every day. I would stay educated on every single bill. Most importantly, I would write. God, I would write. Because that’s what I was put on this earth to do, dammit.
This is a promise that is impossible to keep, even for a girl who feels too much and too hard. You see, the problem with feeling so many things at once is that you are in danger of burning out. Fast.
Not that my exhaustion stopped me. I called my Senators. I prayed every day and started writing more articles about justice. I wrote letters and Tweeted up a storm.
But I had started to feel numb. Everything I did felt useless. I felt like I didn’t deserve to be called an ‘activist,’ because I was just calling politicians and writing on my blog that barely reached a hundred people. I hadn’t started writing any thought-provoking dystopian novels or anything, either. I listened to the news, and instead of heartache I felt hopelessness. I was angry, but I was no longer surprised. It was a familiar reaction, really–how many of us catch a news story about a shooting or a terrorist attack, shake our heads, and change the channel?
That might be the scariest thing of all: that tragedy and injustice strike, and we aren’t even surprised.
We should be. We should be shocked to our very core. This is not how the world was meant to be.
A few months ago, my pastor taught a sermon on compassion fatigue. He explained that thanks to the Internet, we are bombarded with information every second of every day. We can only process a certain amount of information at once, so our empathy fizzles out. We stop caring.
That Sunday, I realized how tired I was. I had stopped caring, and I didn’t feel like myself. Emotions may be a pain in the ass, but I would rather feel too much than nothing at all.
Rest was long overdue. I took a short break from social media, and listened to the news a little less. I was less weary, and I started to FEEL ALL THE FEELS again.
And, once again, this proved to be a blessing and a curse. This past week, I was in tears after reading the news and scrolling through Facebook. I was worried about healthcare and heartbroken for my transgender brothers and sisters; it had already been a stressful week without another blow from the government. My empathy was back in high gear, but so was my hopelessness.
“I’m just so angry and sad,” I told Drew. “No matter how many calls we make or letters we write, it doesn’t seem to make a difference.”
Drew paused, and then in his thoughtful, wonderful, Drew way, he said something I will never forget: “Sometimes, you don’t fight to win the current battle. You fight to win the next one.”
I do not write this little blog entry as a how-to, or an advice column, or even as a promise for myself–but I do write this as an encouragement to my fellow artists and hyper-sensitives.
We cannot afford apathy. We need your emotions–every single one. We need art to light up the world. We need fierce compassion so we can love the least of these. Stay sensitive. Empathy is indeed a blessing, even on the very worst days.
Pain is a part of life, yes; it’s unavoidable in this broken, brutal world. But we’re a part of this life, too, and that fact alone means that we are not powerless.
Listen to the aches of your heart and keep creating, whether you bake or write or paint or dance. The world may not need you in order to keep spinning, but it desperately wants you–because there are future battles to be won.