When I was a kid, I was clumsy. As a result, I wasn’t especially good at sports. I was awkward with girls, and a prime target for bullies. What’s more, I was poor white trash with a drunk for a mom and a failed pig farmer for a dad.
But I was smart, and I lived on the edge of 400 acres of thick forest that no one except me and my brothers and our equally awkward friends ever set foot on. I developed an intricate and elaborate emotional and spiritual life, based in large part on exercising my vivid imagination, and based in large part on exploring those woods. When I got a little older, I began going to church, and I started a relationship with God, who - because I was so in touch with my spirituality - wasn’t silent or invisible, as he’s so often accused of being. Instead, he was omnipresent and very, very real. I could feel him coursing through my arteries and veins.
I became a master of the visceral, exceedingly comfortable in that spiritual and emotional world. I was romantic. I was full of conviction, and I wasn’t afraid to show my emotions - even to cry. And despite my awkwardness and the circumstances of my upbringing, I was happy.
I stayed that way for years. I’m pretty sure I was still a romantic when I met my wife. You can ask a lot of my college friends and former college friends - I was often fiery with conviction (which is why some of those people are FORMER friends now).
But then - and I don’t know when exactly - something started to shift. At some point, I became more comfortable in my own skin. At some point, the circumstances of my childhood dissolved into mere memories, replaced by my much more materialistically satisfying adulthood. My imagination became less of a place to inhabit and more of a tool to use to get what I wanted.
God became quiet, obfuscated. I started thinking that romantic notions were silly and hokey and contrived. I found it harder to cry.
Now, that visceral world I was so comfortable in has become a much more physical and logical world. I don’t follow convictions because I’m emotionally charged by them - I follow them because they just make sense. The existence of God still makes sense to me, but I’ve come to realize that He/She/It is a lot more complicated than my former visceral self could have guessed.
I’m no longer comfortable in a visceral world, and when I touch the visceral, I feel out of my element. In other words, when a movie or book or song moves me emotionally, when someone expresses a certain level of sentimentality, when I go to church - I feel discomfited. Bothered. Awkward.
Here’s the thing, though: if you’re reading this and thinking that I’m telling you all this because I’m no longer happy, then I’ve misled you and I need to make my point better. I am happy - happier than I ever have been.
Those emotional highs and lows are volatile and ephemeral. They come, they hit me hard, they make my heart race and my eyes fill with tears. but then they go away, and often leave me wondering if they were genuine. Or necessary.
The cool logic that I feel comfortable with now never goes away. It’s constant, reassuring, and reliable.
There are two questions I ask now, whenever a quiet moment overtakes me:
Why did I change? And which state of mind - the visceral or the logical - is healthier for me?