I’ve been working on a theory of Resting Emotion. The state in which a person has a moment of nothing– a state of neither bad nor good– the emotion that surfaces. It’s the moment after a room is laughing together, the joke has already been told, the oh‘s and ah‘s and mmm‘s have fallen to the floor, and the silent lull takes over. Sometimes just for a second, sometimes a few beats. In that time– the transition– what is the emotion that a person naturally fades to before the next thing appears? When I was conjuring this idea, I believed mine was Sadness. We were parked outside of Kingman, AZ at a place called Coyote Pass, where we woke to rock structures that looked like Mars and spent our mornings hiking and our evenings seeing multiples of stars we swore we’d never seen before.
I traced back to my childhood– the crushing sadness of waking up. The debilitating sadness of the third pew from the pulpit on Sunday mornings. The seeping, serene sadness of a sunset. My Someone and I named it one late night after a show– years before he was my Someone– as the Other Shoe. We had been laughing til we cried, until the crying became crying. Maybe it’s fear or nerves and some other neurotic phenomenon, but wherever there was bliss, my body prepared itself quickly for the Other Shoe to drop, padding itself with sorrow that could welcome whatever punishment was coming for my happiness.
This is my Resting Emotion. Contrary to podcasts and science that tell me that emotions are social constructs, contrary to nurture, contrary to free will and change– I was born this way. My Someone was born with the Resting Emotion of Anxiety, resorting to the what-if‘s and potential failings that keep him twitching in the transition. My little dog, Happiness. At least there is a little balance.
We were fighting again. We fight a lot since our dog died, and I am suspicious that this is our Resting Emotion coming head to head. Sadness and Anxiety clashing to make Anger. My Someone said something unintentional. I raged. I prepared myself to retort, brewing a wiry, stiff cocktail of jab and truth. And just as I was ready to pour it out, a voice in my head stopped me.
The sentiment seemed so cheesy, so unlikely, that I did stop. I clenched my jaw, I tried again– and the voice persisted.
I stopped resisting. I eased. I took a deep breath. My Someone eased, too. We changed direction. We made dinner, instead.
Barf, I thought, this could actually work.
The thing about Resting Emotion is that all other emotions are a surprise or a challenge. They’re unnatural. They are work.
This morning I was thinking of my Resting Emotion. It was holding up. My Someone was still resorting to Anxiety, my dog still Happy. And me, Angry. I’d been guzzling the emotion for a couple of weeks, now, occasionally voluntarily. I couldn’t get enough. At least, not until the voice started. Now, my Resting Emotion was in a constant state of challenge by Love. I didn’t particularly like it, but the pangs in my chest and shoulders were decreasing, and the crease in my brow was less severe. And my Someone and I were fighting less. Which was still a lot, but less.
We are halfway through a four day pact to not-fight-at-all-costs. We are winning, in spite of my Resting Emotion.
Which is why, when checking on my writings of my theory from a couple months before, I was shocked to see that my Resting Emotion was first diagnosed as Sadness.
And in this way, I am debunking my theory.
This is the thing about the little Choose Love voice that is taking over. While it is foreign to me, it is still the sound of my own voice. Which brings me back to Resting Emotion. I think it might hold up, after all. What if our Resting Emotion is Love? What if our Natural State isn’t the garbage we tell ourselves? So then, maybe we really can’t change who we are, but we fight it. We can fight it by believing that we will only ever be Sad or Angry or Anxious for the rest of our lives. We can fight it by saying that our natural state is Not Good. But, I can’t deny that in a moment of white hot fury, my own voice told me to Choose Love, and I instinctively knew what that meant. The instruction was vague, but I already had it in me to do what it asked– to a T.
So maybe our Resting Emotion is Love– and maybe it’s not an emotion at all. Maybe regardless of who we think we are, our real selves will persist. And there are 100 tiny redemptions we perform in a day to uncover ourselves rather than what we believe we are. To uncover each other. To uncover love. To choose it.