I wrote a poem once about the architecture of emotions, and how they have a power to change our shape, our structure. It’s not that emotions come along, and give us the sole definition to our humanity – I can guarantee, for example, that my dogs feel love, excitement, frustration.
It’s more that I begin to understand my own form, and how I begin any metamorphosis with an emotional awakening, an emotional catalyst, if you will. In that way, emotions do offer definition to our humanity. But, it’s important to remember that they are just one way in which we can be defined.
I’ve always felt that life is a little overwhelming. That was my experience, and it still is my experience sometimes. A job working in the media, I suppose, was never going to be a typical 9 to 5.
Back to this poem that I tried to write. The architecture of emotions as a concept began for me when I started to recognise less of the overwhelm within my body and experience more of the nuance of what it means to live as a sentient, emotional and emoting person.
I began singing, dancing and being part of a community again after a hard break-up a few years ago. My uncomfortable emotions were not always just discomfort and overwhelm, they were this strange mix (often) of joy, resolve, sadness, anger, unsurety, and this fierce adrenaline, high octane feeling that I’ve never had a name for.
At that time, I started really feeling into what was making me overwhelmed, partially, of course, it was sensory.
Living in a busy UK metropolis at the time led to late nights, bright lights and lots and lots of caffeine. I was constantly in this underworld of colour, advertising, people and strange adventures with new friends. I loved it – but I was unready, maybe, to open myself up so much.
Which is perhaps exactly why opening myself up that much, worked so well.
I was sitting in the bedroom of my two room apartment. It was just up the road from my ex-partner’s house, and I felt unsafe, weird, really in my body, and really outside of my body at the same time.
I had a notebook beside me as I sat on my mattress sans bed frame. My fairy lights were on, I’d showered, changed the position of the bed, and ignored the texts of friends, and to be perfectly honest, a healthy slew of rebounds.
I thought about how this event had changed me. How I’d looked down on break-ups of long-term, or emotionally entangled relationships. I thought about how I felt like I was literally falling apart – I’m a somatic person, if you hadn’t guessed.
That’s the scene. This is where this idea of the architecture of emotions came from. There was this moment, in that bare room, at that vulnerable time, where I thought about the structure of the human body, the skeleton.
I thought about my shoulder, and felt it floating in an aether. The near-insanity of it made me giggle. My ex, and a few others, had told me I was crazy for how I felt things, for how I feel things.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m only about as crazy as the next person. I researched into this odd overly physical experience of emotions. You guessed it, turns out, I was (and sometimes still am) just a strung-out empath.
I kept thinking, then, how weird it is that something that is quite normal for so many, became for me a reason to deny my own worth, not only in my own body, but in every relationship I had had? It was so odd that this normal but slightly different experience of life was so heavy, so so heavy, when it was misunderstood.
Quite clearly, I didn’t know myself, and it was time to learn.
I’ve always loved architecture. House makeover shows – my Pinterest house board is kind of amazing, let me tell you.
I wondered what do I really feel? What really makes me up?
Things I loved came to mind. Things like art, music, touch, travel, and finally, architecture.
At that point, I felt like a bunch of bones and muscle in a jelly of emotion that had me floating in emotional liminal spaces. Something would happen, I’d see my ex, or I’d kiss someone new, and boom – suddenly the floating and space became defined.
My emotions, at that time of untethering sounded like: “I’m supposed to give everything for love,” “I’m supposed to work through this,” “I should be trying to make him feel better,” “He has kids, I can’t leave.” They were horrible, but they gave me the beginning of a new shape.
I began to learn more about who I was.
I mean, really learn.
I found my sharp edges when I shouted at a friend in a nightclub. I found my victimhood, and my codependency in searching my heart. I learned the depth of my compassion when I realised that these more negative thoughts had next-to-zero baring on my actual life and actions. It seems that while I am wild, extroverted, strange and charismatic, I had lied to myself about all of it.
I convinced myself I had to confine everything that makes me, me, to the shadows. I realised that, a bit like a Gothic cathedral, my darkness was actually creating the foundation for spirals and moments of great light.
And I had been resisting it, for the longest time.
It’s not easy to write, and it’s less easy to write about myself, but I’ve never seen architecture apologise for being there.
I’ve never seen shape and structure and form that is carved, or built, or created suddenly prostrate itself for the darkness of it’s beams, the shadows of its corners, or the shelter of its lower walls.
In the poem, from what I remember, my architecture of feeling that I had fused to my body suddenly took a turn.
It turned to sand.
My whole body in this architecture of emotion became free-flowing, glittering sand.
You would think it would be water. After all, spirituality often links water to healing, growth, creation, and, yes, emotions.
It was the first time I had allowed myself to feel my emotions in this new, visual way. I was the most relaxed and at peace in that moment during my time in the UK.
The strangest and most powerful lesson of the architecture of emotion, for me, was that it could define me but only for a moment.
My emotions were the ladder or support to move me on to the freedom of flowing sand.
Of course, you’ll have guessed that the architecture of emotions is an architecture that only exists in a space that you can access through your heart, and body, and soul.
I wonder, what’s your architecture of emotion?
What is your calming, flowing sandy moment of realisation?
The architecture of emotions came from a recognition that we human-folk are built to be not only caretakers of the world, but guardians of a sacred inner space that replenishes, refreshes and reinvigorates us to go out and live bravely, with more love for all life, and with more authenticity.
2020 was an incredible year of abject darkness, pain, scarcity and isolation. And yet, we are turning toward what we can do to make it better in 2021.
We are using our darkness as the power to our light, the foundation, the support.
The architecture of emotion can leave you feeling like there’s no support at all, until you turn to sand and realise that, actually, you were always part of the billions of other grains of sand that lead to the freedom of the sea.
You are home, you are real, you are loved, you belong.
So, again, I wonder, what’s your architecture of emotion?