My parents joke that my apartment in Denver is a monastery, that I have become so used to solitude and silence that my ears have become super sensitive to the mundane noise of living. The grandfather clock that strikes every 15 minutes, the birds chirping in the backyard, my dad chewing a steak, the constant sniffling of a head cold, the television with all its bad news brewing in the background at breakfast, and the general shuffling of feet around a creaking house. Indeed, I have grown sensitive.
But I have also grown beyond the tiny irritations that used to irk me, short-circuiting my patience and compassion, and stir inside a hyper-critical analysis of the place I used to live. New Jersey is loud, and I
am not have not been for a long time. I suppose it knows something intimate about me, having raised me among its dense population, that I too, have an attitude – strong feelings about things.
As an adult, I have come to understand the many and subtle ways that attitude – the expression of emotion – can be embodied or vocalized, and and that perhaps we should curb our need for it to be qualified as “positive” or “bad.” It is far more nuanced than the action one takes, such as honking a horn in traffic; or the appearance one has, say the color of their nails, for instance. There’s a whole human, complex and fragile, determining both action and appearance, that upon our initial interpretation might prompt us to lean in, lash out, or leave alone.
I find myself leaning in to the attitude inherent in Jersey culture, one that has also witnessed me lash out and leave.
Peace and quiet is an attitude, and it happens on the inside, like a duck that is calm on the water’s surface and always poetry in motion underneath. No doubt, Denver has given me that, and so I return to the Garden State with an ability to operate with an awareness of choice: joy or anger – my two most easily and readily accessible emotions.
Their relationship is an interesting one. The people, places, and things that have brought me tremendous joy also gave rise to tremendous anger – one in the same intensity – as if they were a shoe on each foot and any forward movement was defined by this oscillation of opposite emotions. Attitude, however, is all about how you carry yourself.
While I do not wish to embody angry joy, per se, I do know how to hold space for contradictory feelings (and all the varieties in between) for long periods of time; that they are accessible for expression at any time I’d like. I know now, however, that anger only existed when my joy was rejected, as an immediate response to my heartbreak, as fuel for moving on and on and on.
Suppose that I can acknowledge anger and choose joy instead, as a sustainable return to a full heart, as rich soil for settling down, down, down.