IN TIMES OF DIFFICULTY, people often need either a good cry or a good fucking. Though it doesn’t seem so at first, each is an instance of love. Indeed, one of my oldest aphorisms observes that everything is either an act of love or a cry for love.
Let’s start with a zesty Anglo-Saxon fornication, shall we? It’s the more familiar of my offbeat examples, each of which has to do with letting go. In difficult times it is nice to feel wanted, and what better reassurance than another’s desire to possess you? If you are wanted for your body, then a craving for your soul can’t lag far behind. The force of physical appetite so often goes hand in hand with emotional need.
Letting go is often excellent advice. Preparing to administer a treatment in the blues song bearing his name, Doctor Short John says, “lie down, stretch out, and please don’t look so sad.” That prescription is known to work wonders. Letting go physically can be a prelude to letting go emotionally, an inescapable step toward trust.
Because we commonly try to control what we really can’t, yielding can be an enormous relief. The struggle to govern life’s every detail is like sailing a boat in a storm. The harder we force the rudder and yank the rope the more likely we are to tip over. Good sailors know that letting go of the rope lets the boat right itself. Everything becomes okay.
Controlling our emotions to avoid feeling them is a lost battle. Feeling always wins over stoicism, even though it may take years or even a lifetime for emotion to crumple barriers. A good cry is a biological safety valve. This excellent release is an act of loving ourselves while we abide the disappointment that things aren’t going to turn out as we wanted.
We live an endless cycle of craving, action, and discontent. Discontent with our current situation prompts us to mold matters more to our liking. Here begins the exertion of self-will. Life would be wonderful if everybody behaved like actors in a play whose action, dialogue, and plot we controlled. But others have separate lives that we can’t live; we can only live our own. This includes knowing when to accept matters as they are instead of forcing them to be what they aren’t.
Our lives are finite but our longings are infinite, which is why craving and discontent are facts of life. Without them, how can we recognize happiness when it arrives? How will we know when longing is fulfilled if we don’t understand what we long for?
The first step in coming to terms with our heart’s desire is to feel it—acknowledge its presence, listen quietly, and see where it wants to lead. If we do, the pent up forces may eventually demand one of the remedies outlined here.
Instead of waiting for the dam to break we can learn how to let go and open up when given the chance. We challenge our bodies with sports and test our wits with puzzles, but where are the training routines for our feelings? It’s up to us to invent them ourselves, and practice them at every turn.