In college I got enormously drunk one night and cried over a bad breakup with some stupid boy and one of my guy friends told me he had thought the world was ending. I felt even more desperate for control of myself after that. He'd never seen a genuine emotion come out of me before, and even then I'd had to be saturated enough with liquor to let anything at all seep out. I played my cards close to my chest, then. That's what I thought it took for people to like me.
I grew up in a series of places that felt like a vice, a series of expectations and right angles, repetitive patterns. If ever I tried to stretch, I could be sure that one of my limbs would strike a solid surface. It wasn't that I had a bad life, I think I just felt cagey and irritable for lack of something I couldn't name.
Now though, I seem to cry at the drop of a hat. Little things, seemingly nothing things. Anything that moves me in the slightest. I feel so much for everything that the swell in my chest has become familiar and even comforting.
I cried driving through a tiny little Oregon town in the mountains two days ago for the love of the place at first sight. Again during a Pete Seeger song just because his ideas are pure and fair. I cried at the start of the NCAA women's championship basketball game, when all the players were being introduced. Those girls, playing for the love of something, not because there's even the slightest chance of anything more, just for the sake of loving the game and the feeling of being part of something good. And how can I ever explain to those around me why these things bubble over so freely in me now?
How can I really explain why I welcome it?
It's more than the little moments which make me feel grateful to be living right here and now, it's a change that happened to all of me somewhere along the road. It's a shift in me that makes the world a better place for me, and me better for being a part of it.
I'd like to blame the years of training as a counselor for this somewhat recent development, but I know the real root.
I have the West to thank for this change in me.
And thankful is exactly what I am.
Choosing this place, a rugged and ever-changing wonderland of beauty as my home, it has made me aware and enthusiastic, wilder and more open than I ever could have imagined.
Where once there was a cap, a container for all my emotions and depth of feeling, now there is only wide open air, a boundless plane in all directions for all that I am and everything I witness. There is finally room for wonder, and I find I am full of it.
That is what the West is. Still a little wild, jagged, rugged. It's unpolished and perfect in a way that only true beauty can be. Open to whatever comes, able to cultivate and stoke at the wild fires burning in my heart, no desire or notion to tame my inner furies or blind devotions.
I was a person before I came to the west, it simply split me wide open- gave me more room for possibility, more space to grow from the inside out.