How Do You Feel? By Shan Jeniah Burton

I‘m going to start this inspirational post with a video. Those who know me probably won’t be surprised to see that it’s a Star Trek clip. If you’re not into that kind of thing, don’t worry. You don’t need to watch it; I’ll give a summary after the fact, so you don’t miss the pertinent details.

I can still remember the first time I saw this scene, and how potent it was to me. There’s Spock, katra and body finally more or less reunited, clearly at the end of a marathon of Vulcan retraining, mastering every question put to him by three rapid-fire computer screens with ease and agility, until –

How do you feel?” ask all three computer monitors, at once. 

And Spock becomes immobile, unable, at first, to form any response at all, and then, hesitantly, after a repetition or two, he answers, simply and truthfully, “I do not understand the question.”

At which point his human mother walks in, and informs him that the computers know his dirty little half-human secret, and no amount of Vulcan mind retraining can prepare him for the emotions that go with that Terran DNA he got from her (yes, I’m paraphrasing.). And then she goes on to tell him that emotions are inevitable.

Even if Spock doesn’t know how he feels, he is going to feel. Until he learns to identify and cope with his evolving emotional state, his learning will be incomplete. His mother and the computer diagnostics are preparing him for his re-entry into the world of human emotion – the kind that tends to defy even Vulcan logic. 

By the resolution of the movie, when Spock asks his Vulcan father to tell his human mother that he ‘feels fine’, we see that he has come to some level of peace with the emotional realities of his existence.

You might be asking yourself, by now, if this really is a ROW80 sponsor post. Don’t worry; you’ve come to the right spot.

I’ve been asking myself Spock’s perplexing test question frequently this month, and I expect I will keep on asking. July is tricky for me. Births and deaths come close together, and span a good deal of the month.

How do I feel?

Last week, my daughter had a birthday. It was a lovely day. We’re car-sharing with my Accomplice, and, while dropping him off at work, we decided to walk a little ways to a thrift shop we’d passed. That led to a walk to the bank to break a bill too large for a small business, and to my daughter finding money on the street, then to a used bookstore.

We enjoyed ourselves thoroughly, came home with some new treasures, and laughed a lot. It was happy, fun, and fulfilling, to have that time just with her, to celebrate her growing up, and the way the curtain is slowly peeling away to reveal traces of the woman she’ll be, in another few years.

A few hours later, I was crying. Not tears of joy, or even sadness at the fact that she’s not little anymore – honestly, while I love little children, these big ones are amazing, and I don’t want to go backwards in time.

I was crying for the child I gave birth to, and who never had the chance to grow up, cry, nurse, or even leave the NICU of the hospital where he was born. I was crying for him, and for myself, because today – Monday, July 13 – might have been his twelfth birthday – but instead, he lived only twelve days, the majority of that in a coma.

How do I feel?

It shifts. I suppose that’s always true, for all of us, but, in this month of highs and lows, it’s more noticeable to me. 

How I feel matters. It matters in the way I approach my day, how much energy and focus I have to give to anything, whether writing or not, my level of tolerance for change and frustration – even what projects I’m emotionally able to work on. 

Certain things are too triggering this month, and, because I live with people and can’t just crawl under my covers and hide with my grief, I tend to avoid them until I feel I’m on more stable emotional footing.

It matters, too, in my fiction. There’s deep value in paying attention to our characters’ emotions – so often, they drive motivations, introduce conflict or resolution, make the reader care about some characters, while wanting others to get just what they deserve…

And they add texture, depth, and breadth to the story. Emotions can be the blood in the veins and the breath in the lungs that makes characters more than paper dolls the writer is playing with…like theVelveteen Rabbit, they become Real when they feel…

So, this round, my round of reflection, I’ll be asking myself, often, “How do you feel?”

And I’ll use the answers to become a better, truer writer.

There’s no trick involved, other than being pressent and open to your own emotional state. You can do it, too.

So, now, once again, I ask you –

“How do you feel?”

~*~

Shan Jeniah Burton

 

3 comments

  1. That was not only the mostly wise thing I have heard in a while, but truly beautiful. It’s a good reminder that even if they don’t show it, you don’t really know what people are thinking.

    if I ask myself “How are you feeling?” the answer usually changes, depending on the day. But at my core I can say I feel good. Good with my life and the choices I am now making. Sometimes I get it right, and other times I misread something. But right now I am good. Even I feel fine.

    Been introspective is definitely a good thing, makes a writer or a person in general stronger!!

    Than you for sharing and the Spock too. Spock is good!🙂

    1. I’m glad you’re feeling good. I generally am, too, these days. Happy, content, peaceful, fulfilled.

      I’ve been the introspective type since – well, since forever. It may be part of what makes me a writer to begin with. Writing and introspection have helped me through some tragedies and traumas, and let me celebrate the good times, too…

      And Spock is always, always good! =D

  2. Ahhh Shan, this is soooo good. You’ve really got me thinking…Do I think about my characters’ emotions? I mean, really think about them–I will now. And I agree: Spock is always good!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s