Feelings, and the Feeling Feelers Who Feel Them

So, "feelings" have been on my mind lately. (Not the song, but you're welcome for the earworm.)*

Since the first of the year, I've been doing a writing exercise to help ground my work in observations using the five senses, as opposed to writing from the thoughts that circle in my head ALL THE TIME, morphing into metaphors and trying to get out. 

So senses: We all use sight in writing a lot, and I've enjoyed exploring sound for several years (as in my essay collection). Smell is purportedly quite evocative, a leftover from our reptilian brain, but the winter, with dust and allergies and stuffy noses, isn't conducive to detecting smell, unless I'm baking, which I haven't done much lately. (Hey. I should remedy that.)

By the way, I found these exercises in Jeannine Ouellette's substack newsletter, Writing in the Dark. They landed in my inbox at exactly the right time, and they've challenged me all month.

Back to senses. Jeannine points out that focusing on the sense of taste can blur the boundary between internal and external--to taste something, it goes into your mouth. I can see her point.

I've been thinking about touch, because when I ask "What do I feel?" I sometimes get sidetracked putting a name to an emotion instead of noticing air temperature or the support of my favourite chair under my back. 

See? "Feeling" is a way to refer to the sense of touch, and it's a way to refer to emotions. Which can get confusing and draws me back into interior monologue and metaphors and THOUGHTS. And holding a rock in my palm, which I do on occasion, conjures not just cool smoothness and heft, but also comfort, safety, and confidence. 

I don't have great insight about any of this, except that the dual nature of the word "feeling" can be a little inconvenient. But the exercises, which I do recommend, have been helping me tease out which one I really mean, when I'm thinking about them.

January's almost done. Best wishes for February!



* Also one of my favourite Gary Larson cartoons: a gorilla sits in the jungle playing a piano bar piano, singing "Peelings."