All Your Feelings are Blobs
An illustrated essay
Alt text for all illustrations is below the pictures.
With thanks to KL for the inspiration.
All your feelings are blobs [four vague blobby multi-colored outlined shapes]
A friend’s father died recently. I texted to check in on her, and she said, “Some days more ok, some days less ok.”
I replied, “Grief is an amoeba.”*
[Watercolor illustration of a purple blob with a nucleus and some other vague shapes floating around within it. It has its eyes closed and is frowning.]
What I meant is that grief is unpredictable, and changeable, seemingly on its own. It doesn’t go where you want it to go; you wake up and it is in a place you really did not give it permission to be.
[Watercolor illustration of barbed wire strung between two fenceposts and a sign reading NO in red letters hanging from it. Grief blob has oozed its way between the fenceposts and beyond the barbed wire. It says, “This feels right.”]
But a few days ago, I was writing something that involved gratitude. And I pictured that as an amoeba, too!
[Watercolor illustration of a sunny orange amoeba. It is wearing a party hat, bright pink with purple polka dots and a green tassel. It is looking smugly happy.]
And then I realized: pretty much all feelings are blobs.
[Watercolor illustration of a laughing blue blob, an angry red blob, and a flat, bored green blob. Blue blob is labeled “JOY,” red is labeled “ANGER,” green is labeled “ENNUI.”]
They all go everywhere, especially the places they’re not supposed to go.
[ANGER blob is yelling: “WHAT THE [BLEEP] IS OVER THERE?! I’MA GO FIND THE [BLEEP] OUT.”]
They even impinge on other emotions!
[ANGER blob is spreading out and looping its pseudopods around the other blobs. JOY says “Run!” GRIEF says “I can’t.” ENNUI says “Oh crap.” JOY just looks terrified.]
You may have guessed that the emotion I struggle with the most is ANGER.
When it shows up, it takes over EVERYTHING, for some time.
[ANGER is oozing over MONDAY on an agenda. There are a lot of things on this agenda. ANGER says, “MINE! MINE! ALL [bleeping] MINE.”]
Here’s the thing about amoebas, though. They’re blobs. Infinitely malleable, especially by better and stronger forces.
[JOY blob, GRATITUDE blob, and two new blobs that are green and pink, respectively; stuck to each other permanently like a Venn diagram; and labeled “kindness” and “generosity,” respectively each say, “Me!”]
I’m not a fan of boxing up our emotions, or of trying to deny them, although it is temping to think about putting anger in a dumpster and shutting the lid.
[ANGER blob is oozing out of a mostly-closed dumpster. It says, “HEY!”]
I think it’s more likely, though, that my anger needs to just sit with all the other parts of me and think about what it has Done. Been. Why it is the way it is.
[JOY, GRATITUDE, KINDNESS and GENEROSITY blobs are clustered around ANGER blob. ANGER says, “I FEEL [bleep].” Joy and Gratitude say, “It’s okay.” Generosity and Kindness say, “We know.”]
I wish I didn’t get so angry, or that it wasn’t so all-consuming. But it helps to remember that I am not all anger: I am all those blobs, too.
From this I draw some contentment. Which, really, just seems to be a mixture of all these emotions. I can live with this.
[Four blobs, each a different color, end the essay.]
*I stole this thing, about grief being an amoeba, or at least a blob, from someone else, I think. I wish I could remember who. If one of you knows, could you please tell me so I can credit them? Thank you.
Yi Shun Lai (say “yeeshun” for her first name; “lie” for her last) is the author of Not a Self-Help Book: The Misadventures of Marty Wu and Pin Ups, a memoir. Her column on writing and publishing, “From the Front Lines,” runs every month at The Writer magazine. She teaches inclusion workshops for creatives at CanIPlayThat.com