Expanding our Perception of Emotions: Call Me By Your Name and The Pisces

There is a way we feel when our heart is stolen and returned to us in pieces, in a way that cannot be repaired. There is a time when our souls will be so filled with grief that we cannot help but dive into the waters of sorrow and let them drown us. There is a moment where the wine of our mind escapes through words and intoxicates the person standing next to us, and we, unknowingly, are intoxicated by their wine as well. Our emotions are our initial and final breaths of this life, seeing as they move us, liven us, yet also turn the red in our bloodstream into a poison. 

Everyone has their own opinion on the topic of which emotion is the strongest, in terms of how high it can raise you and how low it can bring you. Many will argue that it is love. For others, it is sadness. Despite what it may be, the universal truth about emotions is that unless they are understood, they will continue to take reign on our lives. They have the ability to completely control each decision we make by strictly causing us to see the emotional side of every aspect. Understanding our feelings, but more importantly our emotions, is the key to truly comprehending our own selves, which most people spend their entire lives trying to do.

Through literature, we can slowly begin to let our minds process how chaotic, yet beautiful, emotions can be, along with the life-altering impacts they can have on us. Books ranging from The Giver to The Fault in Our Stars give displays of intense emotions and their power. However, there are works of literature that dive past the surface of all that we feel and bring us something deeper, something that speaks the language of the soul. 

Call Me By Your Name, a novel by André Aciman, picks off the layers of love, one by one, and along the way we get to see what creates the powerful emotion. It does not have to be a series of events, nor one, large occasion. It can be one, fleeting moment that causes an explosion of feelings that can be catastrophic at first, but soon blossom into a lovely bliss. Over the course of one summer and some years into the future, any reader with a soul willing to be touched can not only absorb the words, but the pure adoration and love that radiates from every inch of the novel, from the first sentence to the last. It is not a collection of ink on pages. It is a representation of souls that have touched someone so deeply that he was able to recreate that experience and share it with others, so that their hearts can be filled with the knowledge of emotions and their intense blaze of power. 

“Maybe it was the alcohol, maybe it was the truth, maybe I didn’t want things to turn abstract, but I felt I should say it, because this was the moment to say it, because it suddenly dawned on me that this was why I had come, to tell him, ‘You are the only person I’d like to say goodbye to when I die, because only then will this thing I call my life make any sense.’” – Andre Aciman, Call Me by Your Name

Although there are many pages that tap into my heart strings and become the very blood I need to keep my body functioning, they come with their opposites, like all things. All atrocities, all sadness ceases, along with beauty, joy and love. It ends abruptly. It ends shockingly. It ends sadly, slowly. Despite the way it ends, it will be painful, and whether we acknowledge the presence of that lump in our throat is entirely up to us. Some cry, while others become angry. It is a grieving process, yet rather than mourning the loss of a person or pet, you are mourning the loss of an emotion. You grieve the bliss, the adoration, the beat of your heart, which has died before you at a pace that feels as though it never received a chance at blossoming. We will attempt to push away the pain, hold it at arms-length, keep it away from our minds and hearts, so that it does not have the ability to hurt us anymore. 

“In your place, if there is pain, nurse it, and if there is a flame, don’t snuff it out, don’t be brutal with it. Withdrawal can be a terrible thing when it keeps us awake at night, and watching others forget us sooner than we’d want to be forgotten is no better.” – Andre Aciman, Call Me by Your Name

What must be understood is that every emotion lives within us and it is not a matter of extracting it, tear by tear, from us. Truthfully, it is a matter of acknowledging it, thriving with it, and riding the tsunami of pain that the earthquake of heartbreak has caused in our world. The reason that so many people are in deep places of depression, pain and sorrow are due to their inability to allow themselves to breathe from something that is not entirely light. We can breathe from the pain, from the aches in our souls. There is too much to be learned, too much depth in our emotions, whether they be lighthearted or unbearably heavy, to simply throw them away in the tides and allow the waves to make due with them. The opportunity of understanding the very core, the very emotions, that power us to live should never be given up because of the difficulty of that task. In many cases, the wisdom of understanding outweighs the fear of opening the lion’s den and allowing our thoughts to run free, for our own analysis. Call Me by Your Name accomplished the nearly impossible task of being able to use the ink from your heart and transfer it to the beat of every heart that grasps a copy of the bittersweet pages. 

Similar to André Aciman, Melissa Broder also poured ink from the soul into her emotionally explosive novel, The Pisces. It is wounding in the most perfect way and not only eye-opening, but touching in a way that makes you escape your body and truly analyze yourself, your nature. When we have known one love for so long, it can feel as though that is the only love out there, and that thought in itself is suffocating enough. The emptiness of your heart expands at a even greater pace once you lose that love, the one you deeply believed was the only thing out there for you to experience in the category of bliss. It is extremely frightening yet entirely possible to dive into new waters and let another take hold of your soul just as the last one did. The Pisces is not a novel, but an emotion. It is an emotion that has no name, yet it has been felt by everyone, at least once, whether they knew it or not.

The way you feel as your eyes scan that soul is untouchable and it feels as though you are falling and flying all at once. It makes you feel love and it brings you one step closer to understanding the complexity of its nature. There is so much we do not know about ourselves and all of these questions are brought to life through this ink, and so is the other side of a basic understanding of who we are. What entered center stage in the play of my life is the fact that we can be two complexities, two opposites, at the exact same time. Our heart can beat to be the life form of two things and it has the capacity to feel everything that these opposites experience. 

““I knew this was not the nature of a one-night stand. I knew that what I wanted was something that couldn’t exist. But that didn’t mean it wasn’t something I wanted.”  – Melissa Broder, The Pisces

These same hearts are the ones that can fool us, hurt us, sabotage our own illusions of perfection. “Illusions of perfection.” That is another bridge to cross, the one where we must realize that we do not always live the worlds of our mind. It will create beautiful moments, beautiful people, beautiful emotions, and yet it is rare that those fantasies seep into reality. It is rare that reality takes a day off and allows our dreams to run wild. All that rises must fall, but all is also reborn again. It is a process and some days, we feel so lovely but the thought of the downfall is so prominent in our minds that we cannot sleep, let alone imagine what we would do when it all burns to ashes. However, what we must understand about emotions such as sadness and sorrow, is that there is no escaping them, there is only overcoming them. There is only walking through the burning flames to return as a phoenix. There is only diving into the waves and making them your own so they don’t have the ability to drown you.

There is no purpose to this chaos if it is not to feel all you can and continue living, thriving and surviving with those feelings. You will be deceived, betrayed, and it will hurt so badly that no physical pain can match the mental torment. Then, you will return to the place of calmness until the next obstacle or miracle comes along. We have nothing to fear about our emotions. All we have to do is understand that they are not here to hurt us or heighten us, but to help us and to teach us that they are the foundation of our worlds. The Pisces causes us to question our own understanding of what lies deep within us. When we feel bliss and it goes away, was that simply a fantasy? Is pain the only truth, or is there more to it all? 

“I wondered how much of everything I had seen or thought in my lifetime had been only illusion like that. I wondered if anything was really living or if anything had ever lived.” – Melissa Broder, The Pisces

Works such as Call Me by Your Name and The Pisces not only show us, but make us feel the importance of emotions, and their role in our lives. The significance of understanding ourselves is too grand to be conveyed through words. It can only be shown and that is the life of an emotion — to show us that we are more than all we’ve ever believed. When you are hurting, do not push it away. When you are hurting, feel it, experience it and then let it melt away. Something new will enter your life, something new for you to feel and most importantly, understand. 

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