Straight whiskey. That’s my drink of choice, or at least it’s one of them.
Some nights I’ve kicked my heels up with a glass and sipped it slowly simply because I thought it sounded appealing.
Other nights I’ve clutched my glass in a shaking hand with a sense of internal restlessness I couldn’t attribute to anything specific because I had no idea what I was feeling, or why.
And on other nights still I have known what I was feeling and I’ve consciously chosen to drown it with Jim Beam, the buzz in my brain and the warmth in my chest distracting me from what I didn’t want to face.
I thought about this recently after listening to an interview with Sarah Potenza, a singer/songwriter who you may know from season eight of The Voice.
In the fourth episode of Next Creator Up—a podcast I’m producing with my partner in many things and show host Ehren Prudhel—Sarah talked about her experiences with body shamers and naysayers who convinced her she didn’t have what it takes to make it in the music industry.
Though her whole interview spoke to me, because she has a larger than life personality and she’s all about self-acceptance, I was particularly drawn to what she had to say about releasing her pain onstage.
Not only have her scars served as fuel for her music, the act of performing provides a sense of catharsis that makes her feel whole and at peace.
She even noted that if she hasn’t performed in a while she feels like going to a bar and drinking—presumably because without an outlet to release her feelings, she’s tempted to stuff them down. But it’s clear from how she described it that releasing her feelings is a far superior option, and it doesn’t come with a hangover.
“Performance, for me, is so much love but also so much anger. There’s so much passion on the stage in everything I’m doing that it just gets all of that out of my system. I scream it out, I sweat it out, I cry it out, I sing it out, I shout it out. It’s all out there whether it’s the love, the joy, the hate, the anger, the peace, the sorrow, everything. And I just throw it up all over everything, and I feel sated.” ~Sarah Potenza
For me, it’s complicated. And I don’t mean it’s hard to explain. I mean the song, by Avril Lavigne.
It’s among my top-five karaoke choices because I can spit the words out rhythmically as if with a machine gun larynx. I jump and belt with a guttural roar, and it’s like all the weight of the day drains out of me, one “fall” and “crawl” and “break” at a time.
I’m loud and limber and alive, adrenaline pumping through my veins, washing away all residual pain in the intensity of the moment. I shout and it soothes me. I sweat and it cleanses me. It’s release and relief; it’s passion and peace.
And when it’s over, all my emotions splayed out before me like tiny dust particles in the air I can’t see but know are there, I feel not empty but open. Open to joy, open to connection, open to possibilities, open to love.
No glass of whiskey, however satisfying, has ever done that for me. In fact, it’s often done just the opposite. It’s closed my heart and filled me with sadness, as downers generally do. I lose control, the world in front of me blurred not beautified, and I feel not awakened but numb.
I don’t want to feel numb. I want to feel sated not sedated.
It’s easy to forget this, or to remember but deprioritize the things that make me come alive. They don’t feel productive, they’re not profitable, they don’t move the dial on my long-term goals. They may even feel frivolous, like wasting time, when I have so many other things to do.
But I can’t do any good in this world if I’m a walking, ticking time bomb, ever-ready to scatter the shrapnel of my misdirected emotions.
I need an outlet to work through it all—to feel, to heal, to release.
We all do, every last one of us.
We all need something that energizes us, fuels us, calms us, and soothes us, whether it’s creative or physical or both.
And we need to do it regularly, as if our lives depended on it, because in a way, they do.
Sure, we can exist in the world with feelings left unprocessed and unexpressed, but we’re only truly alive if we’re free. And we can’t be free when we’re repressed.
So sing that song, belt it out, even if you’re off key. Dance as if no one’s watching, or someone is but you just don’t care. Paint, write, run, climb—do whatever gets you into a state of flow, and throw yourself so deep into it you lose track of time.
Get out of your head, get into your heart, let yourself get everything out.
And do it without guilt. If it heals and recharges you, it’s not wasting time. It’s making the most of it.