The Feeling.

There’s this feeling I get sometimes and I have gotten it for a very long time. It’s a feeling that is extremely difficult to translate into words. My mom and my older sister get this feeling very strongly and since it’s so hard to talk about what it is and what causes it, it’s a wonder that we ever figured out that we all feel it. If you get it, you get it. And not much explanation is needed. I have a few of these little oddities that I’ve been able to talk about just enough to find kindred spirits that feel the same. They’re often people close to me. And then I wonder – are there many, many more of us out there and of course I’d find it in people close to me because I share personal feelings with people close to me? Or is it that I’ve been lucky enough to find people with my particular emotional complexities. I’m probably not that odd after all.

So this feeling. My mom calls it the “squishy feeling.” I think my sister calls it the “mushy feeling.” I’ve never been able to come up with my own name for it but if I did, it would probably be, “The sickening, cold-creeping, beautifully sad, zombie feeling.” I’ll have to elaborate. I came up with two definitions awhile back. They are:

“The Feeling”


1. A spontaneous heartbreak of mysterious origin that occurs when viewing another person’s seemingly mundane actions or belongings. You are touched deep inside in a way that’s difficult to convey. When it (mostly) happens with strangers, it’s bad and when it happens with people you know and love, it’s worse.

2. A quick, minor and recurrent heartbreak that occurs from subtle actions and possessions of someone who’s usually a stranger.

Now I feel like I’ve probably lost you by now. It’s impossible to explain this! To put it in simpler words, sometimes I get really sad when I see someone say or do something that I speculate is a sign of weakness or whatever they’re doing or whatever I’m seeing makes me see or think I see something deeper in them than is noticed at first glance. Now for my mom, she gets this squishy feeling when she’s out in public and sees an old person fumbling for their money to purchase something. That at least makes some sense. I get that feeling when I see someone’s glasses fall off. I just get so…sad. And when I see glasses laying on a table without their owner, I get sad too. Glasses are my trigger and I don’t know why! Does weakened eyesight make me sad? Did something happen with glasses in my early childhood and now I get sad when I see them?

And sometimes this feeling comes from more obvious occurrences. My first memory of the squishy feeling was watching a film strip (remember those?!) about good manners in one of the lower grades of elementary school. In the film, some “bad” kids run around an old man in a parking lot until he drops his bag of groceries all over the ground. His lettuce rolls away and his eggs crack onto the pavement. One of the kids who is not a “bad” kid and was just yielding to peer pressure follows his heart and helps the man pick up his groceries. Pretty simple message, right? The rest of my class watched the film, got what they needed from it, and ran out for recess. Me? I cried in the bathroom for 15 minutes. I also cried myself to sleep that night. I was haunted by this poor old man dropping his groceries and having them spread out for everyone to see. It was my first major experience with The Feeling. In those same few years, I had a similar experience in the school library when the librarian read us a story about an old woman who loves her pet chicken and this chicken brings her all the happiness in the world and one day it dies and she’s alone. (I’m tearing up as I write this) And some time later, she discovers that the chicken left her a basket of hatched eggs and now she’s not alone anymore. This was just an illustrated book, and not a close-up film strip, and I was destroyed by this book. Clearly, since it’s over 20 years later and I’m bringing it up now.

However, it’s not always that clear and that obvious why I’d be sad. It’s mostly just speculation. I do think those above examples can better help explain this cold, sad feeling I get sometimes because many people would get those feelings from the situations I described. However, do you get that feeling when, say, you have a house guest and maybe you’re putting towels in your guest room for them and you see their beauty bag or suitcase and all of their products or clothes laid out? Or when you see your father’s glasses laying on a book on a table? Or get this one – I get sad when someone gives someone else a gift and even if the gift giver is nowhere in ear shot, my heart breaks if the gift recipient says something negative or unappreciative about the gift. I can’t stand that! Someone could give me a clearly re-gifted piece of junk that I already have, and they could be 3,000 miles away when I open this gift, but my lips will be clamped shut to make any comment that isn’t grateful. You can ask my mom and Cassidy about this one. Maybe we got three toasters for our wedding, (just an example) but I probably wouldn’t even comment on it. And if I thought about each person lovingly buying us a toaster, I’d feel all warm and squishy inside.

Does anything I said make sense? I know it does to at least a few people and that’s enough for me. I’m haunted by the actions of other people. I’m haunted by the way people do the things they do. I don’t know what this means. I don’t know if it’s projection of my own fears and weaknesses. All I know is that my heart breaks for others sometimes – maybe for no reason at all. Or maybe…I’m able to see a hidden truth about humans in these seemingly subtle occurrences. And maybe it hurts for a reason.

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  1. We are seeing into everyday reality with a deepened sense of compassion. One incredibly squishy moment for me was at Jim Nocera's house. I was bringing him a birthday gift and card for his last birthday. On the table, next to him, was the only other cards he had received. There were two (three with mine) and there was a magnifying glass next to the cards so that he could read them in his challenged physical condition. Enough said! And you, LInz?

  2. Ah mom that one hurt BAD! I think I just cried throughout this whole blog! hahahaha I think we are all very very sensitive people, and Im "ok" with it. Although I will say…the older I get, the more I cry! The more I feel! Tam, you described it perfectly and I kept nodding and saying yes yes yes!!!!!! Thank god you two feel the same feelings I do…..We are very aware and compassionate and yes we probably do over analyze things as well ….This is why Tam youre a fantastic writer! A writer needs to take a small item and be able to write a paragraph with many descriptive words about this teeny tiny object………I think the three of us look at people and actions as "writers"….we are immediately filled with emotions, thoughts and we create a story in our head. Every smell, song, season brings us a "feeling"..and some I call the squishy feeling as well, dont feel good…Our senses are like a dog? 😉 and simply put…we feel, everything………I love you guys

  3. Tam, have you ever seen the movie "UP?" I bawled my eyes out like no other during that movie because of "the feeling" -Marina

  4. I saw this blog posted on my cousin's page, that she had commented. i read the comments underneath and was curious as to what this blog, this "feeling" was. i totally get it. i myself have always been a very emotional person. Now that i also have a 9 month old son, im so much more emotional, so much inside me has changed, i see things differently, have more care/compassion for others, ect. i have even gotten that feeling with objects. when i was a little girl (25 now) i can remember sleeping with a billion stuffed animals because if i only picked one, i got that "feeling", and then felt bad for the other stuffed animals and just had to use all of them. and obviously i get that feeling with the elderly in many situations, especially driving, i know sometimes im in a hurry and get stuck behind some slow poke, then i pass them, realize it was an elderly person, and just about begin to cry because i feel so bad that i rushed them, thinking now how they must feel. you are deff. not alone with this awkward, squishy feeling. -Emily Baird

  5. I need to see that Marina!!!Emily ditto to your entire writing……..especially the driving one and getting mad at the elderly…Sometimes I just have to wonder, how many more hormones does my body have?! I've always been compassionate but the older I get, the more emotional I get! I cried at really cute previews last night and was shocked at my reaction. The previews in the movie theater weren't even that good?! I immediately burst into tears knowing it was just a movie and not even all of it! ….the feeling is something we're lucky to have, we're humans and I'd rather "feel" then not anyday! 🙂

  6. I had to come over and read this post. I definitely know what you are saying. I gave you examples of when I would get a squishy feeling but, I can definitely relate to having it also when I see others. It happens often too when I read posts about people and situations. I remember a post I read about how a woman wondered if she did the right thing by giving a man at the supermarket some money because she knew he couldn’t afford to pay for his groceries. Another person in the line looked disgusted, but the woman chased him down to give him the money. I balled over that post. Needless to say, it’s nice to know I’m not the only one. At least you can pinpoint specific reasons why you get sad, me, I just see something and even before it fully registers, I just start to cry.

  7. The first time I remember feeling this was when I was a little kid. Our music teacher introduced us to the song Greensleeves. I started crying and had to pretend this mean boy stepped on my hand in the circle so nobody would know how squishy I was feeling. XO

  8. This is a beautiful explanation of something I’ve never been able to explain. I get this feeling a lot. I feel like I always see “the little things” that others don’t notice and I feel joy or sadness. I ascribe certain reasons, feelings, etc. to the actions and I can’t get away.

    1. I finished before I was finished: I get this feeling every single time I see a child perform. Not every child – but the ones – and you know the ones – who LOVE it. Who love what they are doing, and they are (usually) good at it. And it’s not arrogant or haughty, it’s so incredibly genuine and good. OMG – it’s everything I can do to keep from sobbing.

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