High Tide, Low Tide

messy thoughts

Emma is the editor & creator (and occasionally writer) for The Messy Heads. She enjoys yellow curry, print media, and singing to herself.

I fall into a flow. I can be manically happy— the colors! The smell of sugared almonds! The dogs on leashes and hands in hands and sunsets and rises and silk with velvet and sleepy eyes. And then I wake up and it’s not there anymore. The memory of what it felt like to think that way and look at the world that way seems possible, but not graspable. It’s a food I remember tasting but don’t feel like eating anything. I gaze out the same window to the same weather but I swear the colors are different. I rub my eyes, hoping they will refocus and see the good in the bad not the bad in the good. 

I fall into the valley for a while. Days. I admire the rebounders— the people who can have a bad morning and pivot into a good night. I have bad mornings and bad afternoons and bad nights. And then I have good mornings and good afternoons and goodnights. Flows up and down up and down, I’m getting seasick from bobbing along. Hoping that I wake up and can steady myself and see the horizon for what it is, a destination, the sky kissing the ground. And not for a far off,  faraway place that I will never reach. 

Today was one of those days, and tomorrow might be one of the others. 

It depends on how strong the current is.

Here I am at an old place. 

That used to be new.

With pieces of the old me.

That used to be the only thing that I knew.

When you feel lost there is a new place to be found around the corner, a new corner of a coffee shop that you need to pour your feelings into. There’s an old man where the streets intersect with a cigarette in his lips and a scarf around his neck with a story bursting from his fingertips and wise eyes that see the brick buildings like brail. You might feel the history buzzing in the air, intangible electricity, but he sees it dancing before him like a double exposed image.

When you feel like peeling down your skin like a grape think of your hands and what they are able to make. Think of your eyes and what they are able to see. Think of your legs and where they are able to go. Think of your mind and how you will never never never fully know who you are. 

There’s always something to discover. 

I think that is what keeps me sane. 

My walls couldn’t be white anymore. They needed to be decisive, my room and I decided that there needed to be something I could fall back to. A color I could lean up to, and whisper feelings through. I went to the hardware store in Chinatown that is a gaping garage door, wide open with skinny skinny aisles so they can fit everything, and boy oh boy do they have everything. I can’t skinny up into the aisles if someone else is there, two people simply wouldn’t fit. I unscrew cabinet knobs from the sample board, they have none left and it’s fine I want them all mismatched. I pull out a panel of greens, green feels nice. Green feels right. Green was in his eyes and blurred by while I sat in the back of the car on road trips. 

I give the panel to the man over the counter. Which green does he think? He doesn’t think green at all, sighs, and points to the second from the bottom. I grab a quart and borrow a ladder from a gift shop along the road. Have you ever noticed that the lights of gift shops in New York city are blindingly bright? Most light feels yellow, or blue, but this light is WHITE. And a screaming white at that. Walking around at night they look like lures to catch fish or kill flies, drawing the vulnerable in to get snowglobes (I have one) NYC t-shirts (I have two) pajamas (pink pair) and postcards (never enough). He sighs and gives me the ladder, I promise to give it back. I borrow a few times from him, an umbrella, a hammer, a moment of his time to ask which way it is again to this street? 

Step, step, step. Roll, roll, roll. Swatch on to the wall. Stretching up and down covering it with green, but the green overlaps with the green making darker green patches. It reminds me of trying to color a grass or sky background with markers as a kid and never being able to make it look like a solid color, always those inbetween, overlapping scribbles made the colors different shades. I say fuck it and start rolling on the paint in curving motions instead of straight lines, it works. I run out of paint towards the top and paint with the only tube of acrylic paint I have, gold. I smudge it on with my hands. I love it. 

One of my favorite hobbies is “Pastry peeping”. Basically every time I see a sweets or cake shop, or a diner that possibly has a glass case of whipped cream dappled pies, I have to go in and SEE. I have to see the swirls of frosting roses and sprinkles and strawberries. I can hardly eat any of them (being vegan) but I think of them as art. I send photos to my friends who can have cake and eat it too, hoping they might go and enjoy it for me the same way I enjoy it visually. I’ll naively ask if they have any vegan sweets, and they will point to the bottom shelf in the far left corner to a bar made of oats or granola. They must see the disappointment on my face because it’s always quickly followed up with “it’s actually really good!”

I spin on my heels and ding out the door. 

He asked me what do I do?

I said make all of your dreams come true. 

There’s a bookstore a bit of a walk away from my place, not too far, not to close. It has my magazine in it. Sometimes when I walk by on the way to the grocery store I will run in, grab a newspaper, go to the stand, and put it on the top shelf. I was caught once and had no explanation, so I acted like I was just looking and bought a copy of it and gave it to a friend. 

If you are lonely the city is your friend. Chinese food at 3 am. 

If you are broke the city is your friend. It’s the cheapest-most expensive place to live. We spend all of our money on rent and exchange information on where to get $1 coffees or $1 shoes. When the specials are, use my name and get the neighborhood discount. Hop the tracks, squeeze in, two for one swipe. Let’s go for a walk, let’s meet at the park, let’s paint on my roof. Let’s live free and cheap. Let’s live free and big. The MET is donation based so a quarter will suffice. Meet me on the steps outside, I’m walking so I don’t have to swipe. 

If you want to leave, see how far away you can get for $2.75. 

It ends up feeling really far when you are going there. 

And home feels really close when you come back. 

Ride the line to the end. 

Get off, and look around and make a new friend. 

It’s as simple as saying hi. 

I have gone from many “hi’s” to late talking about life until midnight. 

And I keep on wondering…

What friend lies behind a stranger?

What stranger lies behind a friend?

I have to be so many different people to so many different people that it’s sometimes hard to remember who I am.

I think tomorrow will be a high tide. 


  1. Thank you Emma, that was beautiful. I have been feeling many of the same things recently, more low tides than high tides, hard to keep moving forward in this in between stage where I’m still not sure where I’m headed and if that is where I want to be going anyways. The last section of writing really struck me, I have felt this way throughout most of my life, and have made a change recently to focus on few people who I really connect with and are important to me (including myself). It is positive, but I do often wonder about all the friends that lay behind strangers that I may be missing out on. Well, I have no conclusion, messy thoughts I guess! Thank you for helping me feel connected to others out there in the world tonight, I think you’re doing great things, xoxo

  2. Anonymous says

    This was very relatable, and beautifully written. I often wonder where you draw the line between mental illness and the “normal” ups and downs of being a hormonal teenager (and of life in general).

  3. Michelle says

    your posts keep me grounded.
    I often strugle to put my feelings into words, to admit to myself and others how I’m feeling.
    Lately i’ve been feeling lost, like a goldfish in a bowl. The space in my bowl is limited and I swim around in the same circle every day. I can see all the possibilities behind the glass, but I can’t manage to go out and actually explore them on my own.
    I feel traped.
    I see myself growing older way to fast. It scares me because I see everything blurr before my eyes. I try to hold on to the all these things, emotions, memories, but I can’t.

    I wanted to say thank you emma, for making my days a little brighter.
    For making me feel like i’m not the only one that sees the world this way.

    And if you ever come to switzerland and need a place to stay, you are welcomed at my house at any time!



  4. Emma, this was my favorite piece you’ve ever written for the Messy Heads. You captured such realness and wistfulness simultaneously, while writing about emotions and everyday things that oftentimes people don’t talk about. You were poetic and powerful. So much love, xoxoxo from another Emma

  5. You’re mind is so beautiful. I love how free the structure is, I love how there’s no rules in how you express yourself. 🌸

  6. i feel so lost and confused like im swimming in my head but seeing how u write about ur world changes my perspective

  7. Antea says

    I’ve been feeling stuck in a low tide lately. This just brought me to the shore. Hopefully when I slip back in I’ll be in a hide tide. We’ll see how it all flows I guess.

  8. Caterina says

    On way of my favorite blog posts. This resonated with me so much- thank you for your words.

  9. Genuinely love this piece, you write beautifully Emma. As a person who currently lives in NYC, i have similar thoughts in my head. I hope to write as well as you do one day Emma! This was well thought out and well written xx

  10. i smile everytime i see you worte something for the blog, this was so beautiful and pure

  11. This piece quelled my anxiety for the day. This site usually does. Thank you Emma. There is much beauty in this world to discover. If I only look around.

  12. acacia says

    Woke up with this feeling today, haven’t been able to shake it. Came to the blog in hopes to read something beautiful, never disappoints xx

  13. Emilia Scott says

    This was so so beautiful, Emma. I’m always in love with your writing. It’s weird, I feel so close to you whenever I read your writing; it’s so easy to read and process and every word is read out in my brain with that soft voice of yours. I woke up early this morning (jet lag), and I tiptoed my way upstairs to make steady progress on a textile piece. I then made my way downstairs and made some minimal mess pancakes before my dad could come in with his scary presence. He did, and immediately starting shouting; I guess i’ll blame it on his new diet. or his stress. or his exhaustion. or… him.

    So, I went upstairs, abruptly shaking off his presence like dust hitting the top of my forehead. the pancakes were soon gone, without me even knowing I ate them. I dived into http://WWW.THEMESSYHEADS.COM , and read all your articles. Scamming through, searching for all listed ‘By Emma’, and getting lost in your words. Thank you. love

  14. this is for sure one of my all time favorite things you have ever published on this website. from the bottom of my aching heart, thank you for this. For everything.

  15. No words can express my gratitude for your writing and this website, except a mere but heavy Thank You.


  16. Lise Hilmarsen says

    Thank you so much for this Emma! I will go and reread this post everytime I need some motivation or inspiration. If you ever write a book I will read it and make all my friends do it too, just as I do with the mags. Thank you for everything, you inspire me <3

  17. Emma I can’t explain how much I loved this, just getting an excerpt into your world is amazing, you lack of social media makes it so much more special. your mind is messy and tangible and incredible xo
    Abby – http://www.seafoaming.com

  18. oh my goodness, this post perfectly described so many of my feelings currently, I have trouble explaining that I feel happy and alive but at the same time confused, weighed down and as if something is missing and my emotions will change from minute to minute, this is one of my favourite pieces on this site <3

  19. ashlyn says

    this has been my favorite piece of yours so far. i have never felt so understood from just reading someone’s writing. sending love

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