For as long as I can remember I have made snapshots, or "feeling diorama" memories, in my head.
I didn't really do this consciously, but at times when I had new emotions that I wasn't capable of identifying, I would store the moment away mind as best I could for future reference. I haven't any idea how I did this, or whether or not it was intentional -- however, they seem to be popping up at odd times, now that I'm transitioning. I've been trying to think about them more carefully of late, hoping to figure out what some of them mean.
It wasn't until this morning that my eye fell on a sizeable chunk of this puzzle, and now I'm tearfully admitting I'm glad it's almost 03:00 and I couldn't sleep...
Let's go back to my childhood. It was pretty normal up until puberty, which is obviously when things went off the rails a bit. Up until then, I was a fairly standard kid, with all the regular gamut of emotions. (Coincidentally, this was around the same time I must have stopped building these little "snapshots" in my mind, because ALL of them are from childhood.)
And emotions? Boy did I have them. I had them all the time. The problem was that I didn't always know quite what to call them, how to cope with them, or why I had them.
There were so many, and some of them just didn't feel great, and others were TOO good, and all the time I was trying to go to school, grow up, and figure out why I just felt so wrong all the time.
Returning to the original phrasing, my "feeling dioramas" were really just that, environmental and mental pictures. Complete, or sometimes vastly incomplete, "pictures" of any one or more of: sight, sound, odor, physical comfort (touch, temperature, discomfort, and so on), and particularly emotional state. Unfortunately, they're not always clear. And they seem to resurface at odd times, and related to dissimilar situations, so they can be surprising and sudden.
That's a lot to remember about even a piece of childhood, let alone one moment in time. So believe me when I say it's difficult to know what they mean this far after they happened. Sometimes they're so incomplete they're mere slips of feelings, and nothing more. Others are more solid; foundational. I've identified a number of fairly basic emotions rooted in the better-defined of these. (Love, resentment, anger, and so on.)
One that comes up a lot, as an example, is mostly a smell combined with a particular emotion. The smell is like smoked meat, and the feeling is poorly-contained loneliness. I associate this picture with a local store chain here for some reason, despite the fact that I'm fairly certain I "took" that picture in a local mall when I was only single-digits old. (It was tired, I wanted to go home, but couldn't. The smell of smoked sausage or something similar from a nearby store reminded me even more so of home, and forced me to reconceptualise the distance between myself and comfort: it was a long way.)
One of the "mere wisp" emotions is so vague it's like the touch of gauze: a vague feelings of loss as I wandered around my parents' old house in California. We were prepared to leave it for the last time -- for Oregon. I was making sure I hadn't forgotten anything, I think. I would have been four years old. I particularly remember the white, wooden closet doors in that house, with the thick, close-set wooden blinds set in their faux windows... It was a cute house, I wish I remembered more about it. Like the garden and back yard my parents spent so much time making theirs, that I never got to enjoy.
Another upon which I place importance is something that just feels cozy. It's absolute safety and unconditional love. Light smells of wood smoke and rain are apparent. Something feels soft and warm on my skin, and even though it's not very light or warm yet, I'm happy where I am. (Often on a winter morning that place would be snuggled cozily in bed. Somewhere I can doubtless hear breakfast being made, and the sound of my family rising and preparing for the day.)
I must have felt very safe at home at times that were common enough to imprint the wood-fired stoves we used to use to heat the house, as well as Oregon rains. Presumably it happened most often when I was attending primary school, because that's what I associate it with: fall, and going back to school. It's not even a school-related feeling, but I know part of the "comfort" in the picture comes from feeling happy I wasn't at school at the time.
This one is interesting, because I believe I stopped having it sometime right after I started... And today is the first day I felt it again for something on the order of 30 years.
I'm unable to describe exactly the incredible weight of emotions I'm feeling right now realising my diorama describes "feeling contentment" to a tee.
The worst pat is that this is the first time I've felt this way since then.