One of my favorite Yoga teachers, Scott, once started a class by asking everyone if they were happy to raise their hands. Lots of us did. Then he asked the sad people to raise their hands, and one or two did. But really, there is a lot to be sad about. Have you read the news lately? We are not short on tragedy in this world, and often in our own little worlds, too.
Scott’s point is, of course, beyond just owning up to the realities of our feelings. It’s actually feeling them. My boyfriend said to me recently, “You feel a lot.” And it’s not because I’m a girl and we aren’t as afraid to express our emotions. It’s because I’m feeling my feelings these days.
It’s so easy to hide from feeling; it’s actually part of what makes our society what it is today. I remember when I was a newspaper reporter; parts of that job were really rewarding but all the time it was stressful. I used to come straight home and open a bottle of booze. Alcoholism was fairly institutionalized within that industry. My friend’s back bothers him; it’s a lot easier to smoke some marijuana medicinally than be disappointed by another doctor telling him to take pain pills or have a surgery he can’t afford. Love life not perfect? Pop on the television and grab some junk food, and you’ll be numbing it out in no time.
I spent many years being comfortably numb (soundtrack alert!). It’s not even something you think about. But we all want to be happy, right? We Americans are all about the pursuit of happiness, and what does that really look like? What does it feel like? I know when someone does something really nice for me, I get a warm, fuzzy feeling in my cheeks and up the back of my neck. I try to let that feeling linger as long as I can, but it’s never more than a moment. The rest of the time? Well, people aren’t always so nice, are they. Sometimes they are selfish, stupid, wrong-headed and even cruel with bad priorities that negatively impact your life. No wonder you want to hide from your feelings.
Lots of things are set up to stop us from feeling, but most of all it’s the sociological pressures to be all good all the time. Only lately have I had the confidence to stop with the superlatives. How am I doing? OK. I’m OK. Even though when I reply, “I’m really awesome!” that makes people smile. I like to make people smile too. It makes me smile. But lying to ourselves is about as basic of a numbing technique as you can get. What are you lying to yourself about?
It takes courage to feel your feelings, because sometimes they’re not very pleasant. I’ve been owning up to a lot lately, just because I’m giving myself no other option. That means sometimes I cry. Sometimes I don’t express my emotions appropriately because it’s hard to express anger, sadness and doubt when you spend so much of your life acting like it’s not there. It’s OK to feel bad. It’s like the song I learned in second grade: It’s alright to cry, crying takes the sad out of you! (<– IF YOU CLICK ON
NOTHING ELSE, CLICK THERE!)
After a while, I’ve found that by feeling your feelings … by really accepting and processing your emotions through your body … they start to simmer down. If there’s one thing I learned about owning a composting toilet, which can be prone to fly infestation if not maintained, is that DENIAL DOESN’T HELP. It just doesn’t. Clean that shit out. Really.
Really hitting home with the feels, however, does help. You become a more honest person with yourself. You start to understand yourself better. This summer, I’ve really come to appreciate and honor my vulnerability and my need for love and help. It wasn’t too long ago when, nope, I can do it! Like a toddler saying those words while trying to, say, pour milk. Oh geez. Someone help that kid. Because like with kids, when we ask for help, we get it.
That’s been the most wonderful thing about my last few months. Now that I’ve felt more comfortable asking for help, suddenly people want to help me. I have surrogate parents and siblings by the handful, friends who relate to me and give me loving advice. The world is filled with brothers and sisters wanting the best for you.
Even today at Publix, the guy bagging my groceries told me I was making a fashion statement. I asked him what the statement was, exactly (I was hoping it wasn’t “I just rolled out of bed”), and he froze. He said, “Your bag is nice.” As we walked out to the car, he told me that not long ago he saw a young woman about my age who looked pregnant. He asked her when her “blessed event was due” and the woman burst into tears because evidently she had just had a miscarriage. Well, poor guy got called into the manager’s office, where he was instructed to only talk about the weather. Isn’t that sad? Well, on many levels, but it’s sad that we as a culture are scared to feel. Too bad that woman couldn’t have turned to that nice man and cried on his shoulder for a moment. Because he really seemed upset by hurting her, and he looked like he would have comforted her. Sometimes we need to feel so that we can be comforted.
So am I happy? Yes. Am I sad? Yes. Do I need comforting? Yes – and I am here, ready to comfort you, too.