It has been quite the start to 2022. My husband, son, and I contracted COVID January 1st, and then my father passed away three weeks ago. To say it has been a tumultuous, stressful, and chaotic time is putting it mildly. I’ve been meaning to write a newsletter for weeks and it’s only now I’ve had the time and been in the right headspace to sit down to do so- and then I couldn’t think of what to say. So I went digging into newsletters I started but never sent, and came across one that resonated deeply. I’m going to share it with you momentarily, but before I do, I’m going to give you the headline:
No emotion is inherently bad. Anger, Grief, Frustration… they all serve a purpose, which is not to make you miserable, but to wake you up to something you’re ignoring, stuffing, or numbing. They are a symptom, not the disease. Emotions are not the enemy; Blocking them is. Why do we as a society give so much weight to the idea of being happy all the time? Of “having it all together”? Why is it such a bad thing to feel “bad” emotions? Why do we try to rush through them?
Here’s the scenario I wrote about back in March of 2020 (how is that two years ago?!):
Recently I had a pretty rushed morning. I felt a little chaotic; a little unsettled. We are in the middle of some significant changes to my son’s schedule due to losing one of our sitters. There’s been some upheaval within our immediate family. An unexpected large expense. Still sleep deprived. Suffice to say- I’ve got a lot on mind; a lot I’m trying to juggle with not all brain cells fully functioning. And in the middle of running a little late and trying to figure out a scheduling snafu in my head, someone commented to me that I was looking frazzled and needed to take better care of myself.
Wooeee, did the hair on the back of my neck stand straight up. Cue immediate internal defensiveness. The comment stuck with me the whole rest of the day, all the way until I was able to have a conversation about it with my husband and he asked me, “Why does it bother you so much- you just admitted to me that you WERE feeling frazzled and aren’t taking good care of yourself.”
Well, sure… but I don’t want anyone else to know that. I don’t want anyone else to know I’m human. Aren’t I supposed to be a paragon of calm and serenity? Isn’t that what meditation is supposed to give me? Aren’t I supposed to be more “evolved”?
Yup. AND I haven’t been meditating twice a day. AND I’m sleep deprived. AND I’M HUMAN.
My father’s recent death, and the grief I have been wading through since, is why the memory from two years ago resonated so deeply with me. I thought I was as prepared as I could be for his passing. After all, I’ve already lost my adopted and biological moms; I know what it is to lose a parent. But it turns out the loss of the second parent who raised me was a whole different flavor of grief. The day he passed I had the thought “I’m an orphan now” rise up unbidden, and the level of sadness that came with it was unexpected. The more I’ve talked to others who have lost both parents, the more I realize I am not alone in feeling this way. And of course, it brings up the energy of abandonment for me due to my adoption. As healed as that wound is, it still pops up from time to time.
But here’s the thing- this grief- it also brings with it a profound love. This is what we sometimes miss when we are deep in Grief- that the opposite side of that coin is Love. The sadness would not be so great if the love was small. And this is the positive purpose of grief- to remind us of the depth of love.
“Bad” emotions are not bad. They can encourage us to change! Feeling frazzled two years ago helped convince me that I really needed to take stock of how I was running my schedule and make some changes. Acknowledging that I wasn’t taking care of myself helped me shift my priorities so that I could start doing so. Same with meditation- recognizing that my sanity was suffering helped me put that back on the top of my daily to do list.
Emotions are not negative. They are wake up calls. They are here to serve a purpose. And it’s ok to be out of sorts sometimes. It’s ok to feel uncomfortable. Grief is a reminder of love. Anger, frustration, envy… all these “bad” emotions are really just energy in motion, and it’s energy that can motivate us to MOVE. To CHANGE. To do something DIFFERENT. And what’s wrong with that?
What gives these emotions a bad rap is when we we unconsciously hurt ourselves and others by not fully processing them. We let ourselves be ruled by them, instead of learning to use them as a constructive tool to help us find our best selves and our best lives. Trying not to let my grief overtake me during the hours I was taking care of our son these past few weeks created a ton of pent up emotion that manifested with me becoming short tempered with my husband. Recognition that this was what was going on is what allowed me to ask for more alone time so that I could properly acknowledge, feel, and release the grief. This skill of recognizing, feeling, and releasing takes PRACTICE. Most people never take a course in emotional mastery – this world would be such a different place if we did! – but the good news is that there’s an easy first step to try…
I encourage you to practice mindfulness surrounding your relationship with all those “negative” emotions. The ones you’d rather not feel. When they come up, which they inevitably will, ask yourself- what is the emotion wanting me to do? What is it telling me? What is the opposite of this? What facet of love is being called for here? Instead of trying to push it down, put it on a shelf, or wallow in it… try to simply be aware of it and ask yourself how it’s trying to help you. I know it sounds a little silly- having a conversation with an emotion. But you’d be surprised what our emotions are here to tell us, if only we can slow down, acknowledge, and listen.
Light & Love,
p.s. If you start practicing this mindfulness surrounding challenging emotions and begin to feel overwhelmed, or need help processing what is coming up for you, please don’t hesitate to reach out by emailing me. Self inquiry does not need to be done by yourself! In fact, a lot of the time it’s much easier to do this practice when being led through it. That said, give it a go and get curious about you might learn, and always remember I’m here if you need to talk.
As always, I love hearing what you think and welcome your comments and questions- email me!