Tag Archives: emotion

What scares you to share?

My choice of seating arrangement should tell you a little about how I’m feeling right now: I’m on the floor down the left-side of my bed, where there is a foot or two of space between the bed and the wall in which to sit with my computer.

Why here? It feels solid.

I spent years shutting off the tender, scared parts of myself from the world. I have a very, very close friend who once told me that, even though she had known me for years, she could be sitting across the table with me having dinner, listening to me talk about myself, and still had no idea what was going on inside of me.

After many years of beginning to understand what she meant, and why I was that way, I began to work on changing. I wanted to be in a place where I felt like I could share what I then called the ‘less shiny’ parts of myself. I have taken big steps towards ‘healing out’ the fear of sharing the hurting, heavy parts of myself.

Recently I’ve had a few experiences that are threatening to send me back into my shell. Within these (ongoing) experiences, I am struggling to find a place where I can honour myself and my emotions. I recognize the damage that is occurring and yet I feel stuck in the headlights, unsure of which way to turn.

It has me thinking tonight about the things that are scary to share, to say, to expose to anyone. Are there parts of you that you are afraid to share? Do you know why you are afraid?

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Lessons in Catastrophe – Resentment

Resentment is one of those emotions that doesn’t get talked about much. It’s a tricky, complicated, and poorly illuminated emotion. It’s not one of the pretty, shiny emotions like joy or compassion or selflessness.

But we all feel it. Just like we feel guilt and shame and anger and jealousy. I am going to speak about resentment because shoving it back down and trying to ignore it doesn’t help.

I am resentful that all my friends are living their lives and I can’t live mine because of my physical condition.

Yep, there I said it. It’s not pretty, is it?

Every time I listen to a friend talk about a great school project, every time I hear about their travel plans, every time they land a great new job or tell me about an adventure…every single time, I am reminded that my life is on hold and that I hate it. Every time, I am resentful that they are able to take active part in their lives while I feel like I am stuck waiting until I can participate in mine…stuck at home, alone, resting my back in bed.

Emotion is complicated: I am thrilled for my friends. I’m thrilled about their internships and their studies and their travels and I am genuinely happy that they are happy. I am excited for their adventures. I want them to share their joys with me, and I would be devastated if they felt that they could not. I am still…resentful.

So how do I handle this resentment? I make sure that I am clear with myself about the target of the resentment: I do not resent my friends, I resent my own situation. This allows me to make sure that I don’t take out my resentment on the people I love. When I speak to them, I allow myself to be happy for their achievements and adventures. I reserve the resentment for myself, when I am alone, afterwards, and I can process this resentment.

I try to remind myself of the ways in which I am lucky–and there are many–and to acknowledge that while this feels permanent, it is not. I will also have my own adventures.

And then…I take a deep breath, and I tell myself that it is ok that I am resentful. I do my best to sit with how I feel, and to acknowledge it without judgment or shame.

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Shades of Grey…and Compassion

When I was younger, so many things were black and white.

If in a relationship your partner hit you, you left, automatically, like a knee-jerk reaction. Same if he cheated on you. If someone raped you, you went straight to the police and gave them all the information you could. If someone in a position of authority to you sexually harassed you, you reported them to all the relevant people immediately. Your responsibility was partly to yourself, but it was also to every other person that might potentially be hurt by your decision to not speak out. Right and wrong. Black and white.

I can read the paragraph that I just wrote, and believe every word to be true. I can read it and feel the fierceness of the statements: a reminder to all the world that such acts can not go unreported, without consequence, that individuals are strong and that no one, no one should take advantage or abuse in such a way.

This I believe. I swear I do.

But…

But so help me God, I have come to know shades of grey in the midst of that stark black and white. And suddenly I can’t see the way forward, because every path that once was white is muddled by things I never thought could exist in those situations…

Like fear. Like trust. Like uncertainty. Like family. Like power. Like habit. Like self-protection.

Like (and oh how unbelievable this might have sounded to me, once upon a time) that keeping silent might be the very thing, the only thing that gives you the space and time to heal, because speaking out might actually shred your heart in ways which would only continue to damage you, at a time when any more damage might truly break you.

I am learning not to judge those who live through situations that were once so black and white. Because they are coping the only way they can. They are doing the best they can. They are protecting themselves, and trying to heal, and holding on as best they can. Because nothing is black and white anymore. Because unless you can feel just how a soul is being broken and trying to piece itself together again, then you are in no position, and have no right, to judge them.

Because I’ve had to learn not to judge myself.

So here, in the midst of the shades of grey, between old convictions and new understanding, I am learning to hold compassion instead of judgment.

How about you? Is the world as black and white for you as it once may have been?

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Conundrum – How do you make decisions?

How do you make decisions?

Are you a rational? Do you line up pros and cons, give each a relative weight, then add and subtract until you find the answer that ‘makes sense’?

Are you an intuitive? Do you listen to what your gut is telling you, reading signals like excitement, fear, anxiety, butterflies, desire, and then choose the answer that fits best with how you feel?

Do you combine both methods, checking in with your emotions and then running through your intellectual options? Perhaps on any given occasion one part of you speaks more loudly than the other, and that also forms part of your process.

The thing is, I don’t think I trust myself to make good decisions. When I look back over the major decisions that I have made in my life so far, it’s pretty clear to me that, in fact, it wasn’t me who made most of them anyways. I can point to situation after situation where I allowed my decisions to be made for me, and a whole lot of them turned out pretty badly.

Somehow, then, I have taken this to mean that I can’t trust myself to make good decisions, even though most of these terrible ones were based on only one decision: my decision to allow someone else to make the decision for me, and then not to make a change when I realized it was the wrong decision.

My family is a family of rationals. Everything is rationalized, intellectualized, everything is pro and con. There seems to be little room for what your emotion says because, in their eyes, emotion must be subdued by the rational. I have slowly over recent years started to figure out that that equation just doesn’t work for me. Yet those of you who know me well know just how easily and frequently I have deferred my own right to choose to my mother’s ‘rational opinion’.

So how to change, when I have consistently allowed the voices of others to drown out my own? How to change, when my first instinct is to ask everyone else what they think, and find myself swayed utterly and completely by their opinions?

Maybe I just need to get in there and do it. Maybe the only way to get better at decision making is to start letting myself make decisions, myself. To let go of the paralyzing fear of making the wrong decision in favour of realizing that this is all part of the learning process: sure, it might be the wrong decision, but at least it was my decision.

This, then, is part of a bigger issue that I have been starting to tackle, and one that I am discovering is pervasive throughout every aspect of my life: learning to trust in myself. Problem is, I’ve so often let others drown-out my own voice that today I’m not sure what she’s trying to say to me…

What about you?

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I am Woman

Feminism.

Have you ever heard someone say it like it’s a dirty word? Have you ever been called a feminist like it’s some kind of insult?

I am a feminist. I am a feminist because I believe in the intrinsic worth of every single female. I am a feminist because I believe that giving women a voice will take our world into a better place, because women know that we have been raping the earth, that war is damaging and killing is wrong, that mutilation and rape and that silencing our voices means silencing the calls to humanity to stand up, take responsibility, and care for each other. I am a feminist because I believe that women have the power to stand up and change the world for the better, and that by support women to be empowered, and to take up positions of leadership, we are giving humanity a better chance of survival.

Feminism is about equality, about valuing every part of the feminine spirit in the same way that we value the masculine spirit. And all my emotions, from the sweet joy of seeing a child brought into our world to the fierce, nurturing, protective mama-bear spirit that love awakens in me, to the moments of life that break my heart and bring me to my knees, all of these make me whole and allow me to experience the world in a way that is not only feminine but is all my own.

One of my close friends was once talking to me about her job and her colleagues. She explained how recently her male boss had said to her that of the women on his team, he particularly enjoyed working with her and another female  because they didn’t get emotional like the other women, and that they never let their emotions inform their business decisions.

My friend heard praise. I heard prejudice. Her boss was praising her for functioning more ‘like a man’.

Now let me tell you: I believe in emotion. I believe that emotion tells you something about the world, about a situation, about a person. I believe that intellectual experience and emotional experience combined make wisdom. I believe that emotion speaks truth, because you do not think it up, mould it, trim it, or rationalize it. You ride it.

Which is why when I read Benjamin Disraeli’s words “Never apologize for showing feeling. When you do so, you apologize for truth”, it resonated deep inside of my gut.

It took me a long time to realize that I am entitled to everything I feel. That my capacity for emotion makes me a better human being, not a weaker one. I grew up in this Western world where logic and intellectual rigour and analytical thinking are raised up on a pedestal high above the place of emotion. But I know now that when I cry because I’m listening to Somaly Mam speak about her experience as a sex slave, it’s because my soul is aching for her, and because I want a world where children are not sold into slavery, not because I am not strong enough to cage my tears. I know that when my heart wrenches as I listen to a friend describe her struggles with body image, it’s because I’m familiar with this world that teaches us to hate and abuse our bodies to conform to some impossible ‘ideal’ instead of loving and honouring them. These emotions drive me to want the world to be a better place.

And I sure as hell know that my emotions are an invaluable part of my soul. I am better for them.

We are human. We are emotional creatures. And nobody says that better than Eve Ensler, so please listen to her “I am an Emotional Creature”.

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