All the Feelings, Re-visit

This post, originally written in January 2016 and cleaned up in April 2019, speaks directly to some of my thoughts in “It’s About Time.”

The inclement weather has given me another day of virtual stillness and I am noticing that when I am still, I think about the words that others have said, and I have time to consider them fully.

I don’t always like considering the words of others, you know, fully,  because then I get, you know, feelings. And feelings make me, you know, feel things. 

As a child and adolescent I felt a lot of things. I was an emoter. Ok, ok, I know I still am, but back then, I felt things in ways that other people could feel. I remember being told that I laughed too loud and cried too much. I can picture my chubby-cheeked, blonde-headed self, being told that it was time to leave my grandparents’ house, protesting with angry face, stomping feet, and clenched fists. I can feel my throat tighten and tears spill down my cheeks as Frosty the Snow Man melted into a puddle. I remember stomping through the hallways at school or flinging myself onto my bed and wailing into my pillow when I felt wronged by a friend or a boyfriend. Yes, my whole being knew how to feel things.

Now, I learned, for the comfort of others, not to be quite so demonstrative. I mean, it’s not socially acceptable to have all the feelings. In fact, I remember my cooperating teacher, during my student teaching experience, telling me to ‘not wear my heart on my sleeve’. Well, where else was I going to wear it?

Over the years I have tried to peel my heart off my sleeve and shove it deep in an interior pocket. I have attempted to push feelings deep, deep down into my subconscious self. And while I may have quieted some of my outbursts and hidden some of my feelings from my own awareness, my face has often revealed what my guts are feeling, even when my mind hasn’t gotten the memo. People around me have seen my truth-telling face and have taken meaning from it. They have picked up that I am angry, apathetic, shocked, judgmental, or horrified, even when I haven’t realized those emotions myself.

In my younger days, when I was using the full-body method of emotional experience, I often lost blocks of time to tears, flailing, and, shall we say, “verbalizing”. It was loud. It was messy. It was not concerned with productivity. Perhaps one benefit to tucking hurts away and refusing to indulge them is the ability to get a bit more accomplished. And it just so happens that I like getting things done, so a way of life commenced. I often refer to this time in my life as ‘soldiering’.

I became too busy to attend to emotions. Soldiers don’t have time for feelings. They are kicking butts and taking names. They don’t feel sad about it. And, they don’t really care if you feel sad about it. They have a job to do, dammit. So, either help or get out of the way.

Yeah, that has been me for a very long time. I have pushed people aside without considering how they were feeling. I wasn’t intending to do that.  Really. I was just on a mission. I was focused.

Here’s the thing, though. The people who love you don’t really care if you are on a mission. They just need you to care. They need you to stop butt-kicking and name-taking for a minute so that you can see that they, too, are having some feelings. They might also be trying to shove their feelings into their subconscious, but if you stop moving, you might see that their faces are revealing what they aren’t even aware of. You might be able to pick up that they are hurt, shocked, angry, lonely, overlooked, or terrified.

And when you see that, you can sit down beside them and be still with them together. You don’t have to have an answer. You don’t have to solve the problem. You just need to sit in the stillness with them, which will give them the time and the permission to feel — to really feel.

And when we feel together, we are joined by bonds that are not soon separated.

Aren’t those bonds far more valuable than all the butt-kicking and name-taking in the world? Yes. The answer is yes. Learn from me, grasshopper.  Take time in the stillness to feel all the feelings.

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for a friend.

John 15:13
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