She told me to just sit with it. That is something that’s completely foreign to me. Don’t try to change it. Don’t ignore it or brush it off. Embrace it, appreciate what it’s telling you, and let it be. I had just finished explaining to my life coach the confusing, uncomfortable emotions I’d been experiencing over the past few days, and this was her wisdom.
I’m not familiar with sitting with my emotions. I am a doer, a planner, and a fixer. I don’t cry into my pillow and I don’t sob in the shower. I don’t create space to process how I’m feeling in my life. That feels like a luxury that goes against my need to figure out how to fix the challenge as quickly as possible so I can reclaim the joy in my heart.
When I read self improvement books and there are exercises to demonstrate how expanded my body feels when I’m happy and on the right path, I do all of them. Then when I’m asked try an exercise that will feel constricting, mimicking how my body feels when I’m thinking negative thoughts, I always opt out. No thanks. I certainly don’t want to practice something that I avoid at all costs.
But here I am being advised to sit with the discomfort. Let it be. Wonder what it’s telling me. Thank it for guiding me as to what direction feels right for me.
I take pride in the fact that I don’t wallow in negative emotions. I move forward. When my kid tells me she’s transgender, I jump on that runaway train to learn all I can to steer this train safely, crossing off items on my checklist like they’re station stops along the way. There’s no room to process how I feel about it and there’s certainly no time to lie on the couch and cry. Close to 50% of transyouth attempt suicide before the age of 21. That leaves little time for emotions – only action.
When my kid needs help getting sober, I network and research options to figure this out. Once again, the clock is ticking and I need to act. Once again, time is not on my side and emotions will get in the way of the work that needs to be done.
When my kid has to leave college due to an unknown chronic illness, I make doctor appointments. I honestly never acknowledged any feelings about a college year unfulfilled. That wouldn’t be helpful and haven’t we moved on? Now she’s moving halfway across the country to an unknown future. Go with it. No good will come from the fear of the unknown.
Unfortunately, all of those unprocessed emotions have to go somewhere and they will hover around until I deal with them. I’m pretty sure those lurking feelings will make themselves known in various unpleasant ways.
So today I tried something new. When I felt the pangs of sadness creep into my chest and cover my joy, I just said ” Oh, it’s you, Sadness. You came back. Okay. ” I didn’t try to analyze how I could feel better. I made no to do lists. And it freed me up. It freed me up to continue what I was doing knowing that it was okay to feel sad right now. I don’t have to worry about it. I can sit with it. I may even try crying into my pillow. These feelings will eventually pass.
And when they do, I’ll be able to look for the opportunity within this experience, with a calmer heart. I’ll honor the worry, anxiety and grief that sometimes accompanies being a parent, and then I’ll gather up my gratitude for everything that’s going right. And I’ll remember next time to put as #1 on my “crisis to-do list”: Just sit with your feelings for a bit. It’s okay and it’s actually the most helpful thing you can do.