Oh my, we made it into our new house! My partner, Micah; his cat, Dinah; my dog, Poncho and I are finally all living under one roof. (Well, we almost are except for a few pet problems. Read more about those dynamics here).
We’re now in a beautiful old house with a grand wooden staircase and epically big backyard. We have a lazy front porch and sweet neighbors. I love it so much.
But oh lordy, is moving ever stressful! As I packed up box after box, I told myself that it was just a move. I could totally get through this. The movers would show up, take our stuff to our next location and by the end of the day, we’d fall asleep in our new bed. Along the way we would decide where things go, keep the pets from becoming traumatized and hopefully drink enough water.
Simple enough, right? Technically that is what happened. By the time we went to bed, exhausted, everything was under one roof and our bodies were unharmed. The pets might have been a little traumatized.
However, there were so many emotional moments that didn’t fit into that direct narrative.
These were moments such as:
-- watching the sweet college-age movers sweat profusely as they struggled up and down our new set of stairs with heavy boxes and awkwardly shaped pieces of furniture for hours while I could only watch, feeling so guilty and helpless to stop their suffering (other than buying them Gatorade and thanking them too many times)
-- During the last part of the day, as we were doing the final clean of Micah’s old apartment, we got mysteriously locked inside of the basement dwelling. Micah panicked and I went into total dissociation mode (vacuuming, eating chocolate and ignoring the reality that we were really trapped inside). Finally he was able to flag a hilarious British couple who were walking down the street, and they generously kicked the door in (Apparently a screw had caught the inner door.), and we all celebrated our release.
-- Taking Poncho for his first walk around the new neighborhood (because our backyard is still filled with poison ivy due to our property manager’s landscaper being a flake) and sauntering down a street with him, only to be told by another dog-walker that we had just gone through a big patch of poison ivy. I came home sobbing and was eventually soothed by a bowl of Micah’s delicious oatmeal and Paul Simon on the turntable. (Luckily the dreaded rash never showed up -- just my fear of it.)
These are just a few of the emotional moments from this past week. Together, they fill in the spaces of that direct story, turning the beginning, middle and end of our move into a richer narrative that perhaps even ends with a moral. (The moral I am thinking of now is that we are getting stretched to our limits in order to help us take in more as parents come this fall).
As uncomfortable as they have been, these moments taught me a few life lessons, increased my patience and strengthened my resolve to create a beautiful living space. When I look back, these emotions will create the stories for us to share with others and laugh about, again and again.
Often, we can tell ourselves not to feel so much. Many of us have gotten a reputation for being “too” sensitive or emotional. I know I was certainly given that label, and have tried extra-hard over the years to keep things cut and dry, lest I show my weakness to the world. Others fear that they don't feel enough. I don't relate to this extreme as much but I imagine it's quite frustrating.
Of course, I always failed in the process of trying to hide. It’s just not who I am or how I see the world. My creative life force is very much tied to how much I allow myself to feel, and when I try to cut that off, I end up binging on brownies or getting terribly passive-aggressive with the people I love.
Emotional intelligence is getting more and more attention in our culture. (Invisibilia is even dedicating their whole third season to it!) To me, this phrase describes the art of feeling and understanding what it is I am feeling. It means understanding that it’s ok to feel differently about things that come from the people I care about, and realizing that articulating these differences can actually create more intimacy. It’s realizing that I feel certain ways for certain reasons, and allowing my emotions to teach me important things as they come and go.
This might sound incredibly simple, but I think we all need a bit of orientation in this arena. To me, it’s a fairly simple process that might,however, take me a lifetime to fully implement.
First, we have to slow down enough to actually feel things. This means letting go of the numbing patterns that keep us from checking in with ourselves. Habitually smoking pot, drinking nightly glasses of wine and watching copious amounts of Netflix might feel relieving in the moment, but really they keep us from peering into our intelligent inner worlds.
Next, we need avenues into understanding these inner worlds. Journaling and long walks help me process the complex workings of my emotions. Traveling, especially when I am going on a retreat, really helps me understand myself. Although I am not having one right now, getting my period has always been a powerful window to see into my real emotions, especially when I don’t immediately dismiss everything that I am feeling as PMS.
Finally, we can surround ourselves with people who validate our feelings, even if they don’t always agree with them One of my favorite sayings is that feelings aren’t facts. We are allowed to feel however we feel, and we don’t have to be held accountable for those feelings forever. People who have done their own emotional work will get this and give you the space to break down, open up, and then move right through your different feeling-states on the path to healing.
(Right now I am taking a great e-course with Diane Musho Hamilton through Ten Directions called Willing to Feel. Our weekly lessons remind me that it’s safe and intelligent to feel. I don’t know if they will offer it again in this format but if they do, I highly recommend it.)
Again, this process might be incredibly simple….or amazingly profound. I can’t decide. What I do know is that buried feelings are almost always at the root of my clients’ self-care blocks (and mine too). People who are feeling their feelings don’t often go on weekly shopping binges or eat whole pans of brownies.
From seeing their breakthroughs, I can tell you that feeling anger, grief and shame are all really necessary to be a happy, balanced person. Sharing those feelings in the safe space of a group will set you free in so many amazing ways. You will authentically understand yourself and begin to give others the space to do the same.
Once you do, your life will get amazingly awesome. Of course, there will still be so many hard moments -- house moves and poison ivy and getting locked in a basement. But as you trust yourself and your feelings, you will learn to see them for only that -- something to experience, learn deeply from and perhaps even laugh about in the future, again and again.