June 21, 2024

Feelings, Whoa, Whoa, Whoa

When you're a small child, you usually concentrate on having one feeling at a time. You're either ecstatic, mildly contented (when playing with a toy, for example) or crying your eyes out like the world is going to end. Some little kids also get really angry, but I was not one of those kids, in my own memory at least. As a teenager, your moods can swing wildly and teens can often milk those feelings for all they're worth for maximum impact. When you feel sad, for instance, you might put on some equally sad music so you can really wallow in it for a while. Conversely, you can become loud and expressive when high on a happy feeling. My girlfriends and I were a lively group when excited and happy. We were a common sight around town, linked arm and arm across the road singing at the top of our lungs.

An advantage of growing older and becoming more experienced is the ability to entertain opposing emotions at the same time. A person can be going through something really, really hard, but still find joy in the everyday things like an unusual bird or flower, or a new song on the radio that grabs their attention. I would argue that this ability is acquired through discipline, just like any other skill. If I'm having a hard day, I try very hard to not let my difficulties own the whole of me. I seek out activities like exercise, reading, writing, and cooking to ease my mind, or I seek out a friend to talk to. Having children helped greatly with the discipline. I simply could not wallow in sadness or my sensitive children would pick up on it and become concerned. The term 'fake it 'til you make it' comes to mind. 

Today, for example, I am in pain. I have a tricky back, and it doesn't seem to matter that I practice yoga daily, walk and run regularly, spend large amounts of funds on excellent mattresses and pillows, my back will insist on giving me problems from time to time. My back started acting up yesterday. After a rough sleep during which any movement woke me, I got up still in pain. I did some gentle yoga and went for a walk around the lake. Although certain movements caused me to flinch until I was loosened up by walking, I reveled in the symphonic bird song all around me, and stopped frequently to take in the views of lake, shadowed trees, and snow capped peaks. I am no stranger to pain, though. I've been 'carrying on' through bouts of back and neck pain since I was in my twenties. I know, with gentle movement and treatment, my pain will go away eventually, which makes it a bit easier to endure. Physical pain is just a part of life for so many of us. 

Emotional pain is a little harder to get past. Especially grief. I liken it to the ever-presence of pebbles in the shoes of my heart. We all experience various degrees of painful loss in this life. The death of a loved one, a rift in the family, a decline of health and a pining for the healthier version of ourselves (or a loved one), an overwhelming sense of despair at the state of the war-torn world and the health of the planet. We limp along, despite the pebbles, and try to move forward. Every morning is a chance to start again, to see our world in a new light. Every day we get to choose how to navigate through the rough stuff with a sense of balance. We can entertain our grief and sadness and not shove it under the rug, but we can also make the effort to find the joy in getting to live another day in what is really a beautiful world in so many ways. 

(*I speak only of personal experience. I am aware that sadness and despair are not always a choice, that some people's mental states are more prone to them than other's. So, please, see a health care provider if you simply cannot find an ounce of joy. You, and your mental health, are so worth it.)

'til next time, 

Rebecca


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