I've been struggling the last few days. A foul and depressing mood has been following me around alternating with bouts of panic and anxiety that I wish more than anything would just go away.
One of my dear friends heard my darkness and overwhelm and reminded me of something important with her question: "Are your gremlins out, Molly?" She was right. I'd forgotten. These awful moods were a sign that something was up on the inside that needed me to listen and pay attention.
Of course, I'd kind of known my gremlins were out before she said this to me. A sure sign of this is feeling awful. But I just felt too scared to face or work with them. So, instead I tried to do all of the things I know can sometimes help me feel better. Going for walks in nature alone. Doing yoga to get back in my body and begin breathing deeply again. Talking to friends who aren't as scared of my gremlins and hard feelings as I am. Eating well. Distracting myself and doing something else. But none of these did much for the hard feelings surging inside me and making it very difficult to move forward on some exciting and wonderful things happening in my life.
So, with the knowledge that my gremlins were definitely out and about, I finally wrangled myself to the page with my pen and began journaling. What did these awful feelings inside want me to hear? What were they afraid of? And what did they have to say? As I asked myself these things, I wrote and wrote and wrote some more. Uncensored writing. It wasn't that I was necessarily believing all of the awful, scary fears racing around inside of me and what they had to say. It was more like I was making space for them. And allowing them to show up outside of me instead of running around inside of me. There was a lot of fear there. Fear of dying and living alone and becoming financially destitute and experiencing doom and darkness forever. Dramatic fears that my rational mind knew were ridiculous but that something inside of me deeply believed. As I wrote, I tried to hold these fears with compassion and let them have voice. And as I did this, they quieted a bit and I could cry and release some emotion.
Then, I thought back to a simple question I'd read the other day. What is my payoff in holding onto this block? Ooph. It was an annoying question. But a powerful one. It reminded me that I might actually be actively choosing to fan the flames of these hard feelings in order to keep myself safe and doing what was familiar. So, I spent a bit more time journaling using this question as my guide. As I did, I noticed all the ways hanging onto this block kept me safe and small and doing what I'd always done. If I hang onto feeling awful I don't have to do the work or even try. I don't risk failing. I don't have to feel hurt if and when what I'm doing doesn't work out. And, I won't have to risk feeling even more joy, which I'm not sure is safe. There I was. Being human. Being more comfortable with the level of happiness and satisfaction I'd historically known then allowing myself to tolerate even more goodness and joy in my life. (This is called the upper limit problem, by the way.) As I could begin to see that I was, in fact, choosing to hold onto that block, the awful feelings subsided a bit. Not only did I have more compassion for them, but I was less caught in them. So, instead of acting out the drama I felt inside then being mad at the world, I could instead just notice how scared I was of expanding and go on with my day.
Which is what I did. I reminded myself something I recently learned about feeling: It's totally possible to be present with our hard feelings AND to go on with my day at the very same time. This is different than suppressing or trying to override or make discomfort go away. It's more like holding space inside of ourselves to be fully human--experiencing pleasurable emotions and uncomfortable/painful emotions. So, going on with my day meant I could stay open to the flow of life around me. And, at the very same time, I could make space for the parts of me inside that were so scared they were wreaking havoc on my mood and trying to keep me from the work I wanted to be doing.
Now that I'm through the worst of this, I'm remembering all the ways our body and nervous system try to keep us safe by throwing dramatic emotions and physical sensations and symptoms in our path to make sure we don't grow into new and unknown and risky and potentially amazing territory. Because if we did that, who knows what might happen? And I'm remembering that growing feels like I've been feeling: moody and hard. And, at the very same time, I'm remembering that when things get hard there's always an invitation for growth there. If I can just create a little bit of space around the hard instead of being caught in the hard.
Of course, I'll forget this again just like I did a couple of days ago. But I'll also remember it again. More easily than last time. Because the more we know how to grow, the more we can recognize hard times as opportunties for growth rather than feeling like we are being whipped around and dumped on by the world.
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