39 I never lost as much but twice

 

I never lost as much but twice –
And that was in the sod.
Twice have I stood a beggar
Before the door of God!

Angels – twice descending
Reimbursed my store –
Burglar! Banker – Father!
I am poor once more!

[Emily Dickinson]

Oh, the levels, the soul, the depth of feeling! She has expressed the ineffable confluence of emotion that is grief.

Love and namaste –

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How to Have Feelings

I don’t know about you, but America’s education system did not prepare me for real life. Emotions? Those aren’t mentioned in physical education or Spanish I. I spent my adolescence with a brick wall between my mind and my heart – I was emotionally ignorant. While I did just earn a college degree, what I actually learned during the past four years was how to feel. And I didn’t learn this in school.

You know how when you’re really happy, you physically go a little nuts? Whether you shout or dance or grab someone near you and shake them with joy, you move. Emotional energy has to move out of the body. Negative energy is no different from positive in this way. My reflex is to shut down and isolate myself, only to find that I’m more upset than ever and am burning with angst or something, but I have no clue what it is or why it’s happening.

I used to be so embarrassed that I had feelings. I saw it as a weakness, something to get rid of quietly. Movies show people acting out of raw emotions without thinking things through, without taking the time to feel before making decisions. Feeling and movement go hand in hand for me – they both clear my head. Whether it’s a run or boxing or lifting weights or yoga – when my body is busy, my heart can feel and my mind can think.

A good cry is scientifically proven to be the most efficient way to move the emotional energy out, but that doesn’t always come easy. Often, it comes on the heels of exercise. When I have something pent up inside, I find myself shedding tears as I’m punching a bag or breathing on my yoga mat. Then I finish my yoga, and I turn on the shower and let hot water run over me while I sob in the fetal position. It’s so cathartic, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of.

I began with boxing. I’d been hurt by a lot of people [including myself] and didn’t know what to do with that, so I punched out my aggression. It’s okay to be pissed off, as long as you’re taking it out in a healthy way, a way that doesn’t hurt anyone else.

Yoga, in many ways, saves me every day. Breathing air into all parts of the body, letting it circulate, it’s the freshness of spring cleaning every time you practice. It’s entirely free because it’s all over Youtube, and you can do it in the privacy of your own home, so no one cares if you look funny or if you fart, because you will. And the acceptance, the calm that comes with it makes you okay with that.

Movement, getting in touch with my body, has served as one of the most effective tools of recovery for me. Finally feeling all the emotions that I’d pushed down with food or alcohol or whatever else has been purifying. It’s helped me dig out all the skeletons in my closet, and now they are all happily cremated and serving as fertilizer to the new growth in my soul. And, really, I don’t think any of that would have been possible without physically getting my feelings out of my body. Once they’re out, they lose their power, and you’re able to analyze them with a clear mind, to work through the causes instead of acting out of the effects. And, like every other form of self-care, it’s so worth it.

What do you think? How do you get your feels out?

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Easing Anxiety

Anxiety has become something of a buzzword, a catchall for freaking out. It manifests differently for everyone, and sometimes people blame their wild overreactions on it. I’m not one to say if they’re blowing the situation out of proportion or not – anxiety is real if you’re experiencing it. And it can feel overpowering.

Crowds like this one give me the jitters. Listening to my anxiety, I avoid them or involve myself carefully.

Crowds like this one give me the jitters. Listening to my anxiety, I avoid them or involve myself carefully.

Sometimes I feel fragile, brittle, fractured, like a pane of glass that’s just been shot but hasn’t fallen yet. Cracked in all directions, waiting only for a breeze, a breath, a look to clatter to the ground in a hundred little shards. I can be very sensitive to energies, and often it gets so overwhelming that I have to step away, breathe, just take a moment. This is one way that anxiety manifests for me. That feeling of fragility, accompanied by irrational fears that I’m losing control, spinning out of orbit, about to explode – that I can’t. Whatever it might be, sometimes the situation can overtake my rationale. And that’s a scary place to be.

Here’s how I deal with it –

  1. Take a minute. Step back, pause, breathe. I had my first anxiety attack a couple years ago, at lunch with my mother – for whatever reason we were talking about marriage and all of a sudden my heart started pounding out of my chest and all I could do was shake my head and repeatedly croak, “I don’t want to get married.” Looking back, I think I was scared of the intense vulnerability that comes with such a close bond. At that point in my life, I fought self-loathing on the daily and had barely taken the time to get to know and accept myself, so thinking about someone else loving me seemed impossibly catastrophic. Luckily my mom is no stranger to anxiety, and she coached me through it – feet flat on the floor, sit up straight, hands on the chair, breathe. Calm your body down, then gain enough distance to look at the issue with your wits about you. Because usually – not always, but often – it happens for a reason.
  1. Explore/Analyze. Getting to the root of the issue clears the way for potential solutions. It’s easy to brush it off and say that anxiety just happens for no good reason – sometimes it does. And it’s not always for a good Social anxiety usually comes from insecurity, and who wants to dig into that bed of thorns? It’s difficult, but necessary, like sucking the venom out of a spider bite. I’m mathematically minded, which is part of the reason I was emotionally stunted for most of my adolescence. Emotions seemed a weakness – irrational and ridiculous and overly feminine. I prided myself on being logical, reasonable, pragmatic – practically Vulcan. Upon realizing that my emotions could no longer go suppressed, I found that I could use my logical skills to explore my emotional world. Stepping back in a moment allows my mind to run emotions through the system – what am I feeling? Why? I dissect my feelings. And in doing this, I make sense of them. This leads to greater awareness and healing, especially because – utilizing your reasonable side – you can generally talk yourself down from any feelings that attempt to carry you off into the land of irrationality. Logic can keep you grounded in the real world, while still allowing you to be emotional.
  1. Being emotional is not a bad thing. Learning how to feel has taken more strength than white knuckling it through bad times or turning to substances to feel better or just to feel something. It’s difficult, and I respect people who are in touch with their emotions. I know the work it takes, and I’ve also learned just how worthwhile it is. It’s as if half of my soul was dead, and, in exploring my emotions, I’ve come back to life. Feeling has never come easy to me because each emotion registers at such a high intensity. Often bodily discomfort precedes emotional – I call this emotional constipation. Just as I chew fennel seeds and take coconut oil to keep my digestive system happy, I exercise and write in order to feel. If I didn’t actively work for my emotions, I’d regress to a place of suppression/constipation – I know it’s icky, but so is having a lifetime’s worth of backed up feelings. It helps that I hate being uncomfortable.
  1. Get Comfortable. I get anxious when I’m uncomfortable, and I’m rarely uncomfortable for no reason at all. As a kid I’d freak out if my shirt was itchy, and that hasn’t changed much. Style is important to me because I like to be comfortable in what I wear. This type of anxiety manifests as feeling weak – the fragility returns, and every act of the world around me feels like a bullet in my brittle glass bones. Since I can’t control the world around me, I take special care with all the things I can control. Any level of physical discomfort can be averted, whether it takes changing clothes, going outside, laying down, going for a run. Whatever it might be – I get anxious when I have a stomach ache – investigating why is crucial. If I don’t take special care in times of unavoidable discomfort, I’ll slip further and further down until I’m buried in a pit of depression. But that doesn’t have to happen. It just takes focused awareness – vigilance.

So – next time you get anxious – stop. Breathe. Investigate. Feel. And find a way to get comfortable. Those steps might seem monumental now, but with practice it does become a little easier. Stay mindful – you’ve got this.

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