emotion

Blue

I’ve been listening to podcasts. This is a new development, as I have a hard time sitting down and focusing on audio for more than ten minutes at a time. I guess I’m more of a visual learner. A few weeks ago my mom sent me this one on grief. Counselor and Author Patrick O’Malley shares patterns found in his work counseling grieving people. His biggest take away – people don’t want to forever move away from grief, but rather they want people who are safe to talk to. Safe to process with. Safe to listen to their story.

I want people to listen to my story. I know, as they all have been damn well telling me, this is going to affect me for the rest of my life.

Mr. O’Malley also says that our culture gets grief wrong because we attach negative or positive labels to the process. If a person is grieving and they are having trouble getting out of bed, can’t go to work, or continues to be sad, this is bad. Negative emotions = negative experiences of grief.

If the opposite is true, and a person is functioning well – working, going out with friends, remaining connected – we equate that with a successful handling of loss. Congrats, snap your hands, you’ve moved on. The reality of living with grief lies somewhere in the middle.

Over the last year and a half I DID function. I went to work, spent time with friends, and the grief gremlin still lived within. I can still be really sad, foggy, and confused. On the outside, I was living in the positive. On the inside, I was struggling, yet because I wasn’t visibly falling apart or unable to function it seemed like things were moving along just fine. This spectrum of grief as bad and healing as good is damaging to those who are working their way through it.

Today, I listened to this new podcast “The Other F Word – Conversations About Failure.”  The title drew me in immediately, as any opportunity to reference the REAL F word makes me curious. But no, here they are talking about the other one – failure.

Sam Lamott’s Episode hones in on how harmful our projections of perfect can be. How when we hold in our stories we miss out on honest, authentic living. His approach suggests that, as humans, we are all going to flow through positive and negative. We need to be more honest in our responses to the question ‘How are you today?’

He says, and I’m paraphrasing here, that it can be freeing to answer with ‘I’m feeling a little blue today.’

“BLUE IS BEAUTIFUL,” he said, “the sky is blue, and the ocean, and many beautiful things.”

My eyes filled with tears and I nodded along. Blue is beautiful too.

Mountains. Clouds. Rain drops. Flowers. Plums. Peacocks. Ice. Sharks. Payphones. Jazz. Blueberries. Birds. Emotions.

All blue.

I’m trying to give myself grace and combine Mr. O’Malley and Mr. Lamott’s wisdom. Because today, I feel a little blue. This does not mean I am bad. An important distinction. It is ok to feel shitty, to not be living in bliss. Grief and experiences of emotion are not negative.

My mom is back where we spread my Dad’s ashes and I didn’t go this year. I ache for family vacations that will never be the same. I miss that mountain valley. I wish I was there and I could read Dad a poem or two. Thursdays I work out of the office and my heart usually feels a bit heavier when I’m working alone. Every time I turn on the news something ridiculous is happening in our country. People are hurting. This makes me sad as well.

I will get up after I click publish, and I’ll go sit outside to watch a softball game. Life will continue and my emotions will pass. I’m learning though, that there is beauty in the bravery it takes to say ‘Today, I’m just a little bit blue.”

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Learn more about Patrick O’Malley’s new book Getting Grief Right by clicking below.

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Zoom In

The world hurts. The world aches. This blog was created to alleviate some of that internal tension for myself, to look for the silver lining, and the good amongst the struggle, the suffering, or feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. On every level, I am learning, we have the choice to acknowledge the broken parts of our lives while striving for peace and enjoyment.  You know that video from elementary school that starts with an atom and magnifies and magnifies until you are stuck in the middle of the cosmos? This one? 

I’ve been thinking about how we are called to examine ourselves and the connections on each level of magnification. Where do you stand, and how does your world expand or contract based on your own power of ten?

On a macro level, it is no surprise that our world is struggling. The refugee crisis that is unfolding has caught my attention in ways that are new to me. I’ve always loved history and quite often said if I was given the opportunity to go back in time, I would search for an adventure during World War 2. The thousands upon thousands of stories that come from those years peaked my interest since sixth grade. Twentieth Century Politics was my favorite class in high school and I was shocked by the way one book written by Marx could influence so many lives through political repercussions leading us to where we are today.

Now, however, I am realizing that tomorrow’s history is created in the present. The political conflict that is occurring now will be in textbooks when my children reach high school. These choices that leaders are making are affecting trajectories now, and that potential is of monumental size.  These are lives of individuals, families, societies, that are living today. The ‘then’ expressed in history textbooks has caught up to the now – at least in my almost fully developed frontal lobe. I send empathy and compassion to those attempting to rebuild, to strive for something good, to make sense of things that seem unfathomable overseas.

As I zoom in a little bit, and reflect on community connection, waves of sadness hit me too. A young man my brother grew up with lost his battle to mental health this week, and I was shocked by his passing. Pain on a micro level ripples here too, in our own little communities that are supposed to be free of these social issues. I’m learning no, the suffering is here too, in our own circles, with our own friends, with our co-workers, and women in our book clubs.

I am not claiming I can begin to relate to these stories, these struggles, or the tremendous questions that arise out of situations like this. Rather, I am asking myself this week to zoom in. Zoom in and think about how my actions can help or hinder other’s struggles. Zoom in and allow myself to cry, in the middle of a crowded restaurant, while we try to make sense of these situations that are never perfectly going to make sense. Zoom in and recognize the beauty in feeling all of your emotions.

…….. the emotions related to your own relationships

……… the emotions related to situations outside of your control

……… the emotions of simply being human

The beauty in feeling the confusion, the grief, and the gratitude for the knowledge that by acknowledging these emotions, they too shall pass. Find someone you trust to process with. Or perhaps schedule a time to cry in your planner. Either way, allow yourself the space to find release.

Sometimes, you can plan when tears will cleanse. Other times the process of emotional release catches you off guard, and you have to weep. Keep weeping, keep feeling, keep searching for the beauty in the feeling not so very beautiful. This dance of zooming in and zooming out helps us find our place.