April 30, 2020
I woke up today a little excited. I have two in-home visits planned today. I get to see people!!!! Now, as an introvert, that only means I have a fully charged social battery and am ready to interact with humans. I was also excited to wear real clothes again! Since my last in home visit was about 2 weeks ago, like many of you, I’ve worn a more casual attire. I like to call it Greg Norman chic! Who knew a golf pullover quarter zip could be so versatile?!?!? So you can imagine my excitement when I thought “yay, I get to wear real clothes today!” You can also imagine my HORROR when I tried to button my real pants…needless to say, I almost needed to use an inhaler!
Yes, the quarantine 15 is REAL!!!! I blame the oatmeal I’m eating for breakfast. Well, actually, I should blame the scoop of peanut butter I mix in to numb the sadness of eating instant oatmeal every day! Surely it can’t be second breakfast or elevensies!!! I am sure there’s a logical reason that doesn’t lay the blame at my own actions and personal decisions based on emotional reactivity! It just can’t be my fault!
I’ve had a difficult time over the last few weeks making good decisions about food. Like I said yesterday, everything is so topsy-turvy it’s hard to tax ourselves with forethought enough to see beyond the present moment. What I’m feeling right now predominates everything. Like Alice, everything says “eat me” or “drink me” and I just gleefully oblige!
Eating my feelings is easier than feeling the pain and discomfort of grief. I’ve always had a hard time with expressing my feelings anyway. Usually, it comes down to two basic emotions: either “I’m fine!” or “I’m tired…” It’s harder for me to be more specific. So instead of allowing myself to identify and touch the “feeling” I avoid it altogether and hope the serotonin dump from that bag of cookies will cover everything up long enough to go on a little while longer.
In my training to become a spiritual care provider and chaplain I was challenged to become more intimate with my feelings. To do that, I was introduced to a tool called the feelings wheel. (See Attached) Since it was hard for me to name my feelings I found this tool helpful in identifying what it really is I’m working through. Even though hungry wasn’t a feeling listed on the wheel, I quickly learned that snacking and eating in excess was a means to assuage my grief manifested as sadness, fear, and anger.
One of the hardest jobs we have been given during this pandemic is actually identifying and addressing the pain associated with the losses we’ve experienced. Disorientation and distance caused by grief has, for me, made it even more difficult to navigate and name my feelings.
Part of the vocation of grief we must now engage requires us to take serious looks at how we are processing our feelings. To feel the pain, to allow it to be real, to honestly acknowledge that we do indeed hurt, is one of the hardest things we will face. Unlike masking our feelings with substances like chocolate cookies, cheese cubes, or which ever carbohydrate is close to hand, real healing begins by being honest and true to how we are feeling.
Taking an honest, non-judgmental, qualification free look at how we are feeling takes courage. It takes grit and determination. It takes a bravery and a resolve born from a willingness to be vulnerable.
Honestly, I’m not comfortable with vulnerability. I fear pain. I’m hypervigilant to protect myself from those burning arrows that so easily pierce the heart. My walls, then, get built higher and higher, thicker and thicker, until not even I can penetrate the façade I’ve placed over the wounds.
The pain, however, never really resolves this way. Sure, maybe we can avoid it a while. Sure, maybe we can press it down and build walls around it and go about our lives in ignorance of the hurt and despair. Eventually, however, the tallest towers will crumble under the weight of the stones. Eventually, it all falls down, not because of poor construction but because of the negative pressure of suppressed feelings pushing their way back to the surface!
Facing our feelings head on, with tenderness, gentleness, and bravery, removes their power and relieves the pressure associated with their presence. Sure, it’s easier to dismiss or ignore or suppress them with chocolate and wine. Truly, it’s only easier in the immediate moment.
Long term, however, we risk more by not feeling the pain or naming our feelings. I have learned this in some of the hardest ways. What I have also learned is that however uncomfortable the pain is, it is more tolerable when I take control through understanding it and naming it than it is when I relinquish my power to the pain by ignoring it and letting it grow wild.
The hardest part is learning to be still, to accept that here where you are standing now, deep in the pain, is exactly where you need to be. It’s the hard work of love: loving others as they are, loving yourself as you are. Do not fear brokenness. Do not fear the cracks in the façade…that’s how the light, as they say, gets in.
I leave you with this from writer and blogger Marc Chernoff: “Let someone love you just the way you are – as flawed as you might be, as unattractive as you sometimes feel, and as unaccomplished as you think you are. To believe that you must hide all the parts of you that are broken, out of fear that someone else is incapable of loving what is less than perfect, is to believe that sunlight is incapable of entering a broken window and illuminating a dark room.”
Indeed, I hope that today you also learn to love yourself and all the brokenness deep within you. Let the light crack the façade and brick by brick, begin to dismantle the barriers to your healing. Love your brokenness. Give yourself a cookie here and there if you have too. But do not postpone your healing for a temporary high.
Love and Light!