The Don’t-Fix-It Guide To Feelings

feelingsI was having what you might call a bad morning.

First up, the plasterer settled into my living room at 7:00 am for the second day in a row. This sounds so innocuous, I know. Plasterers can be so quiet and unassuming. But my particular plasterer was tasked with the job of spraying new stucco on my living room walls, a process involving the relentless ear-ringing, teeth-buzzing clatter of the stucco-sprayer-thingy, as well as the continued annoyance of having our living room furniture scattered through every room in the house except the living room.

Next, around 9:00, perhaps because of the construction noise and confusion, my new, anxiously attached rescue Golden Retriever lost his mind and shredded his new bed while I was taking my shower. So on an already rushed and stressful morning (would the stucco-sprayer-thingy never stop?) I found myself having to corral a pile of clingy foam bullets into the trash as quickly as I could, while mourning the fifty dollars lost and wondering when we might be able to leave this new pup alone.

Then there was the email from my business attorney confirming the sad news that, yes, I would have to pay an unexpected $500 fee for the privilege of having inadvertently and illegally used a copyrighted photo on my website, an expense my fledgling private practice could ill afford. (I know, I know. Stupid me. Live and learn.)

But the proverbial last straw was the moment I learned, ten minutes before the start of my first psychotherapy session, that a close acquaintance from my church had died unexpectedly the past evening. Which kind of put everything else in perspective, if you know what I mean.

Oh, and all this was happening while my husband, normally my rock, was away on business travel.

feelingsI’m not gonna lie. My first impulse was to barge into my colleague’s office and demand an emergency therapy session. In my heightened state of anxiety, I felt the only option I had was to quickly figure out how to fix my dog, handle my business expense and grieve for my friend, all in the ten minutes before my first client showed up. I felt I needed to do something – anything – to just feel better, to fix my bad feelings RIGHT NOW.

I got a hold of myself just in time. (You’re welcome, Kendra.)

Instead, I did something I don’t usually do, something pretty out of my Type-A character. I turned on the meditation app on my phone (yes, there is an app for that) and gave myself the gift of a three-minute mini-meditation sit.

And I just breathed.

In and out, deep and slow, riding the wave of my breath as I have learned to do in my weekly yoga class. (Thank you, Rebecca.)

And this act of just breathing led to a kind of letting go, a release . . . not of the stress and sadness itself . . . but of the need to immediately do something about it, to fix it.

If you know me, then you know what a surprising (okay, miraculous) development this was.

But there’s more. This letting go then led to a quiet calmness, a quirky (for me) centered feeling and, of all things, a sense of contentment (the yogis call it santosha, I think) . . . and I was able to gather myself into a more or less therapist-shaped ball so that I could be present with my clients that day. And I actually felt . . . well . . . better.

Honestly, maybe I’m the last one to figure this out, but it’s amazing what being REALLY QUIET, in both body and mind, can do for your mental health. Clearly, there was no way I was going to be able to handle all of my worries in that moment (who am I kidding? I haven’t even handled them all now, a month later). Moreover, my need to change the way I was feeling was contributing a lot of additional stress to my already bad morning.

But thankfully, in that small, quiet moment, a moment of breathing in and out, in and out, I realized that I did not, in fact, need to do anything to fix my feelings because I discovered I had the ability to accept, tolerate and just . . . feel them.

feelingsGird your loins, people. We are headed into the craziness of another holiday season, one that pressures us to stay busy, buy more things, make time for our nutty family, and look and act happy even when we aren’t and don’t want to. You know the one.

This season might be hard for some of us. It might take its toll on our soul, stress us out, and make us want to rush in for an emergency therapy session so that we can find something – a strategy, a pill, a snicker doodle – that will fix our feelings and make us feel better RIGHT NOW.

Instead, what if we all took a minute, or three, to just breathe, to relax into our feelings and accept them. Maybe, in uncovering our ability to tolerate what previously felt intolerable, we might also discover that we are stronger than we know and aren’t, in fact, in need of any kind of fixing.

What about you? Have you had feelings that you thought needed fixing? Times you were able to relax and let go? Please tell us about these moments in a comment below.

And, if this post got you thinking, you might also want to check out the Equanimity app, or these posts on Embracing Emptiness, Living Messy and yoga.

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6 Responses to The Don’t-Fix-It Guide To Feelings

  1. What do you mean a Snickerdoodle won’t fix my emotions? Seriously, I loved this post. This advent, I have found myself particularly craving silence. The downside is the noise of the season is more painful this year. The upside is that it is driving me back to consistent meditation/prayer practice. A lot can be accomplished when I breathe and shut up.

    God’s Peace,

    • Anne Barker says:

      Silence. Yes. A good antidote to the many pulls for our attention during this busy time. Glad you found something here, Jason. I know I take away great insights from you on a regular basis!

  2. Beth Huber says:

    I too loved this post. Something that I so needed this morning. Thank you for sharing this and the article “5 Reasons Boredom Can be Good for Your Health”.

  3. Helen Svoboda-Barber says:

    Do tell! What’s the name of your meditation app? I haven’t found one that works for me. (And thanks for the article!)

    • Anne Barker says:

      It’s called Equanimity, Helen, and you can access it by clicking on that word in the list of resources above the comments here, or by going to your app store. Let me know what you think!

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