The night I met Stephen, we played a game that was sort of like a combination of the card game Mafia and freeze tag. It’s not a card game, you get up and move, and you play after dark, with all the lights off in the house. There’s a “killer” who wins by finding and tagging everyone in the house before getting caught. I’m pretty sure there are good guys too, and a way for them to win, but I don’t remember any of that, because when it was my turn, I wound up kicking poor Steve in the head. Several times. It took an embarrassingly long time for me to find my way around him, but I just kept stumbling over the poor guy because I didn’t want to out myself as the “killer” and lose the game. I should not be allowed to be any sort of key player in any game that requires physical coordination, let alone in the dark.
Here’s the point: in my attempts to be positive, I sometimes wind up haphazardly stumbling around very difficult emotions that I refuse to acknowledge, much the same way I repeatedly ran into Stephen that night at Mic and Beth’s. I think when we refuse to acknowledge difficult things, even if our intentions are good, we’re just hitting the snooze button on something our brains want us to deal with. For the longest time, I saw the process of cultivating positivity as continually laying down the feelings that were making me unhappy. I thought I just had to let them go, and granted, sometimes that is true, but I think the majority of the feelings, thoughts and reactions that come into our lives are there for a reason, to inform us or guide us or help us grow. Ultimately, when I get really honest with myself and have a good long look at what I’m feeling, and figure out why I’m feeling that way, I’m able to not just move past it, but grow from it in a way that feels healthy and deeply well.
Positivity does not mean that we gloss over our very legitimate feelings. Even if we already recognize that a feeling is not rooted in truth, we can recognize that we need to work through it. Put another way: “they’re still my feelings. I still feel them.” Acknowledging it, processing it, praying about it or talking it out lets this very real feeling have some space in the universe, but puts it in perspective. Recognizing our emotions as nothing more or less than what they are robs them of some of their power to ruin a day.
I still tend to wear this mask of “I’m okay,” and I think over the years it has actually cut me off from a lot of support that I really needed. I remember once telling someone “I’m not okay,” and actually using those words, and it was like a complete revelation. Even though I wasn’t ready to tell them the whole story, those words opened up a dialogue that led us to a whole new level of understanding. They had no idea that I wasn’t okay, and when I let them understand the impact the situation was having on me, it changed everything.
I used to feel like I had to hide my emotions, and it took me a long time to realize that it’s just not true that I have to hide them ALL the time. There’s a time and a place for vulnerability, and it’s important to make that time and space. So take a deep breath, and be honest: How are you? Really? Between you and God, do you already know what you need to work through? Frustration? Disappointment or unmet expectations? Stress and anxiety? What about perfection, or the perpetual busy-ness that goes with the pursuit of it?
Is it easy to be honest with yourself, or are you finding you’ve been burying your feelings?