"It's all good". "What is it about me that irritates me when I think about that person"? "Turn your face to the sun and you'll never see the shadows". There's a lot of positivity rhetoric out there, especially in the yoga world. And my goodness it’s hard to stay positive all the time isn’t it? I’m sure that people's lives look like perfection on Instagram, but that's because sorrow doesn’t sell, so a lot of the images that we are inundated with on the daily are constructs of a life put together from moments of joy or celebration. This is not reality. No matter who you are, being human has times when it is messy. It can be chaotic, anxiety provoking, sad, and scary and that feels like a lot to shoulder alone when all we see is perfection. The bank account is precariously balanced, your kids just won a screaming fight with you, you don’t look forward to work tomorrow … or maybe it’s less obvious than all that ... maybe you’ve just been working really effing hard. Maybe you’ve been dealing with a lot and you feel like the candle is burning from both ends. Everyone has their own struggles, their own issues to work through, and sometimes things don’t turn out the way you want them to, so I want to remind you that it’s okay if you’re not okay. Your feelings and emotions are valid. ALL of them.
It took me a while to learn this simple fact and the perfectionist in me still struggles with it sometimes. When I was going through my daughters adoption process, emotions were high and confusingly contradictory. No amount of pretty captions on Facebook about looking at the cup-half-full could make that go away. Every mundane interaction, meeting, or milestone was met with the weight of all of these built-up, unresolved feelings and I coped by constantly pushing my emotions down because I felt like couldn’t feel them at all - I couldn't open those floodgates - or it may swallow me up. I watched Netflix or slept a whole day away. I retreated so that people wouldn’t ask me questions. I ignored my feelings, but that didn’t mean that they disappeared. They were still there. They never went away. By pushing them away, I just delayed the explosion. In my case, it would come out at inappropriate times, so I found myself overreacting to things I didn’t care that much about, like sobbing uncontrollably through a sad movie or giving my husband the silent treatment because he didn’t thank me for making the bed, or something really silly like that. I didn’t even REALLY care about those things that I had emotionally exploded over - not nearly as much as the REAL issues - but boy did it look like a sink full of dirty dishes was the end of the world for me.
I get that it doesn't take a big upheaval like that to bring out the blues. Even day-to-day things can be overwhelming for some of us sometimes. We have jobs, bills, families, friendships, and relationships, all of which come with their own complexities. Juggling all of these responsibilities takes a lot of physical and emotional energy. We all have our limits and I don’t think that we have a lot of tolerance in our society for boundaries and self-care is definitely not prioritized as equally important to all those other responsibilities. So sometimes we get pushed over the edge of our limits. Sometimes things don’t go our way. Sometimes we are not okay.
Being vulnerable and admitting that we are not okay when we project the opposite (and are surrounded by the opposite) is scary, but it’s honest. Since Isabella’s adoption became (almost) final - it’s a long process, but we’re in the end stages now where it’s just time and paperwork, but there is no risk of losing her - I have been processing the emotions that built up over the last 18 months. It wasn’t until after I started to do so that I felt more like myself - less anxious, less tired, less on edge. The fastest way to move forward is to move through, as hard as that can seem sometimes. Feeling the emotions you’re feeling is the only way to let them run their course.
I’m not a psychologist or a counsellor, but I know that it’s okay to feel negative emotions; those negative emotions balance out our positive ones. As much as you may feel like you're the only one who struggles in your relationship, to balance your responsibilities, to achieve your goals, you're not alone. Stepping out of the shadows of shame to declare your not okay-ness can also give other people permission to talk about their struggles too. Very quickly you'll see that you're not alone.
It’s okay to be different; it’s okay to feel things. It’s okay to want to cry, to be angry, to feel negative emotions. That was something that I don’t remember hearing much growing up and something I try to instil in my own daughter now, even though she doesn’t really understand at 18-months, but I think it goes in. When you close the baby gate and she can’t climb the stairs (dangerously) by herself, she has her temper tantrum and I let her. I hold space for her expression and say things like, “I know. It’s disappointing when we can’t do things we want to do, but it’s my job to keep you safe. You can express your feelings about it as long as you need to though” and I wait for her to finish - usually seconds later. It’s so easy. It came to me so naturally. I didn't read any books that told me to say those things. With my daughter, it was second nature for me to allow her to express even if her feelings didn’t make sense to me. If she falls and isn’t really hurt but starts to cry, I don’t tell her “You’re okay! You’re okay!” or exclaim in excitement to distract her from her feelings. She is expressing her experience - it scared her, or hurt her and I can’t tell, or even just got in the way of her getting from Point A to Point B - I don't know, but I give her all the time and permission to express that she needs.
Why can't we do that for one another?
Experiencing the full spectrum of emotions and feelings doesn’t make you weak, it makes you human. It’s okay not to be okay. If you start crying, I promise you you’ll stop eventually. It might seem scary because it’s the Devil you don’t know, but the only way out is through. It sucks. It’s inconvenient. It might be painful or scary. You don't even have to understand what you’re feeling and have a map for how to move past it, but the first step to regaining equilibrium is admitting that you’ve been thrown off. If all Is well for you right now, amazing! And if you’re not okay, that’s good information (all my YTTers are rolling their eyes at me and my “good information” right now).
Whenever you need, seek out the support of people who love you or pay for professional support. Treat yourself like you would treat your child. Give yourself as much time as you need to feel what you’re feeling and re-balance on your own terms. Rest, recharge, and reset. You are as entitled to relish in bleakness as you are in joy. All of your emotions are important and valid - even the ones that don’t photograph well on Instagram.
Take care of yourself the best way you know how. You know what you need better than anyone else. I will hold space for all the pieces of you and you can do the same for me.