I really liked that in thirty minutes, I could go from this
The pile of unmatched and free-floating socks was huge and completely annoying, but it seemed like a task I could tackle. The kids were doing their homework, the crickets were chirping, and I decided to fold socks. It was sort of slow and a bit boring and tedious, but I liked how I could see my progress. I wished the way I handled my emotions could be as neat and orderly as this drawer. I do everything I can to avoid actually addressing my emotions. On the surface, it appears I say what is on my mind. This is quite different from naming how I feel. Instead, I avoid, suppress, mask, run away from, binge eat, exercise, or stare mindlessly at a screen.
I have had to face some pretty tough emotions recently, and good god...it is hard! It is among some of the hardest work I ever done. I sit in a room with just me and one person naming what seems so hard to name. It feels ridiculous, really. I am a writer who shares a lot, but when I recently reviewed some of my past work one thing I noticed was how I really like to speak for the collective "we". I have been avoiding speaking directly for me.
So there I sit alone in a chair. My tears fall, my voice cracks, and my stomach clenches....all indicators that HERE is a FEELING! But what is it? It is as if it were the first time I have ever been asked to name them.
I am sad.
I am angry.
I am hurt.
I am frustrated.
I am scared.
I am confused.
Well, how about that? I had no idea it was all of those things. I really didn't. Am I ignorant? Or just dumb? It seems more likely that I don't often try to say what I feel because I don't take the time to discover what I really feel. I dance around it and fill the space of my emotions with so much noise that I don't really hear or acknowledge my feelings. I make do by plowing through like the farm girl I was raised to be. I put into context that my trouble is nothing compared to someone else's. I don't own my own hard truths and how they make me feel. I allow myself some tears and then I move on and take care of the kids, the home, the business of life.
Or so I think.
I am learning it's not really moving on. It's avoiding and so I am back to naming these hard emotions. Doing so takes a gentle nudge and some silence and a willingness to sit with them and get squirmy and red-faced and spent.
But practicing being inside silence has become one of the greatest gifts of the last six months. I have had conversations on the phone where I was so silent that the person I was talking to had to ask, "Are you there?"
Oh yes, I am here. I am so here it hurts. It is hard to hang on to and be inside of some these large emotions that find their way into silence, which, of course, is why I have avoided it.
But what I am also getting to is there is joy in this experience as well. There is joy in really listening to how I am feeling and naming whatever it might be. It's better than turning a messy sock drawer into a little spot of calm. This deep and churning and icky feeling has a name! I have also discovered surprise and joy in being wrong about what I thought I felt. After some time and silence, I often discover, "Well no. That was not it at all!" Suddenly, I have a new way of thinking about my feelings.
I have a trusted confidant and The Red Boot Coalition where practicing listening and silence is a real thing. It is THE thing. Both of these experiences are helping me immensely.
I also have this sock drawer. Strangely, when I look at it, it sort of reminds me that I can do this. I can make some order out of the chaos of my feelings if I am willing to do the work.