Make Room For Feeling

Lately I’ve noticed a lack of elbow room for feelings.  No open spaces left for a feeling to show up.  For if one appears, quick as a flash there’s a fuss, and a shunning.  ‘So and so has it much worse’, my mind tells me.  Along with your lips.  “You could have so much more to worry about”.  “Grow up”, I say to myself.  Round and round my thoughts and your words chase the feelings that arrive, until they find a deep hole in which to dive underground.  And before I know it, they are gone. 

One unexpected day, arrives on scene the drive to stuff my face with food.  The fixation to pull at my hair. The need to buy too much, cook too much, Facebook too much, drive too fast, rage at my kids.  And I wonder, suddenly after months of not needing my horrid coping behaviors, why they have surfaced again.  I wonder why I’m blowing up in situations that normally wouldn’t anger me.  I act in ways that aren’t ‘me’.  And I forget to connect the dots back to the feeling that tried to join the conversation of my life.  I neglected to notice that I would not have it!  I forget I would not care or listen or lovingly respond to the feelings that God put in my body to help me cope with the realities of life.  And so I viciously attempt to stamp out the annoying coping habit I don’t want, and the embarrassing reaction has been caused by denying an inborn healthy coping mechanism called my feelings. 

Feelings help me know if I’m catching fire.  If I’m freezing solid.  They help me know if blood is being cut off from a limb.  Feelings let me know dust has made it’s way onto my eye.  Reminds me when I need sleep.  If my teeth need flossed.  Feelings also allow me to notice when I’m being disrespected.  When I’ve said ‘yes’ too many times.  When I’m being used. 

Feelings are not popular.  The catch-phrase ‘too sensitive’ exists because feeling a thing is deemed as a character flaw.  Allowing myself to notice a feeling and say out loud that I feel sad, fearful, anxious is to agree to being branded as ‘moody, thin skinned, touchy, immature’, you get the idea. 

Life hands us a two edged sward, really.  Expects us not to feel, and also expects us not to react.  Only problem, when I don’t notice my feelings and respectfully address the red flags that feelings wave in my face, when I shove underground these warning signals, the body takes over. No longer my frontal lobe in charge, physical reactivity takes the place of choices.  And who wants that?  I can either decide to take charge of me, or let my reflexive, my reactive self take the place of my choices.   

Not only are reactions caused by ignoring my feelings, at times so are my conditions.  Conditions such as depression and anxiety.  Clients often sign up for treatment to ‘fix’ depression or anxiety.  They don’t realize that it’s an end-stage condition.  Much like diabetes is deemed the problem rather than an end stage condition that points to the myriad of problems ignored before diabetes came into full bloom.  The goal is to address little things that cause the end stage.  And one of the simplest fixes is to stop ignoring and being ashamed of feelings.  Treat feelings for what they are.  Mighty helpers.  They tell us the truth about a situation.  And as we give attention to them and address them, we become stronger. 

I can hear the ‘You are what you think’ critics now.  What about all those feelings that are not accurate?  First rule of thumb.  Feelings are not right or wrong.  There are only wrong actions for dealing with that feeling.  A feeling is neutral.  Decisions about that feeling and the actions taken are not.  Many actions (responses) way over the top are triggers to shame about that feeling.  Once there is no shame for a feeling, it can be rightly and empathetically dealt with.  And the adult me can make the decision for how to respond.  As long as there is shame, the responder is functioning in a fight, flight or freeze state. 

Make way, I say, for feelings. They are the first responders to a healthier me.    

I SAW YOUR SON YESTERDAY

I saw your son yesterday.  Standing on the corner for a brief moment before he jaywalked in front of my car  – blue jeans, t-shirt, flip flops stride wide cross the downtown Seattle thorofare, tall frame and wide shoulders, black hair, the curls all wild. 

Beauty – I caught a glimpse of beauty beneath the emaciated form – the body torn down by a substance that owns him.  Leads him  – ring in nose – under the bridge to where he feels OK.  To an army of ‘ease the pain’ worshipers who sacrifice themselves for a fix. 

I saw your son yesterday, and yelled at God.  “What does it take for you to touch a body and make it whole again?  What if he’s too far gone to reach for You?  Can’t you just take the voices in his head and hush them still so that the fix is not his only relief?”

I saw your son yesterday, as light turned green, I passed him by.  Behind me, he and hundreds of other mother’s sons there to just make it through…

Another crave. 

Another fix. 

Another sleep it off. 

Only to wake up needing more. 

I saw your son yesterday, and asked God to be ‘The More’ for him, and all the mother’s sons with him. 

The Quiet Voice low. 

“…saw her son?  

He’s my Son, too.”

Collectables

In this season of spring cleaning, I remember what I do love to collect.

...because healing spreads

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OK, it’s lame, but I collected key chains when I was a kid. I really had no need for a key chain. I owned nothing worth locking up. But I did have a need to be all grown up, and for some reason had the idea that if one were to be anybody at all, one would have a collection of some sort. I noticed most everybody collected, and made a great big deal out of the collection by placing it on display. Spoons on a special wall mounted holder, dolls, music boxes, pine cones, tea cups, snow globes, caps, fossils, buttermilk cartons, even antique barb wire. So thinking I needed a collection myself, I set out to collect key chains. My most treasured key chain was from Hawaii. It was shaped like a flip flop, out of the same materiel, and blue:) Not sure who gave it to me…

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Aunt Hannah

This information has been gathered from here and there. Some information was passed down as family story… and later confirmed by census records, obituaries, school forms. Some is new information from census and other records. Bits and pieces that make up a person’s life.  I hope to get to know her for myself one day.

Great Aunt Hannah.  I wish I could have known her story better, you know, the face to face knowing.  She made the trip once, I think, from the Atlantic shore to the Pacific when I was maybe 6 or 8 years old.  She was from Vermont, we were from the other side…the Olympic Peninsula.  It’s no wonder we hardly saw her.  So much I admired about my great aunt from a distance. Like Grandma, she had experienced disruption in her young life.  She was a small child when their Momma died.  As if losing a Mom isn’t enough, her big brother of 17 committed suicide just after, and after that their Father disappeared.  Some relatives think their Father went back to Russia.  Some think he may have died or suicided.  In any case, Hannah, Naomi and the eldest sister Esther became orphans, ages approximately 7, 10 and 11.  

The girls for a short time went to live with relatives.  I’d give anything to know who those relatives might be.  Any relatives. Someday maybe.  Just after living with relatives, the sisters were split up and sent to separate orphanages.  It was during the time at the orphanage that a couple little Orthodox Jewish girls were introduced to Christianity.  Both Grandma Naomi and Great Aunt Hannah took the leap and because Christ followers, but were frightened of telling each other.  I can only imagine how hard that decision was.  They could easily lose what was left of their family. It’s unknown if Great Aunt Esther became a Christian, too.  One day Hannah and Naomi took off, walking toward each other. They met in a field where they’d always meet …  alone together one of them had the courage to tell the other. Afterwards the sisters had a lifetime of sharing their treasured faith together.  Their letters and poems were full of bits and pieces of their love for the Lord.

Somehow the sisters were taken out of orphanage life and brought back to the extended family home, and were sent to school.  Story has it that one of Grandma Naomi’s teachers became fond of her, and offered to pay her way through college.  Grandma Naomi decided to give the opportunity to her sister Hannah.  I’m not sure if Grandma Naomi didn’t care for school, or if she simply wanted her sister to have the chance at an education. In any case, Great Aunt Hannah accepted and became one of the few women in the day to receive a four year college degree.  She studied Biology and became a high school biology teacher. 

Life for Hannah was an interesting one. She married a man who also taught school and was a businessman, and who later became the secretary of the state of Vermont for 20 years.  They had one son.  Great Aunt Hannah became blind late in life, learned braille and continued to live a full life despite her loss of sight. My Dad remembers during a visit, as she was settling in for the night she told Dad “Turn off the lights, I want to do some reading” which struck Dad funny.  He would say, after a hearty laugh, that she needed it good and dark so that the light wouldn’t distract from her reading braille. 

In 1991 my husband and I took a trip to Vermont, finding my Great Aunt’s home.  It was just what I expected.  Very typically New England looking.  She’d been gone 9 years by then.  It was nearing evening, and cold out.  We’d been driving a long time in search for the house.  With no one home at her old residence, we decided to knock on the house just next to hers. Standing on the porch in the chill, a tiny proper lady opened the door.  When we told her my Great Aunt Hannah had once lived in the house next door she quick put her hand to her mouth and gasp “Oh!  Hannah was my best friend!”  She told us all about the way she loved Hannah.  How Hannah had loved her roses, how she loved to write poetry.  The way she was very involved in their church, the way she was a wonderful friend to her.  We could hardly believe our good fortune in meeting Great Aunt Hannah’s neighbor and dear friend.  Years have come and gone since then.  We have found some beautiful pictures of her, and poetry she wrote.  Found notes about her by the people who had loved her. 

So many reasons Aunt Hannah should have never made it. Never survived.  Her big sister didn’t.  She folded under the weight of the trauma they all experienced, locked up at Ward Island State Hospital, pulled away from her little children, abandoned there to rot, waste away in the prime of her life alone, pass on alone, tossed into an unmarked grave on Hart Island where all Ward Island State Hospital patients decompose.  Aunt Hannah made it, even when her brother couldn’t – pistol to his head at age 17.  She not only made it, but made it big, living a life of learning, love, poetry, marriage, parenting, involved in church, neighbors, she lived a life alive.  She and Grandma were the little ones.  I wonder how much their older sister Esther and the oldest Moses protected the little girls from the hell of what they went through. I wonder how much Esther and Moses took on behalf of their little sisters.  Whatever happened, the two little girls lived and thrived and the oldest two died untimely and heart breaking deaths.   

I wonder sometimes if in God’s’ Heaven the four of them are there together, even with their Momma, maybe even their Papa.  I wonder if they are sorting it all out together.  In a land where everyone is important, where no-one is forgotten and thrown away.  Where love is all it takes to never loose the other.  I wonder.