Tuesday, July 21, 2015
Trusting in Emotion: Life's Check Engine Light
Speaking for myself, for most of my life, when I get strong feelings around something, especially strong negative emotions, I have found myself pushing them away, or otherwise distracting myself from them. The more I could hold them at arm's length, the more I felt 'proud' of myself for not giving in to fear, anger, sadness, pettiness, jealousy, and other so-called lower emotions. This, I believe, created a massive amount of anxiety for someone who is inherently very emotional, very intuitive and very nervous as a result. This is, perhaps, the foundation of my anxiety and lack of self respect. I've felt since a very young age that I was a failure because I could not control my emotions or the anxiety I had--which often resulted in major anxiety attacks.
However, over time I've come to see emotions as very reliable indicators of something that's attempting to bubble to the surface and gain my attention. For some reason, it seems very common to not trust our emotions as indicators, as in on a dash board. For instance, as you'll see vaguely in the background of my photo here, the dials on a car indicate what's going on with the car. Similarly, messages pop up such as 'check engine' or that snazzy icon you get when your tire has been punctured. In any case, as annoying as those symbols are, they are indicating something in need of immediate focus and resolution.
Many times, what is needed isn't anything dramatic. You might just need a break, a laugh, some delicious healthy food, more sleep, some semblance of hope. You're feeling worn down, in a rut, neglected in some way, broke, burnt out, fed up. Whatever it is, it's something that's worthy of your attention. In my case today, I found myself feeling particularly crummy. My body ached, my head hurt, I felt like I was slogging through mud and I was so fatigued I actually fell asleep a few times. My period is heavy today, my daughter was whining, complaining and demanding all day long and everything I did was an exercise in futility. I tried really hard to rally my energy despite this. Worse, this is a condition that I've dealt with for a long time so I felt what people commonly call 'going postal'. I felt anger and frustration rising in me and when my husband returned home I left the house. I found myself wishing things like never having a child, or just generally being someone else. These are classic escapist thoughts, and I knew that, even while thinking them.
As I sat sipping some coffee and having a pretty crappy gluten-free cookie (this ritual being my 'fuck you' to the Universe today--I know I don't need the caffeine or the sugar), I started to go through a laundry list of what I was doing wrong and why were certain things not budging from where I thought they should be? Why was I still stressed out, broke and living paycheck to paycheck, depressed, uninspired, frazzled, feeling unwell, having the same old issues despite my efforts? Was my best not even close to good enough? It didn't seem that way.
But then, I slowed down a little bit and felt compassion for myself. My expectations often get the better of me. I think that things should always go a certain way, and if they don't, I try to blame everything on myself and then feel guilty about it. But sometimes, in fact many times, a whole lot of things just don't (and never will) go the way we think they should. This often unconscious self blaming and shaming ritual of mine causes me a lot of grief. It's an internal pressure to always do better than I'm doing, and never feeling good about who I am and what I'm doing or not doing.
So, when I pulled these two cards while parked in the parking lot of the grocery store I felt a deep recognition of what they might be saying. The Ace of Cups is the pure energy of feeling, emotion and intuition. It's the wellspring of creativity. It's sustenance. Some tarotists have even called it the 'crying' card. This is something I did in the car yesterday on the way to meet a dear friend who is in town. Over time, I've forgotten how to cry. My emotions often remain trapped under the surface, just like my creativity and my sense of joy and hope. And when it comes up, like many people, I find it uncomfortable. I don't like crying, but acknowledgement of emotions is truly important.
The Fool comes in to remind me to trust myself and my feelings. Along with emotional expression, I've disallowed trust and risk in my life as well. I've made my world pretty small and tight most of the time. For several years during the worst parts of my daughter's illness I did this as a self-protective measure. But now it has just become a prison. I'm like the caged bird whose door is open but refuses to fly. I know I am supposed to fly, but I don't care. I'm used to being where I am. So that's my goal...to slowly retrain myself to try things, to open up, to let go of notions of life that are holding me back. I don't need to do anything crazy, I just need to trust in myself and take action from that place.