Big Feelings

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been called a feeler. Sensitive. Delicate. Hugely empathetic. Cries easily. Always there for others.

What I realized recently, is that that unconditional compassion and support stops for myself. I’m not always there for me. I struggle with acknowledging my feelings, let alone honoring them in a healthy way, if they’re anything other than sunshine. Anxiety, anger, sadness, stress – I don’t allow myself to fully feel the full range of Big Feelings we all experience and instead bottle them up and shove them down, usually without even realizing it. Must carry on! The glass is half full! It could always be worse! Everything is fine!!!!! In other words, toxic positivity.

Until one day everything wasn’t fine. Like the time in high school I used a flask to sneak champagne to a party, eventually my Big Feelings exploded, resulting in a sticky mess that seeped into everything. Panic attacks during meetings, being unable to get out of bed, no motivation to cook or create or do things I love. At the root, fear. Fear of what was happening to me. Fear that something was wrong with me. Fear of my Big Feelings.

I truly believe this was inevitable, because feelings will force their way to be felt. BUT, there is a catalyst that sped up this process, a catalyst I am forever grateful for.

I started to meditate.

Most people are surprised to hear I haven’t already been meditating. Maybe it’s because I have lots of plants or because my windowsills are filled with crystals. Either way, I never used to meditate. And it’s not because I was against it. I just never felt like I needed it. Like, life is good and I’m content and just goin’ with the flow so there’s really nothing to think deeply about or marinate in. That feels like so much. Too much. I’m present, enough. Mindful-ish. I’ve read Eat, Pray, Love twice and do face masks.

But when my (very intuitive) mom surprised me with a subscription to the Calm app at the start of the new year, I figured meditation would be a great resolution. So I decided to do my first 3 minute Intro to Meditation session on a whim one night after getting into bed. Like most days, it was a good day, so I was really just looking to end it on a nice, relaxing note. A night cap, if you will. I snuggled under my covers, clicked play, aaaaand promptly started to cry.

And not a delicate cry either. A guttural, snot-filled, shaking-the-bed cry that startled Ben, the dogs and myself.

I was up for two hours after in a state of both wtf (what the fuck) and wtf (why the fuck). Knowing what I know now, I think I just felt instantly soothed. Like the world was finally slowing down long enough for me to catch my breath. Like a snow globe settling into peace and clarity. Like my inner child was hugging me, and being hugged herself. A hug I really, really needed, and had no idea I needed it. I was there for me, for once. It was a release of emotions and moments and Big Feelings I didn’t even realize were taking up space inside of me. After, I felt both lighter and heavier. If you know, you know.

Since then, I’ve meditated at least once daily and I cannot emphasize how much it’s changed my life. But not in the “I’m now super calm and stoic and can control my innermost thoughts and handle all of the things like a true zen master” type of way, but rather the “wow I had no idea I was both ignoring and harboring so many Big Feelings and sometimes it feels so daunting and impossible to slow down and take time for just me and breathe and sit in these thoughts and acknowledge them in a way that doesn’t give them power over me, but I’m getting better at it and I owe it to myself and this, this is what selfcare really is and lately I’ve been feeling like the sky, complete and vast and always changing yet constant, and my Big Feelings are just clouds passing through and they all serve a purpose and all are temporary” way. And that feels like growth.

I write this as a reminder, to all people and probably mainly myself, that selfcare can’t be bought and isn’t always glamorous. That you’re worth the time. That you can truly always find the time. That all feelings are for feeling. That I don’t want to miss any of them, because that’s what makes life worth living. That we all hold stress in different ways, in ways that we don’t even realize. That it’s okay to not understand our Big Feelings, and that when the waters are rough, we just need to try our best to navigate through and not let them completely steer the ship in the meantime. That sitting in your silence, in your self, is power. That we deserve and frankly need carved out time to be present and open and maybe uncomfortable. That just going through the motions and being content isn’t enough. That good change doesn’t always feel good at first. That being a positive person doesn’t mean you can’t experience hard emotions. That you’re not alone. That you’re never alone. That starting might feel weird or scary or like the last thing you want to do, but the journey is so important and always changing and full of so many vibrant, beautiful colors there aren’t even names for them all. And so are you.

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