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Maintaining emotional sea level
Let everything happen to you
Beauty and terror
Just keep going
No feeling is final
–Rainer Maria Rilke
I’ve learned a lot about facing my feelings this year. I’ve absorbed many tools to work through and move past my emotions, rather than letting them fester and control me. Some tricks work better than others, but they all build off of one another.
In late December, I tried acupuncture for the first time. That holiday dead time was a struggle for me, as it was for so many others—plus I had HSA money to use up. So I went to see Leo at Minka Brooklyn, an incredible holistic spot in my neighborhood I’m kicking myself for just now discovering. It was much more like a therapy session than I anticipated. Leo asked me questions about what I was going through, and I answered and softly cried. As he inserted the needles in my wrists and feet, he guided me through a meditation. “Find the emotion you are feeling. Where is it in your body? What does it feel like? Do you feel like it’s too close, or maybe too far away? If it’s too close, feel it, acknowledge it, and then back away from it until it’s at an appropriate distance from you.”
I’m on a beach, alone, a gray sky overhead. The ocean is calm, gently lapping the shore. I stand still a few feet from the water. In front of me, hovering over the ocean, is a dark ball of energy two times my size, a circular, writhing storm cloud. It is not threatening, but it doesn’t belong here. I hold out my hands as if to hold it, then release it. It drifts slowly out to sea, as I walk backwards. The next mental image I have is a wide, cinematic shot, me far on the left, up on the sand, the ominous orb visible on the horizon, as a freight ship might be. This feels right.
I’ve done this exercise many times since, conjuring up the same visions each time, until I’m again at sea level.
Last night, my Lyft stopped at a red light in front of my ex’s apartment. I stared at the door, one I’d stepped through hundreds of times. We pulled away. It didn’t feel good.
Quickly, the work began. I closed my eyes. I wasn’t feeling good, but what was I feeling? It wasn’t sadness. It was mostly anxiety, with a touch of fear. A therapist taught me this summer that anxiety isn’t one of the seven core emotions (joy, excitement, sadness, anger, fear, disgust and lust). Anxiety, like shame and guilt, is a defense mechanism we use to avoid emotions, or place them in a box until we can safely deal with them. Feelings are meant to take us on a journey from one sea level to the next—they demand to be felt. That’s why anxiety’s utility is limited—unless you deal with the core emotion, you’ll keep feeling it.
I told myself, as one would a small child, “There’s nothing to fear. There’s no foreboding presence. You’re safe.”
I put myself back on the shore. This time, I held a jet black sphere in my hands, larger than a baseball. It had no reflection. It was heavy. I could see the storm cloud far away, but I wasn’t interested in it. I gripped the sphere as hard as I could. I was angry! I pushed and pushed until I reared back and hurled it into the ocean. It landed with a splash and slowly sank through lighter waters into blackness. Then it was gone.
When I next opened my eyes, I was home. I took my groceries upstairs and ate dinner. A friend arrived to drop off a piece of art she carted by bike from Hell’s Kitchen in 20-degree weather just to deliver to me. I lit a candle and turned on calm music I love. I worked on the newsletter, then crawled into bed. As I drifted to sleep, I thought of everything I was grateful for.
For Me and Other Creatives With Mental Health Issues, Medication Can Be a Light in The Dark by Rosemary Donahue in Allure
Are we morally obligated to meditate? by Sigal Samuel at Vox
The agony of weekend loneliness by Paula Cocozza at the Guardian
My therapist says it’s okay to stew in sadness by Caroline Moss at Medium
Catherine Andrews in her Sunday Soother newsletter:
Lead with your shame. You know the thing you are most ashamed about. It may be your struggles with dating (as Shani and I talked about on this week’s podcast). It may be your weight. It may be that you don’t make as much money as you feel you should, or that you think you’re bad with money. It may be your sexuality or your lack of relationship with your family or your depression and anxiety or that you were abused or your divorce.
It turns out: the things we are most ashamed of are actually our superpowers. It’s because this: we’re so ashamed of them BECAUSE they are so vital and important to us, and at some point, we were told they were bad.
Well, turns out, now we can flip the script. So think about the aspect of yourself that makes you cringe when you think about admitting it to somebody else. Now understand: that is the story you must, MUST, share with the world.
Of course: it takes time to get there. Be kind and gentle with your shame. But know: it need not dictate the rest of your life demanding you to control yourself into different ways to not show it to the world.
Your shame need not be hidden. It must be revealed as your gift to the world.
Questionable self-care advice
Support I got that you might need to hear
This cheered me up
I started Whole30 last Monday, and hit the gym for weightlifting for the first time in months. By Thursday my mood was sky high! Who’d have thunk?! (Everyone. Literally everyone.)
Anthem of the week
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