Needles to say it has been a crazy 2020. I get the feeling that really nothing else remains untouched. Every time I get used to a new circumstance, BOOM, a new challenge arrives.
This year a lot has been taken away from me. Many jobs, many experiences and now even my home and with it my husband for a few weeks. He is back in the US while I had to stay in Germany.
For me, the biggest emotional challenge this year is dealing with sadness. Who hasn’t felt sadness about stuff that has been canceled this year? We are all sad about experiences that didn’t happen. Canceled birthdays, vacations, moments with family and friends, courses, concerts, sport events and jobs. The list goes on. We grieve the moments that were taken from us. And I I am even sad about not too distant moments in the future that I know won’t happen. We were all used to planning ahead and events unfolding in the way we largely expected them to.
First we may feel anger when things don’t turn out the way we planned them. Underneath it I guess is a quiet sadness. And as we can’t do much about things getting canceled and are helpless, being sad is the only thing that’s left.
I think it’s important to be sad about cancelled experiences. We are all sitting in the same rollercoaster which tosses us around chaotically. But we will be able to step off one day to take a breather. Unfortunately we will also see other shiny colourful rollercoasters, which we won’t be able to ride as they are out of service.
I would like to invite you to be sad if you feel like it.
It helped me in the last few weeks as my life has recently been turned around 180 degrees. If something came to my mind that I won’t experience (even something small like not being able to get a Christmas tree from Vermont in our home in NYC this year, as I will stay in Germany) I began to let the feeling rush through me instead of fighting it. By now I think it is essential to feel all the feelings instead of hiding them deep inside of you. We don’t need to be tough and strong all the time. The experience we all go through this year is extreme and that’s why extreme emotions have to be welcomed. I believe that’s the only way we can get through this in a healthy way.
Of course it’s scary to allow your feelings to show up. There is not only sadness in our hearts but rage, frustration, disappointment, exhaustion, loneliness etc. Probably all of this floats into sorrow. It's a pretty toxic cocktail bubbling inside of us. Unfortunately we have to go through those feelings to detox so we can get out on the other side of the tunnel.
While standing in front of this dark tunnel of feelings we wonder how it will be inside, what will happen once we open ourselves up to our uncomfortable feelings?
When we don't allow feelings to be felt they will hunt us down, and then our roller coaster wagon could derail. Continuing metaphorically:
when your roller coaster is chaotically changing direction it's better to step out and throw up then continuing the ride.
Otherwise if you keep riding all the way to the finish line, you might not be able to get out anymore as you're laying in your wagon white faced and unconscious.
Maybe you think that sounds a little bit extreme now, but I think it's the truth. The mental, physical and emotional challenges that we face right now are extreme.
Do you catch yourself playing it all down? I tend to do that: „Come on Susi, others are in a much worse situation than you are. Be thankful for what you have!“ Why do we judge ourselves? In these situations why don't we allow our feelings to be present? Maybe because we are all afraid of the cumulative emotions that we incrementally swallowed down all year in order to function. And deep down inside we also don't want to be whiners.
So let's take some small steps towards this scary and dark tunnel of feelings. I started this recently by dancing to music. I don't even care how it looks like (Gasp!), just the feeling that it gives me. I'm expressing everything that's going on inside of me through movement. Or I sit down and listen to slow music while taking deep breaths. Sometimes I also curse out loud when I'm alone, and I don't care what's coming out of my mouth. This doesn’t look pretty when Im driving.
Most of the time tears tend to show up. Sometimes they just roll down my cheeks quietly, other times a big hysterical cry occurs. All that matters is that it's a form of cleansing.
Afterwords I always feel a bit better, and a small sparkly light starts to shine in the darkness of the tunnel. I start to see the exit on the other side.
You can stroll through the tunnel in small stages and slowly discover your emotions. You can also decide to roll through the tunnel in your wagon, by letting out bigger bursts of emotional baggage. You decide which way is healthier and more capable for you.
One thing is for sure, this year will change all of us. We will be aware that we are more adaptable than we ever thought we would be. I hope and I am a firm believer that we will grow immensely through this process, to achieve a better version of ourselves. The road is hard and painful. But we all know that in every crisis there is a treasure hidden, that we are allowed to find.
That treasure is emotional evolution.
The tunnel of feelings will stay and we probably have to keep going through it over and over again. But maybe after several times of marching through it, we hop into our roller coaster wagon, and some colourful lamps will be guiding us through the darkness. The tunnel look dark at entry, but we changed and we know we have what it takes to ride through it.
I would like to recommend a podcast episode that inspired me to write this post.
The Podcast is Brené Brown „Unlocking Us“
Brené with Emily and Amelia Nagoski on Burnout and How to Complete the Stress Cycle
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