I said take a seat

So it turns out that I’m a bit of a hypocrite. I wasn’t always. But somewhere along the way I’ve become one when it comes to feelings. Specifically when it comes to feeling my feelings.

I’m a big supporter of feeling your feelings. As opposed to ignoring them, I mean. You have to really feel your feelings before you can rally and carry on. I’m also a big supporter of rallying, but not before the feelings have all been felt. I wrote a post about this back in…2017? Care, Feel, Rally, Repeat. I wrote it in part for me, but really I wrote it for some people in my life who were going through some hard stuff that involved lots of caring and feeling and rallying. But in the year that followed it became my own mantra because I did lots of caring and feeling and had to do lots of rallying. Care, feel, rally and repeat. In that order. I’m also a big supporter of doing things in the correct order.

Anyway somewhere along the way in the last little while I’ve become a bit of a care, feel, rally, repeat drop-out because I’m not doing the best job at feeling my feelings.

I have a lot of big feelings about a lot of big things right now.

I should note that I started writing this post a couple of weeks ago, before the global COVID-19 pandemic. As I’m sure you can imagine, on top of all the other big feelings, I also have some pretty big feelings about this current situation. Giant ones, actually. And maybe I’ll share more about that in more detail another day.

But not today. Today is about feelings in general.

I realized recently that a lot of the time when I share how I’m feeling about something I follow it up with a shrug. Two kinds of shrugs, actually. There’s a verbal shrug that comes in the form of, “oh well…it’s okay…it’s just the way it is…,” or something along those lines. And then I either scrunch up my face a little bit or tighten the corners of my lips and actually shrug my shoulders. And then I change the topic of conversation. A lot of the time I end up avoiding sharing how I’m feeling at all.

I do it mostly for other people. We as humans don’t like to see other humans struggling, and we don’t often know what to do about it. So when I see that someone is struggling with watching me struggle with something I quickly put an end to that. Part of that is just who I am, because I’m oversensitive to the way that other people feel and I don’t want anyone to feel sad or bad because of me. But part of it is conditioning. Without even realizing, a lot of us put pressure on other people to make us feel better about what’s happening to them, and so I’ve spent a lot of the last ten years trying to make other people feel better about my situation, reassuring them about things that I am not very sure of myself.

It ends up coming across as accepting.

Everyone always thinks I’m just so accepting. They praise me for it. Which I never know what to do with besides more face scrunching and shoulder shrugging because what other choice do I have but to be accepting?

And don’t get me wrong, I am very accepting. And that acceptance is hard-earned. It did not come pre-programmed into me, rather I had to wire it in myself, parallel to the hard-earned wisdom. And on the one hand, it’s true that I don’t really have much choice but to be accepting, because what is my other option? Denial? Misery? How does that help me?

But on the other hand, accepting doesn’t mean that there isn’t also room for feeling the feelings.

And that’s what I realize I haven’t been doing a very good job of. Because my tendency to shrug off my feelings with other people has translated to shrugging off my feelings with myself. And without actually feeling my feelings, my efforts at rallying are not always the most successful.

In order to feel your feelings, you have to sit with them a while. Instead, I’m doing this awkward thing where I sit down for a second and then the chair is not very comfortable so I quickly stand back up again. Or I worry that maybe that wasn’t my seat to sit in and maybe I’ve sat in someone else’s seat so I don’t stay seated just in case. Or I sit down and look around and no one else it sitting down so I mustn’t stay seated in case that comes across as rude.

Or maybe I’m just losing miserably at a game of musical chairs.

The point is that I’m standing near my feelings, but not actually sitting with them. And you all know how good I am at standing…not.

But since I said that I was going to spend this year taking a seat, it’s only fair that I sit with my feelings, too. Actually feel those feelings. But still be accepting. Because they’re not mutually exclusive. Because there’s room for both. Because it’s okay not to be okay with something but to be okay with it not being okay. Because I don’t have a responsibility to anyone to be okay with something. Because I don’t owe anyone a face scrunch and a shrug. Because I owe it to myself to stop shrugging.

Because I care about so many things and I want to keep rallying. And in order to rally properly I need to sit with my feelings first, so that when I get up to rally I’m actually ready to do so.

And anyway I just wanted to actually finish up these thoughts to share with you because these are uncertain times and uncertain times bring with them lots of feelings and I want you to know that it’s okay to sit with them, to really feel them. We’re all feeling them. It’s okay to not always feel okay right now.

And even though it’s not okay right now to actually be together face to face because of the whole pandemic-necessitated-social-distancing thing, we can still sit with each other while we sit with our feelings.

And feel them. And share them.

I’ll save you a seat.

6 thoughts on “I said take a seat

  1. Hi Catherine,
    Just checking in with you after re-reading your ‘take a seat’ posts. I’m sorry I hadn’t left a response for this one straight away. I too have been dealing with big feelings that left me lost for words. I love your take a seat metaphor, including sometimes standing up because a seat is too uncomfortable. It made me think of my transition to using a wheelchair. It’s now very comfortable, custom made to fit and support me and my life is easier and I can manage to do more. I woukd never have come to this good result of cI hasn’t spent quite a bit of time in a succession of uncomfortable chairs – it’s through discovering the discomforts that one can be guided to the improvements and solutions. Get comfortable being uncomfortable – that’s where the learning happens. As for acceptance, we are not always compelled to settle for an uncomfortable or poor chair. As we change, we can give ourselves permission to change to better or more appropriate chairs. As you said, we have to ‘take a seat’ in the first place!
    Love your work and how you are safe and managing ok. Enjoying your colourful makes when they pop up on IG. Sending you greetings of solidarity as we shelter in place. x

  2. Thank you. I didn’t know how to explain this myself.

    For so many years your posts have kept me going through many years of similar health struggles, and just reading essays of your experiences and feelings has become one of my own personal ways of connecting and sharing with a (virtual) friend. So here is me taking a seat as well.

    Stay strong – there are many more people out there cheering for you than you may have realized.

  3. Hi Catherine. Such a beautiful, heartfelt essay, and no one has yet left you a response? That can’t stand. So let me lean in. I’ve read many of your posts over the years, and was immediately smitten by your touch. I left you a gushing comment previously when I first found you. I appreciate the serious nature of what you mostly write about, and it’s opened my eyes to the world of living with chronic illness, especially at such a young age. My heart goes out to you. But allow me to address you as a writer. Your ear for rhythm, patterns, plays on words and phrases, and your ability to strike such a casual tone with such eloquence, is truly amazing and inspiring. And I love how you so often (almost always?) start out with something on a small, personal scale, and then expand into something universal for us all to soak up. You’re writing is a gift, As are your observations about life. Thank you for sharing. Wishing you well as we all navigate this pandemic nightmare. Be safe.

    • Joseph, thank you so much for such a beautiful and kind comment. Such a nice break from every other email in my inbox which seem to all be pandemic related! Wishing you well, as well. Stay safe!

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