Call me Ms. Multitudes. Or Chalant (that would be the opposite of nonchalant, by the way). Other people have.
Because I have Feelings. Maybe as many as you do, maybe more, but certainly no less. Enough to fill a wheelbarrow. If the feelings were tiny little multicolored grains of rice. And the wheelbarrow was an oversized art installation in Manhattan.
And these Feelings, despite 46+ years of trying, refuse to be tamed.
The other night I was angry. I ended up looking like this and had to take a dumb selfie for a dumb challenge for my dumb online Mudder training group.
The details about why I was angry isn’t all that important for this post, or maybe I just don’t want to publicly “go there,” but Angry I was. So Angry. So many Feelings.
One thing I know as a therapist is how to dig down deeper, to excavate through the hot cracking rocks of rage to find out what tender, vulnerable, childish feelings lay beneath.
But I didn’t want to. You know why? Because I get tired of doing that. For myself, for other people. Sometimes I just want to be Mad. And to let other people be Mad. And to engage together in all that mutual Madness. To not just wander off the high road, but to take hold of the wheel of the VW bus I drive in my mind, and haul it sharply to the right, bumping over cactus and bodies and becoming thrillingly airborne before the landing the bus on its side, wheels spinning, in a culvert, me inside, laughing my bleeding head off about being alive, about Feeling and Expressing the Feeling and then surviving the Expressing of the Feeling.
But grownups don’t crash their VW buses off of desert hillsides. In fact, maybe grownups don’t even drive VW buses. Being a grownup is overrated, wouldn’t you agree?
I spent the rest of that night and most of the next day in an emo stew of one part anger, one part despair, and two parts self-loathing. It was good times and I didn’t get much done. Until one hour before twilight. I looked at the weather (sunny, not frigid). I looked at my house (emo nest pit). I looked at my workout clothes (cool Tough Mudder hat). And I looked at my playlist (No Problem by Diplo – if you’re in training, stop reading and download it, but then come back). And I decided…Enough. If I was going to be participating in this Feeling all the Feelings shit, then I was going to at least give myself a chance to feel something other than shades of cement and tar sands.
I had thought all day about the shoulds. I should work out. I should go for a hike. I should, I should, I should. In training for two Tough Mudders, and focusing on my health and fitness over the past year, I haven’t allowed myself to get away with the “shoulds,” ever. Well, actually just once – and I didn’t like it. That day was not going to go down in history as the second time in a year I let myself off the hook. Not when I needed me to step it up the most.
So. I put my dumb cold weather workout clothes on (which are really cute) and grabbed my dumb phone (which does everything I ask from it) and my dumb ear buds (which are hot pink) and my dumb balaclava scarf (which makes me look like a motherfucking ninja) and got in my dumb car (which is so reliable) and went to the dumb trail (which was beautiful and fresh, and winds itself around this amazing reservoir that was partly frozen but partly not and reflected the gathering twilight in a way that was just beautiful and life-enhancing and not dumb at all, you guys).
And I ran.
And then I had some other Feelings. And these Feelings were the hot fuschia purple of the shell of my running jacket after I threw my coat into the bushes. And they were the bright blue eyes of the older man who gave me a thumbs up as I blasted past him. And they were the cotton candy crusted clouds reflected in the royal colors of the sunset water.
Increasingly over the past year, I have turned to my local trails for exercise and have found more there than I ever imagined. The trails have become my friends. They push me to train harder. They soothe me when I’m sad. They place roots and ice in my way to fight with me when I’m angry. They reward me with my lost car key when they force me to slow down and backtrack.
I drove back home from that run and swept my kitchen floor and let the Feelings settle. What came to me in the next few hours (besides peace and a respite from anger) was a vision, clearer than ever before, that my work must evolve. It must reflect the colors in me in order for me to feel whole. So much of my work life has been spent feeling like I’m not fully alive. Like I’m forcing the empathy that I want to feel. And like I’ve wandered off course. The next day I scheduled an appointment with a client and told her to dress warmly – that for part of the session next week, we’d be walking. I shook afterwards, like someone touched by the Holy Spirit at an old-time revival. Because I saw glimpses of my own glory.
All those Feelings. They count for something and I will use them. They will get me over high walls and through the electric shocks and arctic waters of the Tough Mudders. And they are my joyride through this crazy life. I will lie down and cry inconsolably, and I will rise up and laugh without reservation. My Feelings are not my enemy. Maybe if I stop working so hard on taming them, they’ll be my salvation.
And, by the way, I’m working on this little plan to use my Feelings to help others save themselves. Stay tuned.
How about you? How do you feel about your Feelings?