I used to think I had to manage my stress. And despite some of the things you read here, for the most part I can be a pretty happy go lucky person, so I thought for a long time it was working. I’d write and paint. I’d go for walks. I’d laugh with friends. I meditate. I journal. Scratch that-I use this page as my journal, ha. I do affirmations. I do all kinds of self development. And earlier this year I started doing acupuncture and energy healing. And now I’m learning to do energy healing on myself and others as well. And while all of those things are good, and these things have pulled me into a huge spiritual, and magically transformative season of growth, I realized the other day that my stress is not something I need to manage. As managing it had just become code for pushing it away.
My emotions aren’t something bad, they are not another annoying mess that I need to clean up. And don’t get me wrong, it feels like a mess when it’s coming out! Shifting and taking another step up isn’t always all zen, sitting in a room with crystals and meditating. I have all kinds of thoughts and feelings coming out of me that I tried to bury. For example I didn’t think it was ok to be angry. Especially because I was the most angry at dead people. And I wanted so badly to be good and nice and to fit in, that I pretended not to be upset even when I was. And it was confusing because I could recognize when I did lose it (or when others were projecting, aka losing it), that it wasn’t helpful. So what do you do with it? I didn’t know what to do, so I tried to manage it.
And that’s ok! I didn’t do anything wrong. And if you’re trying to manage it, you aren’t doing anything wrong either. You are trying to move in a positive direction and that’s great, but maybe you are as ready for this next step as I was. And maybe you can find your way there faster if you’ll think of this example the next time you’re in the thick of it.
Just after Halloween, and perhaps not surprisingly just after obtaining a level two in Reiki, I had all kinds of emotions bubbling up. I was angry, AGAIN, all the time! I felt like I was white knuckling it through EVERYTHING. Everything was getting under my skin. I was getting sick of myself, AGAIN.
I didn’t understand, I thought I was doing all the “right” things, walks and meditation, reiki, etc, but those feelings were still there. And I was starting to get snippy with my family and I don’t like that. I started to wonder if anything I was doing was actually helping. I started to tell myself that this is just another thing I’m going fail at. It was painful and confusing. In hindsight I can see that obviously my mindset had shifted back into some past patterns. But now I realize it’s also because I kept trying to manage it. To make it go away. Then one day my son and I headed outside, I was cleaning up pumpkins and other things from Halloween and he was sliding down the hill on our property. At one point our dog, who was supposed to be inside, got all excited and jumped on him. She knocked him over and scratched his face. He was crying but I was so full of my own emotions I couldn’t take it, with gritted teeth and balled fists, I stormed over there. I tried to hold it in but I starting yelling at both my son and the dog.
“Damnit, I told you not to let the dog out. Now look!”
“You wouldn’t be fuckin’ crying right now if you’d have done what you were told”
Not my finest moment. It really didn’t need to be a big deal. Any other day, I could have just comforted my son, he had learned his lesson the hard way. I didn’t need to pound it in with harsh words. Any other day, I could have corrected the dog, she is incredibly smart but still a puppy essentially, and doesn’t really realize how powerful she is when she excitedly jumps up to play with her buddy. Which is why she was supposed to stay in until I could supervise. But it wasn’t any other day. I had years of rage sitting just below the surface. I was ready to tear a strip off of anyone. I grabbed the dog by the collar and smacked her on the nose. I wanted to spank the living fuck out of her. And although we believe in positive reinforcement to train her, she now cowered in fear like a dog that had been beaten her whole life.
I could tell she was terrified, and my son who had every right to cry, now looked at me in horror as he said, “please don’t hit her.”
I started trying to justify my actions, but I paused. I felt so ashamed that I started to cry. I apologized and told him it was wrong for me to react that way. We had a good talk over hot chocolate and rehashed some rules about the dog. And you’d think maybe it was done, but I could still feel that pent up energy in me. Only now I had added shame. I still didn’t know what to do. And I couldn’t go meditate or go for a walk, I had chores to finish. So that’s what I did. And as I was taking the pumpkins out to the compost heap I realized one of the pumpkins still had a candle in it. My husband had put one of my nice candle holders in it and the lid of the pumpkin was frozen shut. I fucked around with it for a little while, muttering about “that fucker.” Until I finally freed it by smashing it open with my foot. It felt so good I kept smashing, then I grabbed another and another, and kept beating, punching, screaming and kicking out all the anger and grief and sadness, until I fell to my knees beside them. And I cried and I cried.
And you might ask yourself why I would be telling you this. I’ve wondered myself why I’m doing this. But I’m figuring it out. I’m doing this because it gives me hope. Even more than that it helps me to surrender, to be vulnerable, to say I’m not perfect but that is the greatest reason to show myself more love, not less. And I hope that one day you’ll read this story and refer back to it when you need it most. And I will too!
Because it’s that kind of self love that keeps you true. It’s that love that pulls you back on the road when you feel yourself heading into the ditch. It’s not about spa days. Its not just for women. It’s what keeps you from crashing. So the more fucked up you fear you are, or your life is, or dare I say you think other people are, the more you need to ask yourself, “what can I do in this moment to love myself better?”
It’s about realizing it’s not about “them.” It’s not about what happened to you. It’s about you. Knowing and loving and seeing that you are the amazing person you are and have always been.
And sometimes that will be achieved through meditation or walks or sports or whatever. But you don’t need to manage your emotions, you need to feel them. They demand to be felt. If you’re stubborn like me, you’ve probably tried everything you can to deal with them. But I ask you friend-have you ever tried surrendering to them? Try it. Be mad, be sad, cry, beat the face off your jack o’ lantern. Do what you can for you, so you can LET IT OUT. That is how you stop hurting yourself, that is how you stop hurting anyone else. That is how you heal and break the patterns that throw you off your path. That is self love.