Slip into those Feelings

Written by: Gracie Mayer, contributing writer 

This slip is good for an entire holiday season of the feels.  Yes, you are welcome.  This slip entitles you to all the feels, the full spectrum – happy, sad, furious, delighted, grateful, love struck, heartbroken, and yes, even all of the grey area in-between.  Whenever you notice that you are turning to one of those negative coping skills that is sure to numb all of your feelings and turn you into an emotional zombie…STOP, re-read this slip, and SIT IN THOSE FEELS.  I want you to allow yourself to experience whatever emotions come up for you, and in addition, I give you permission to feel these feelings without judgment.  This in NOT a permission slip to shit all over yourself and call yourself a grinch if sadness, loneliness or anger creeps up.  This permission slip is an all inclusive reminder to feel without judging yourself, to feel with courage and passion.

I have only met a couple of people in my life who feel without inhibition.  These few lean into the raw beauty of feeling honestly and openly.  The first time I met someone who felt so freely, I was scared shitless.  I assumed that this person was irrational, too exposed, or maybe even someone with ulterior motives.  This person felt and felt passionately, refusing to operate under the societal notion that he was only allowed to show the appropriate emotions, at the appropriate times, in the appropriate manner.  I was blown away by the free flow of honesty and his ability to “wear his heart on his sleeve.”  This was a quality that at times I could admire, but my admiration was clouded by the reality that I could not properly control and manage my emotions in the outside world.  Society had led me to believe that it’s ok to feel; well, to feel sometimes.  And only the feelings that are desirable and socially acceptable.  Oh, and if you do express these emotions, be aware of where you are and who is around you.  Oh and make sure that your emotions are not a burden on others and their own struggles.  Oh and don’t be too open too fast.  Oh and also don’t forget about “gender normative behavior,” so anger is off the table.  Oh and also just be happy because it’s just easier to make people like you, but not too happy because heaven forbid someone interprets it as “fake happy.”

I was led to believe that “wearing your heart on your sleeve” was just an unfortunate case of not being able to control your emotions or manage the image you had so carefully presented to the world.  But here is the truth – and I’m sorry Shakespeare – the world is not a stage.  You are not an actor.  You are a human being and every feeling you are experiencing in this moment has been felt before.  Those around you, those who have come before you: we are all connected by the fact that somewhere, sometime, someone has felt exactly as you are feeling now.  When we deny our right to feel emotion, we deny ourselves the ability connect to others and the world around us.

Yes, with greater emotional exposure comes greater risk of being hurt.  However, with greater emotional exposure also comes deeper connection.  When I find people who allow themselves the full range of human emotions and allow it without judgment, I am fascinated and instantly enthralled.  I am inspired by people who lead with their heart.  I find that relationships with true “feelers” are uncomfortable at times because the mask that provides comfort and security has been taken off.  But they are also the deepest relationships we will ever have and that is what makes the vulnerability worth it.  I am not saying that we should open the flood gates, acting on every little emotion we face this holiday season – screaming at the in-laws, dropping down on one knee to propose to the cute Whole Foods cashier who has been so nice during all the crazy holiday shopping, or confronting Aunt Millie in front of the whole family to let her know that you will not be eating the green jello casserole because it is reminiscent of Nickelodeon slime.  However, even if I gave you this permission slip to “freely feel,” I doubt many of you would rush to do any of those things.  Mainly because, if you are anything like me, allowing yourself to openly feel your emotions is scary enough as it is.

However, I would like to ask you what you are feeling right now?  What is this article bringing up for you? Check-in with yourself.  Sit back.  Put one hand on your heart and one hand on your belly.  Breath deeply and connect.  Hold space for whatever comes up for you and try to meet it with compassion and non-judgment.  What would you express if you were given permission to feel the WHOLE spectrum of human emotions?  What would you tell others around you?  What would you do differently?  And… do you think, just maybe, that at the end of your little feelings experiment, you might just end up feeling free?

I will end with a quote from one of my favorite songs, “Mary Jane” by Alanis Morissette.  I hope it inspires you to allow whatever comes up for you this holiday season to be seen, heard and honored:

“Please be honest Mary Jane

Are you happy?

Please don’t censor your tears.

You’re the sweet crusader,

And you’re on your way.

You’re the last great innocent,

And that’s why I love you.

So take this moment Mary Jane and be selfish,

Worry not about the cars that go by.

‘Cause all that matters Mary Jane is your freedom

So keep warm my dear, keep dry.”

Permission to Release

Written by: Madeline McCallum, contributing writer and blogger at http://madelinesmusing.blogspot.com/?m=1

If there’s one character trait I am all too familiar with, it is definitely that of the “Striver.” Someone who regularly gets caught up in the relentless pursuit of perfection, which I’ve found is a vaguely defined term that doesn’t really exist (or rather exists solely on individually-defined terms).  Even when I’m working hard and achieving things and should pause to be proud of myself, the “Striver” in me makes up new goals to hit, tacks on some extra ladder rungs to climb.

It’s hard to draw a firm line of distinction between this achievement rat-race and genuine, authentic ambition. I think the key differentiator is found in the motivation underlying the striving – am I coming from a place of self-love & confidence in my abilities or from a place of punishment & fear of contentment? When I’m operating from the former switchboard, I find that there are no stakes involved – I try something new, go out on a limb, push myself and get out of my comfort zone, and the worst that could happen is that I make a lesson-filled mistake. But when I’m grinding my gears as a mode of control & gripping tightly to a very precise outcome, there is no room for adjustment or coming up for air.

The concept of “letting myself off the hook” has always been really difficult, because if I am not going to hold myself to the highest standard, then who will? How will I propel myself further if I don’t keep doing, if I don’t keep pushing this machine forward, ever onwards? Well, first: I’m not a machine (making a mental note to repeat this to myself multiple times throughout the day). Second: the notion that we need to actively keep doing specific things in order for the world to keep spinning is a fallacy. I am enough just as I am right at this moment – as long as I keep listening to my intuition, trusting what fills me up and acknowledging what drains me, and continually take the next intended action, the future we dream of will open up without us having to find a special key. Finding contentment does not mean that you will no longer grow.

With that realization comes a huge wave of relief – when you release, you open yourself up to receive. The trick is that my regimented brain usually can’t compute release unless I actively, intentionally give it permission to do so.

I think permission piggybacks off of trust – all of the things on my “should/would/could” list melt away when I trust myself and my own track record. In the history of my life, I have always been ambitious, strong-willed, hard-working, and resilient. All of these things are going to hold constant, even if I stop gripping tightly to what my brain (and/or society..) says I should be doing. If I say no to things, if I take time off from the gym, if my work/life balance leans more heavily towards life – I am still Madeline, and the world is not going to implode.

Around the holidays trust and permission become even more imperative. Just as all of life ebbs and flows, the holidays tend to be a time of the year filled with more indulgence, more inclination to slow down, to relax, to wrap up in a blanket and stay inside. And that’s okay! Giving yourself permission to wind down a bit more, to nourish the part of your soul that craves winter and the pause that it brings, doesn’t mean that you are going to de-rail your life or go off the laziness deep-end. Perhaps more importantly, it also doesn’t mean that in a few months from now, you are going to have to force yourself to swing wildly in the opposite direction. Trust that your mindset, your body, and your energy are on your side and incredibly intuitive.

Terry Pratchett has said, “There isn’t a way things should be. There’s just what happens, and what we do.”  This month, and the rest of the year, I am going to try to keep this front of mind. There’s no hierarchy of good and bad things and reactions. There is just what unfolds in my life and then the way I choose to conceptualize and act on them. As long as I’m giving myself permission to trust myself, every decision I make is leading me in a positive, forward direction – even while I enjoy a piece (or two) of pumpkin pie and decide that I actually want to spend the day making no decisions at all.