When I was a kid (from what I can remember anyway), I laughed and giggled, cried and shouted. When I was a teen, I stopped. I stopped emoting as much as possible. I believed it was stronger to not cry, to not shout, to not pronounce dissatisfaction, not to defend if it meant rising to the bait. Inside, I first deferred blame out into the world whenever something happened that I didn’t like. Then, when I saw the futility in that, I drew the damnation in instead. Life threw a couple of spectacular curveballs and still only my pillow knew even the half of it. I absorbed whichever blame story meant that I didn’t have to do anything different. And it all sat inside. It sounds dramatic, but it wasn’t. It was just day to day, coping, tweaking, adjusting.
When I was in my 30s, I decided to throw myself onto the other side of the globe. I landed in a world upside-down, far removed from the duties and the daily rhythms of the life that was. I floated, semi-detached from the connections of love and support that I had built over the years. And as I learned to ground myself on new territory, I realised that all my coping mechanisms I had in place in the old life, all the ways I used to stuff emotions under, down, weren’t here Down Under. Where there were well-established strategies of distraction, ways to un-feel, there was now just a vacuum. And slowly but surely, as the challenges of building a new life came, the wave built. In the new space, all the years of suppression wriggled to find expression.
I’ve ridden some waves well but when, one night, I found myself out in the dark, angry and upset, raging at the world, I realised. In four short years, I’d gone from acknowledging the bare minimum of my emotions to opening the floodgates. It’s like I’d turned the tap on and had no idea what to do with the deluge. And without knowing it, most of what I’ve been working on over the last few years has been to reach back for the tap and understand how it turns and what a happy flow is.
I am learning that I flare up most when I feel either unseen or disrespected. I’m learning that the things upset me most are undeniably somehow connected to my self-definition, rightly or wrongly. I’ve re-learnt that nature makes me shine and I thrive when I can connect with it. I’ve realised I’ll take risks when I can see that they’re attached to blocks I want to smash through or when dealing with my own demons will also help someone else. I’m driven by wanting to be of service. I’m yet to understand why I hate doing my own life admin quite as much as I do!
And more importantly, I’ve learnt that feeling all these emotions more keenly doesn’t mean I have to be blown about by them all. I am not my emotions, they just guide me to the greater lessons. Shouting and swearing about something that’s gone wrong isn’t any healthier for me than shovelling it all down into yourself. Crying endlessly over something doesn’t resolve the wrong-doing. Yesterday, I wanted to do both, but I knew neither would serve me. They would only serve to distract from the trigger and the lesson, the growth and the ensuing freedom. So I allowed myself moments of both and then sat in the world for the peace and answers to come.
I’m no angel, I get things wrong. I make mistakes more times than I would care to mention. But yesterday I caught an enticing glimpse into what ‘tapping in’ can mean, the relief when I understood what had upset me the most or made me angry with myself. It was just another moment when I saw more clearly how I could be in control of the torrent, that there may be a way to let the emotions wash through the moment without leaving you drained, or wrung out.