"When someone tells me, "I'm not sure how I feel. I'm sad, but weirdly I'm also relieved," -- my first thought isn't Yikes. They have no idea how they feel! Or Hmmm, they don't have a lot of self-awareness. My first thought is normally Oh man. I get that, and I get how those feelings can coexist. That makes sense. The uncertainty feels like self-awareness to me."
- Brene Brown, Atlas of the Heart: Mapping Meaningful Connection and the Language of Human Experience
What a relief to read that paragraph, as I try to decipher my many emotions. Happy that William was home and Aden safe and living her best life in Italy on a college-related trip. Sad that I couldn't fit more hours of coaching into my schedule, guilty for letting down the head triathlon coach. Exhausted from going back to long workouts in record-breaking hot weather (read: climate change), relieved that my CPR recertification class was one hour instead of three.
To survive headlines and bad news I have limited myself to thinking about one day at a time, or at most a week ahead, and trying to be grateful for all the small mercies and occasional joys that crop up. A walk with my son, a phone call with my mom, a blooming jasmine. And I try to take challenges in stride, like crazy allergies, unexpected hot winds and fire danger, William's need for knee surgery.
That plan has served as a sturdy life raft through some turbulent times, but what it's NOT is a steady, long-term path pointing toward a certain horizon. So many days I feel directionless, ready for anything but not holding on to anything. It's like riding the commuter train and trying not to touch any of the dirty surfaces: I can stand for a while but any sudden movement and I'm stumbling toward the back of the car.
Of course some things are steady - my family, friends, home / yard / work. I plunged into a spring cleaning frenzy this week, hiring professional window washers for the first time ever and getting the carpets deep-cleaned. Allergies are killer with early heat, endless wind and evergreens spreading clouds of yellow through the back yard. Desperate to eliminate dust and allergens from the house, I'm also replacing rugs and scraping fur off the cat's favorite chairs, much to his chagrin.
Reflecting back on the school year, I survived the first year of two kids in college by taking on a lot of extra work and not thinking too deeply. Unfortunately, reading and writing habits drifted away like rubber duckies escaped on ocean currents. My faith has suffered in relentless activity as I've not taken the time to sit with questions, meditate or even do yoga. "Move, move, move!" is the mantra I reach for when uncomfortable with grief, sorrow, loneliness or loss.
Brown's comforting words about humanity's inner conflicts metaphorically sat me in a deep armchair with instructions to think and feel more deeply. I may not know where the ship is going, but I can be much more in tune with how I think and feel as we journey. I'm sure there will always be inner turmoil- as sure as I am that the cat will always throw up on the white carpet the day after it's cleaned - but I will try to slow down and sit with my feelings before I clean up the mess.