A few weeks ago, I was on a walk in my neighborhood, fighting back tears that were desperately seeking to exit my body. My throat felt tight, my shoulders heavy, my belly knotted.
Now I normally am a very even-tempered, resilient person who is generally in a good and positive mood. So this day definitely stuck out as drastically different from my “average” day or “typical” self.
The weirdest thing was that if you had run into me that day and asked me what was wrong, I would have probably burst out in tears and sobbed “I don’t know.”
As I was marching down the streets of Brooklyn, I kept saying things to myself like:
“Nothing is wrong. You shouldn’t feel sad.”
“Everything is fine. You should be grateful for everything you have.” (Internally reciting all the amazing things in my life.)
“You have everything you need, including a healthy baby growing inside your belly, stop feeling so sad already.”
In other words, I was doing what every well-intentioned friend typically does: I was trying to snap myself out of my gloomy mood and get myself back to a positive feeling.
Sometimes that works, but it did not work that day. Not a chance. Every positive thought I tried to force into my brain just made me more sad. Plus, I started feeling like an ungrateful brat on top of everything.
I was trying to suppress my feelings and I should have known right away that that never actually works.
Have you ever tried to suppress your own feelings? Maybe it even worked for a little while, until an even bigger wave of that feeling came after you?
I know from my own past experience as a pro "feelings suppressor” and “put on a happy face pretender” that if I wasn’t willing to listen to and feel my feelings right there and then, they would come back to haunt me a few days later.
Feelings carry messages. They are there for a reason and need to be treated respectfully and with sensitivity.
And so, I did what I knew I needed to do: I surrendered and felt my sadness wash over me.
As I gave in to my tears, a wave of heat swamped over my face. My shoulders dropped, my throat opened, and I could breath again.
I just sat with my sadness, accepted it as part of myself, and gave myself permission to simply feel how this sadness felt in my body. It was cathartic.
Once this initial wave calmed down, I began to kindly ask myself: “What am I feeling sad about?”
I didn’t get a clear answer until a day or so later, but when it hit me, I felt a huge opening of my heart—like a fresh waterfall kind of cleansing my whole self.
I realized that in the midst of my pregnancy bliss and genuine excitement about bringing a baby into my and my husband’s lives, there is also an ending of something that has been so special in my life: the intimate, wild, spontaneous two-someness that my husband and I have shared over the past five years, where we have been able to make each other the center of each other’s love and affection. Of course, I understand that we will still have each other in addition to our very own babe, but things will change in our everyday lives. And so they should and I am looking forward to that as well.
Once I realized that this was what my sadness was all about, I was able to go to a place of overwhelming gratitude for this amazing man in my life and our relationship that has been so much more than I could have ever dreamt about. I am grateful that we are inviting a new life into a truly loving home versus hoping for a baby to fix something. And it made me aware of the importance of planning a bit ahead and actively creating time where we—the soon-to-be parents—can make each other the center of our love and affection. It will only be lost if we disregard it, and I am determined to not let that happen.
I am so happy that I felt my feelings that day and received this important message before our son enters the world. It was just in time, and it will help me steer my future in an intentional direction, where my baby boy not only has a loving mom and dad, but parents who are actively in love with each other.
Here is the deal:
It’s easy to feel your feelings and be good to yourself when life is running smoothly. The real challenge comes when undesirable emotions hit you.
Can you still be your own best friend then?
Can you still meet yourself with compassion and give yourself the loving space you need to experience yourself without judgment?
Can you receive the messages behind unpleasant emotions?
This is the essence of self-love.
Trust that your feelings are there for a reason. Unpleasant emotions aren’t your enemy. They are not trying to hurt you. They are trying to tell you something, and they won’t go away because you suppress them.
Being able to feel your feelings will always lead to greater health and happiness, because you are moving through the course of your life as a whole, complete individual who is resilient, authentic, and true to herself. This is the greatest gift you can give yourself.