I woke up the other morning feeling a bit of sadness. And yet, the thought about my feeling was foreign to me. I was sad because 2017 was coming to a close.
Now that’s a first!
For the past few years, all I hoped for was that the following year would be better than the one that was ending.
“Next year things will turn around.”
“Next year everything will be better”
“Next year the pain will stop.”
This past year, I didn’t want to end.
The Pain Doesn’t Stop
I must be honest with all my Fledglings; the pain doesn’t completely stop.
There’s still a residue of past trauma that I have trapped in my body. There’s times when my agony sucks me under water like an undertow. There’s times when life seems so bleak that I wonder if the fog will ever clear.
I must consciously remind myself that emotions are like clouds in the sky. Eventually they will blow away and the sun will come out again.
I’ve found that I have the tools to care for myself. I can manage my triggers. I reach out for help when I struggle. I nurture Little Phoenix when he needs my love.
I no longer chastise, blame, shame, or guilt my inner child when he doesn’t live up to the unrealistic expectations my adult used to have for him.
I have learned to love myself with all my imperfections.
I like the theme to the Pixar movie, Inside Out: to fully experience Joy, we must also welcome and accept Sadness. And sometimes, we need the assistance of Anger to bust through the wall that keeps Joy and Sadness at bay.
To fully experience Joy, we must also welcome and accept Sadness. Click To Tweet
All of our emotions have strengths. We have a choice. We can either learn what our emotion is telling us or we can let that emotion define who we are.
For example, last week, while listening to Christmas music, I was making snickerdoodles with my daughter and her boyfriend. This was a family tradition my mother and I had during the holidays.
As I was gathering the ingredients, a song came on that instantly took me back in time.
I pictured myself too short to reach the table, standing on a chair, mixer in front of me. My mom had separated the sugar, wet ingredients, and dry ingredients. Under her close watch, I slowly poured each into the bowl. As soon as the dough was made, I was given the beaters to lick clean.
My mom would then make little balls of dough and hand them to me. I’d roll them in a green and red sugar/cinnamon mixture, gently placing them on the cookie sheet. And, when she wasn’t looking, I’d sneak cookie dough for myself.
Funny thing is, I still do that!
My girls always catch me though. I’ve found that using the “I’m an adult” card only brings out the “that’s not fair” card. I try to remember to just pass out cookie dough to avoid conflict, but old habits are so hard to break.
Making Christmas cookies with my mother was one of my favorite holiday memories. And this has become my oldest daughter’s “must do” annual tradition.
When the song Christmas Shoes started in the background, I felt sorrow, pain, and hurt wash over me. Tears pooled in my eyes. I pictured my mother unsuccessfully fighting ovarian cancer.
Where had the time gone?
My mother passed away over eleven years ago. She should be here with her granddaughter making cookies! This could have been their tradition. She missed out on so much.
I missed my mom.
I texted my former spouse, “I hate when a song comes on that reminds me of Mom and Christmas. I guess I need to feel blessed by those memories than feeling the sadness that takes over when I miss her.”
“Hate would be to have never loved, never had those experiences with her.
That sadness is love. That pain is love. Missing her is love. You carrying on the tradition with your kids is love. Love for her and love for the time you shared together. It’s okay to hurt. In some instances, hurt is love. I’m not sorry at all for you tonight, I’m happy you loved your mom and have those special memories/flashbacks, even if they hurt.”
Pain is Ok
We can’t feel love without pain. And we can’t rise out of the ashes without first going through the discomfort.
When we understand this and accept it, pain becomes our friend and ally.
Karla McLaren quotes in her article “The Myth of Positive Emotions,”
“In my work with emotions, I don’t treat any emotion as better or worse than any other. Instead, I focus on why each emotion arises, what job it does, and how you can work with each and every emotion you have.
When you can see your emotions as important parts of your intelligence and your social skills, you can learn to treat each emotion as a specific and necessary helper. This is so much healthier than treating some emotions as magical rewards, and other emotions as major problems.”
Phoenix’s Tools for Managing Emotions
Here are a few tools I use to help process emotions.
- HALTSS. Are you hungry, angry, lonely, tired, stressed, or sick? This acronym can quickly help you figure out what you need so you can nurture your inner child.
- Journal. Write down what’s going on. Be angry or sad. Let it all out. Through this process, the act of writing, may allow you to release the emotion that has you stuck. Journaling can also give nuggets of information that can help you understand yourself better and allow you to determine what you need to care for your inner child. In addition, journaling allows you to process your emotions without hurting another or saying something that you later may regret. I have learned that I don’t need to verbally express everything my brain is thinking.
- Blog. I personally see this differently than journaling. When I journaled, there were times I got stuck in my emotions. No matter what I did, I could not get out of them. I found that journaling reinforced my faulty thoughts and I kept spiraling further down the rabbit hole. However, when I blogged, I was writing as an observer of my own story. I was no longer stuck in it. This opened my eyes to my piece and what I continued to do. As Newton states, “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” My beliefs and actions created the environment I kept getting stuck in.
- Look Inward. The process of journaling and blogging helps you look inward at what’s going on inside of you. It’s important that once you have an “ah ha” moment, you don’t stop there. Here’s where it gets hard. You need to embrace the pain and dig in. For instance, when I’m frustrated, angry, or annoyed with a situation or someone else, I’ve found it’s usually because there’s some unresolved issue within me that needs to be looked at. It’s easier to point fingers, then it is to look at my part. As long as I’m standing there blaming, I don’t have to do the hard work on me.
- What’s the Gift? Every time I’ve struggled, my therapist’s first question is, “What’s the gift of this emotion or situation?” This forces me to look at life differently. If you have trouble finding a gift for the emotion that has you stuck, go through the list of emotions on Karen McLaren’s website and learn what gift comes from the emotion you’re feeling. Once you identify the gift, go back through tools #2-4.
- Reach Out. When you feel overwhelmed by emotions or when you can’t seem to get a thought out of your head, call a good friend. It’s important to have someone you trust to give you support when you need it. Remember, a good friend is one that is compassionate and yet, still feels safe and comfortable to challenge your thought process.
- Therapy. While it’s important to have close friends to turn to, a professional therapist can give you a safe, supportive place to talk about your emotions. A therapist can help you gain a deeper understanding about yourself, resolve conflicts, and guide you on your journey of healing.
- Exercise. We all know this simple tool and yet, we find reasons why we can’t do it. When you exercise, you release endorphins, it gives you the time to look inward and reflect, and it allows your emotions to move through you. Exercise also helps you become healthier, you end up feeling better about yourself, and you become more resilient to the challenges life brings. Now, if you’re like me, and have trouble getting motivated to exercise, follow Mel Robbins 5 Second Rule. “If you have an impulse to act on a goal, you must physically move within 5 seconds or your brain will kill the idea.” Count down from five. 5-4-3-2-1-Blast Off. Guess what? Now you’re doing it.
- Meditation. Meditation works best when it becomes a daily routine. I’ve found that when I meditate consistently, it’s easier for me to calm my mind when I get stressed. I compare mediation to weight training. When I stop working out, it takes longer for me to get back into the groove when I start up again. And yet, if I do it consistently, when I need to physically move something, I have the strength to actually do it. Daily mediation strengthens your mind allowing it to become more flexible through the daily trials of life.
- Tapping, also known as Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). This is the process of tapping certain meridian points on your body. When you can’t seem to work through painful emotions, tapping can help restore balance to your body’s energy.
- Prayer. While I’d come leaps and bounds in my journey of recovery and growth, seven months ago I was still holding on to anger and resentment over my divorce. It was suggested that I needed to forgive, and the path towards forgiveness was prayer. I resisted this to my very core. However, once I relinquished and started praying, I felt a shift occur within me. Not only did I find peace, my interactions with my former spouse changed. I became less defensive and the negative energy that appeared when we were together dissipated. I had used prayer in the past to get something and was irritated that what I was praying for didn’t come true. When I learned to pray for the well-being of others, the residual effect was more self-love.
- Gratitude. I have heard for years to be grateful. In fact, my former spouse used to tell me “For everything negative thing you say, I want to hear three things you are grateful for.” Last year, I decided to post a weekly grateful blog and a couple of days ago, I reread my Grateful Sunday 2017 page. By the time I had finished, I recalled all that happened that was positive in my life. I wasn’t focusing on the negative. I know I still had many rough spots. You can read them in my blog. And yet, as 2017 had come to a close, I realized what a great year I’ve really had.
We Won’t Always Get It Right
The tools I’ve mentioned above are just that, tools. These tools help us navigate the emotional roller coaster of life.
I have to constantly remind myself that I don’t have to be perfect.
When I see a list like the one above, it’s very easy for me to say I “should” do this. And when I “should” myself, I shame myself. As a therapist said, “I shit on myself.”
Remember, your brain will occasionally go offline and you’ll forget the tools you have available to you. Expecting to do these all the time is unrealistic and sets you up for failure.
What’s important is that you have these tucked away in your back pocket so when you need them, they’re there. When an emotional yellow caution pops up reminding you that you’re off or when you realize that you just went to from zero to red in mere seconds, you want to be able to automatically reach for the appropriate tool to care for yourself.
Keep practicing and eventually these tools will become second nature; a new ingrained habit.
This is the journey of self-love.
This is the journey to nurture your inner child.
This is the journey of integrating your adult and inner child so that Together You Can Heal.
Rise From the Ashes Daily
When I felt the grief and sadness of my mother sweep over me, I reached out. I was reminded that underneath the grief and sadness was love. By accepting the pain, I was able to experience joy.
Recognize your pain, acknowledge it, and let it move through you.
A year ago, I started this blog believing that being a Phoenix was to rise from the ashes healed and reborn.
This is not a one-time deal.
I have learned that rising from the ashes is a daily adventure. Some days, it’s a small rebirth and other days, it’s a major transformation.
Rising from the ashes is a daily adventure. Click To Tweet
2017 hasn’t really ended. Staying Present in the Now means each and every day we continue to grow from the day prior. It’s not what happens each year that defines us, but the small steps we take every day.
“Success is the sum of small efforts – repeated day in and day out.”
May my Fledglings go farther than New Year’s Resolutions.
May you have daily resolutions and goals.
May you learn to rise from the ashes each and every day.
Rise above and soar.
Soar with the eagles. Soar with me. Soar with each other.
Together We Can Heal.