I woke up this morning feeling anxious. Edgy. Unbalanced. I have a few things going on in my life that makes these feelings perfectly normal. Plus I have an ancient dog that is having trouble sleeping and he keeps me up for large portions of the night. His unrest and my “no rest” make it tough to be in peak form.
I’ve been taught to be mindful of my feelings, however, so I meditate. I’ve learned to breathe through mornings like these. I overcome some of the anxiety with a good sweat, which then helps me process these feelings with the appropriate perspective. But I’m starting to have doubts about whether that’s the right thing to do. I’m starting to think that I’m turning my feelings into Oscar Mayer bologna.
In other words, I feel like I’m losing any real benefits of my raw emotions by over processing them. Instead of being over seasoned like Oscar Mayer Jalapeño Bologna, my feelings are over reasoned. Like Oscar Mayer’s finest, however, the meditating, breathing, and sweating may make my feelings filled with artificially flavoring. My anger ends up tasting like patience when what I really need to taste is actual anger. My feelings become fake. Disingenuous. Inauthentic. They become total bologna. I think I’m ready for the raw emotion movement to catch fire like raw food. I need the equivalent of big, leafy green emotions.
While “running” (not sure my pace qualifies) recently I overheard parts of three different conversations:
The first couple was a young (younger than me) couple walking towards me. The woman was wearing the requisite yoga and workout gear that is the uniform of my town and the man (Boyfriend? Husband?) wore a ratty hoodie and cargo shorts. They were holding hands as he explained, “This is just what happens when I get angry. I want you to understand that…” and their voices trailed off as I passed them.
About a mile later, two women appeared incredibly deep in conversation, “I guess first passion, then love and THEN sex” (her emphasis). I don’t know if she was answering a question about what she was looking for, or what she had, but more silence followed.
Before long my knee started its all-too-familiar ache. I walked behind a man on his cell phone, “I just want to do something that feeds my soul.” He was wearing a suit. Talking to a recruiter? Job interview?
Each of the conversations had that kind of exposed emotion that I love. They were so vulnerable. Even in the fleeting moments I experienced, they all felt so real. Raw. Big, leafy greens raw.
I welcome the rawness. I feel as though the Demons have nowhere to hide when we’re our most exposed. So while I understand the need to process feelings and emotions in order to understand where they come from, I think the mistake I make is that I over process them to such a degree that I discount them. I get so focused on making sure that I couch (ironic choice of words, as that’s where I learned all of this!) everything with the right disclaimers (“I feel”) that the feelings almost take on less importance.
Just because I know what makes me angry or sad doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t be able to feel that anger or sadness. I forget that part. Instead, I work out to make it all go away. If processing my emotions and feelings makes me forget them, I’m not doing myself any favors. I suspect the Demons actually love that. I can almost hear them (in their best Beavis & Butthead voices), “Heh, heh, he processed those feelings away. Let’s go in.”
A therapist friend of mine recently told me a story about completely losing her sh*t. Normally one to take a step back before getting angry and consider where the anger was coming from, she decided to just “ride it this time.” As she explained, “I was livid. Cussing. Screaming. For a good four of five minutes, I just totally lost my head.” And then? “I kind of got bored with it and it just passed through me. Gone.” She said she wouldn’t recommend doing that all the time, but she also said that it was “freeing.”
We’re so fond of offering, “just breathe” as advice. Sometimes, the situation may be better served with, “go outside and just f*cking scream.” So I guess the lesson for me is that there are times to process and times to lose my sh*t. But the constant is that I have to actually let the feelings happen.
When I was a kid, I loved bologna and cheese sandwiches (on Wonder Bread, of course!). Among my favorite memories is visiting the county jail with my public defender dad. The inmates were served bologna and cheese sandwiches and I could make my own, often piling it up with two or three slices of the fake, over processed “meat.” (It was nearly enough to make me consider breaking the law.)
Now though? I’m way too old for bologna…