It’s winter o’clock where I live. The director of weather abruptly tore down the set of autumn with it’s rosy leaves, mellow crispness and glowing vibes and just like the red cups at Starbucks, replaced it with this…camera pans to my window revealing fields of deep snow, a uniform shade of blank paper white from ground to sky blotting out any remembrance of sun for days on end, the temperature dropping and then dropping some more (sniffles into tissue, scrolls beach vacation packages). Seriously, I don’t know if being a Calgarian should effectively ban me from complaining about the weather or give me lifelong rights to feel utterly dismayed by it, even though I know it’s coming. There have been winters I have not minded, but today, piling on 25 layers of things to trudge over slippery sidewalks when it’s cold enough that my dog needs embarrassing little booties to protect her pawsies has me experiencing these dream escape flash forwards where I see myself dashing impulsively to the airport, and then I remember the dog and so I tuck her into an imaginary oversized beach bag and cover her with a blanket, and just like that my suspension of disbelief (aka HOPE) snaps like the strap of my beach bag because she is 70 pounds of pure fluff and love and doesn’t like to be separated from mommy. I’m mommy.
For my American friends, it’s 1.4 degrees F, before wind-chill. This is not as cold as it gets here by any stretch, but damn, it’s in the 70’s in other areas of Canada. It’s only November, sob. If someone could Venmo me a quick 68.6 degrees I’d be much obliged.
Which brings me to the holidays. We are being swept along into the season of goodwill and giving and warmth and family, and well, emotions. There I said it. The W network plays those holiday specials which are terrible and awful but like a soothing balm or a hug from a kitten, but also an assault on our intelligence. In two short months, shake of a lamb’s tail (such a cute quaint metaphor) we will be grappling and disoriented as 2023 smacks us in the head with urgent promises of new and better IF ONLY we strategize cunningly, boot camp with extra boot, overcome, solve, believe, focus, shine, and smile for the camera in spite of recessions and wars and plagues and that feeling that if we take a nap now we might just fall into a deep year long hibernation and skip 2023 altogether. Because no matter what is going on around us, we all have our micro-level challenges. We all have our first world problems, which is such a first world thing to say. If you like dare to be affected emotionally by anything that isn’t starvation it makes you an asshole, so if you’re going to not just bury how you feel you’ll need to qualify it with how selfish you are for feeling a feeling and having a problem that isn’t actually fighting for your life, or your next meal. Fighting for your life or your next meal is not a problem that I face today. In no way would I want to diminish the suffering of those who face perils of very survival. I also know that shaming ourselves for feeling emotional pain that doesn’t derive from matters of acute survival does not help those who are starving or fighting for their lives, but it does mess us up. Newsbreak: We can actually feel grateful for what we have AND understand our painful feelings about the circumstances of our lives. You know what, maybe it does make you sad that they didn’t notice how bomb you looked in your new something something. Oh well, too bad so sad, you’re going to complain about that?!!! When you have a roof over your head and food in the fridge. Or maybe you didn’t get the performance review or the promotion to first CEFAO of the important people in the top tier of your top organization doing very top level things at the top of the world. Boo-hoo you’re not going to get your extra millions to pile onto your other millions. That must really break the hearts of those who don’t have enough porridge or there are flies in it. Right?! Shut up and count your blessings, right?
The thing about feelings is that you don’t get to decide whether you feel them or not. Shit happens and so do feelings. You DO get to decide how to respond to them, and you do get to decide what thoughts and ideas to apply to them, and you also get to decide how to respond to situations in your life in order to create better feeling inducing circumstances. But the feelings themselves? Well they are the messengers. And if every time a messenger walks in the room you send them away because you feel guilty and ashamed at their very existence —that you should actually need something more than clean and ample porridge, for not being in constant joy, merriment, and celebration over your privilege, well you end up missing a lot of information. And over time, that my friends causes short circuiting. The painful feelings create clogs. Ignoring painful feelings because you are privileged enough to have a roof over your head and some gold in your safe is kind of like ignoring the engine light in your car because you’re lucky enough to have a working car. The short circuiting over time causes things like oh you know, stress, high blood pressure, anxiety, depression, burn out, heart attacks, addiction, over consumption…first world problems!!! But serious ones. So let me recap:
Dismissing your feelings as illegitimate because your problems aren’t serious enough is how you grow serious problems.
Your painful feelings are not an indulgence. Caring about things that matter to your life and your world is not indulgent, or sinful. Rather it’s healthy to care, to give a fork about your life. Not giving a fork is typically a bigger problem not a sign of optimal health. And guess what!? You don’t actually get a choice. There you landed, in your life and world view, with your own personal cast of characters and collection of things you care about, and you will care, and you will feel, whether it is convenient to accept and acknowledge it or not. What you do with that caring will either create more problems for you and the world, it will either be redirected by shame and guilt into problems that can actually get into the ring with starvation and malnourishment, or you can do something different with it.
Like take a hot five minutes so sit with your feelings. Let them have a voice and a say. Hold back the judgment that wants to get in and smack the ice cream out of the grip of your tender emotional self. Your inconvenient and hurty feelings are OKAY. They don’t mean you are selfish, elitist, or weak. You’re not failing your empire and the American dream because you felt something for five minutes instead of trying to outrun it or outperform it. Try for five minutes to understand where the feeling is coming from. Give yourself a kitten hug. Think of it as putting gas in the car. Or changing the freaking oil before the engine blows. Think of it as SMART. Because you know if you don’t the engine will eventually seize, right? That is how it works.
Behind every silly, stupid, weak, indulgent FEELING is a movie playing the backstory, showing us the week leading up to the moment you felt so sad when they didn’t compliment you, and how hard you had been trying to put in an effort in spite of that really hard loss you went through last year when you kind of let go a little bit (now the audience is reaching for their emergency tissues), and how you’ve noticed the distance in the relationship and you wanted to work a little bit harder, or how you felt so vulnerable walking into the room to meet that first date, wanting with every fiber of your being to find the person you can share your life with, and the narrative shifts to that past relationship, the one that knocked you in the back of the knees (more tissues).
Not everyone has access to the movie backstory behind our hurt on any given day. But we do. And it’s time to honour it. To care about caring. To let ourselves unapologetically give a fork about life, and love and each other, about the worlds we have created and continue to create. About what has gone down and how it went down. And to segue that caring into health and healing. What if we just carve out space for it all to matter. Every story, feeling, POV, history, plot and backstory. What if we stop judging our suffering, bullying ourselves for being squishy on the inside and expecting our feelings and needs to compete for worthiness with all of the heroic problems, the legitimate suffering or else collapse in the dust of futility. Imagine how much less conflict we would all experience, within ourselves, our families, our romantic partnerships.
Not everyone is gonna get Jennifer Laurence playing their story for all the world to finally understand and sympathize with. But we can do that for ourselves. Five minutes at a time. And we can start doing it for one another. It wouldn’t be the whole story if you weren’t in it, shining like one of the 5000 lights that twinkle my tree on the eve of Yuletide. I’m just making shit up now. Yuletide, not the lights, though, I’m serious about those. Lights matter to me. Your light matters. Your story. Your movie. And how you felt when you were eating your toast this morning.
I am actually proud of you making it to CEFAO next year, if it wasn’t this last. I probably helped you almost get there. I may have even put the idea in your head. I’m proud of you for letting yourself want it. I care about your millions and what they mean to you. I care about your kind loving hearts and your big brains and your passions and your CV’s and your favourite documentary. I care about your vision for your life, and your families. Your biggest hurts and the montage of your future moments. I care about the need at the heart of your every genius and every moment of vulnerability. To love and be loved.
You know that’s what we do here, right? On Mondays, and also Tuesday through Sundays. In our calls and zooms and through our exercises, our heart felt discussions and in our written insights and our strategy sessions. We lift up the hood, shine a light in there and pour in some TLC until that beast purrs like a kitten. And then we put the kitten in our beach bag and fly to Jamaica. JK. But seriously, taking care of our emotional selves, our needs, wants, feelz, dreams, and messes –our emotional health? Well that honours our privilege and our people and our lives and our stories and our selves. ‘Cause if we’re ‘lucky’ enough to have the car, wouldn’t it be a shame not to take care of it?
— Love Erin.
P.S. If you need a little help getting winterized before the holidays catapult you into next year, give me a ring, or dingle me a ping. I’m always ready to roll up my furry parka sleeves for you.
P.P.S. One of the kindest things you can do for me is to share my writing. If you enjoyed today’s Monday Musing and know someone else who would please forward it to a friend.