Well, here’s where my head is this week: imagine a ping pong ball rapidly bouncing between two sides.
On one side is where gratitude lives. It’s where all the meditation podcasts, mood-boosting self-help books, and lyrics to Dua Lipa’s Physical form a cheering section behind me and remind me to repeat over and over: I AM SO LUCKY. THANK YOU.
And on the other side is where uncertainty lives. On this darker side of the ping pong table is where you find the news, our president, the fact that my skin color and income level enable social distancing to be an inconvenience rather than a fight for survival, and that one Haim song that makes me burst into tears from the first note. The voice on this side sounds something like: HOW CAN I BE HAPPY WHEN I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT HAPPENS NEXT.
Am I alone in thinking that the push/pull of gratitude vs. uncertainty can be debilitating? Definitely not, if the amount of articles and books available on the topic are any indication. Certainly, there is no shortage of advice on how to reconcile the two. Keep a journal. Take a yoga class. Volunteer for a cause. Throw some lotion on your face and call it a self-care day. Sure, sure, sure, and sure.
I get all that and it intuitively makes sense, but still I struggle to put it into action. I live in a headspace where I’m constantly fighting against having contradictory feelings. Like many adults, I want structure and logic and a rational arc that has a beginning, a middle, an end, and an optimistic future with a big red bow wrapped neatly around it. (Do we blame Disney or Nancy Meyers for this?)
You know what doesn’t give a shit about that desire for logic? A global fucking pandemic. You know who also doesn’t give a shit about things making sense? My nine year-old. Both are teaching me a lot right now about getting through this next phase of Whatever This Is.
Emotions are not mutually exclusive.
Yesterday, Teagan, the nine year-old to whom I am referring, laughed, cried, yelled, told me she loved me, that she hated me, adored school, couldn’t wait for it to be over, hugged me and said it was the best day ever, and said life was completely awful. And that was all by 10 am. Same, girl, same.
But where she diverges from me is her ability to push through all of these emotions and make room for them all without self-judgment. Nobody has ever told her you shouldn’t be happy and sad at the same time, or that you can feel proud and ashamed in the same breath. The same endless well that allows us to have limitless capacity for love is the same well that permits us to experience the infinite emotional spectrum. Feeling grateful isn’t diluted simply because you also sometimes feel guilty for your gifts.
Feel all of the feelings.
Spiritual wellness and crystals, as it turns out, can be helpful in reinforcing your ability to make space for all of your feelings. Every crystal carries within it a different type of energy -- some radiate positivity, some enable release, some encourage calm, etc. Spending some time with a group of varied stones (our starter kits offer a great energy mix if you need a jumping off point) will force you to accept that not only is it okay to experience different and often conflicting feelings, but that it is a key to stopping that endless ping pong game I described earlier.
Hold each stone in your hand and visualize the energy it gives off. Write down how that type of energy exists within you at that moment. Allow it to exist. Accepts that it exists within you.
For example, if you are working with citrine (positivity), smokey quartz (release), and tiger’s eye (courage), you might write:
Citrine -- I feel happy about getting to have family dinners every night.
Smokey quartz -- I am mourning my loss of control over my job.
Tiger’s eye -- I want to be strong for my kids.
Importantly, this is not a solution exercise; it’s an acknowledgement exercise. You need only to realize that you are permitted to and have these feelings, even if they don’t always “make sense” together. And that feeling all of this is not a failure. It’s being human.
Find the freedom in uncertainty.
The other day I listened to the incredible words of Kara Loewentheil, feminist and psychologist, as she urged us to give up on pressing pause on our lives right now and to stop thinking in terms of “when this is over.” What would you do, she asked, if you just woke up and this is the only life that you knew. The thought stopped me in my tracks. All the deadlines, the milestones, the goals that I had set for myself? Just pretend like those didn’t exist two months ago? And that they don't exist anymore?
And then I watched Teagan, who does just that, because she has the incredible luck of being nine without all the baggage we pile onto our adult shoulders. Seven weeks ago, she had a school schedule and extracurricular activities, summer camp plans, and vacation goals. And now? She happily sleeps in later, wears a bathrobe all day because that is far more comfortable when you can’t leave the house, eats pb&j for dinner because we’re all sick of cleaning dishes, and fills her day making up homemade science experiments and sometimes doing absolutely nothing. Not because life is good or bad or not what she didn’t expect it to be. But because this is simply what life just is.
She still has all the ups and downs (see above), but she has found the flexibility in living a life that is measured by no other metric than the present. And since it is entirely impossible to measure life beyond right now, she can find acceptance and, yes, freedom in that impossibility.
Wishing everybody all the feelings and none of the ping pong-ing this week.