How are you? 

It’s been quite a week, with many emotional ups and downs for those of us who care deeply about our country’s future. 

So… with all of it… how are you feeling? I invite you to pause for a moment, ask yourself this question, and check in with your body. How do you feel?

I don’t usually spend a lot of time on Facebook, but I’ve checked my feed quite often this week. As I’ve perused my friends’ walls, I’ve seen lots of nail-biting, lots of celebrating, and lots of uncertainty about what’s coming next, even now that we know how voters turned out.

On Facebook yesterday, a friend posted (paraphrasing for anonymity): “I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I know I should be feeling overjoyed about the election and dancing in the streets. But right now, I just feel numb.”

Like her, although I’ve had moments of celebration, I’ve also found myself feeling a mix of relief about the results, sadness at the fact that even more white women voted for Trump this time, anxiety about the transition of power, and exhaustion in the midst of it all.

I share this to say that you are not alone, no matter how you feel right now.

If you’re still jumping for joy, there are many people around the world jumping with you. If you aren’t feeling much at all, many people are feeling numb in the midst of it all. If you are scared, frustrated, relieved, excited, hopeful, depleted, confused, or any other shade of emotion, you are not alone (although you may feel quite alone in this socially distanced moment we’re in together).

Kristen Neff, the self-compassion researcher at the University of Austin, writes that “common humanity” is one of the three components of self-compassion: knowing you’re not alone. 

According to Neff, the other two components of self-compassion are mindfulness and self-kindness. In other words, witnessing what you feel and responding to yourself with kindness.

Rather than trying to make your emotions go away or thinking there’s something wrong with you, caring for yourself with compassion means paying attention to how you feel and knowing there’s nothing wrong with you for feeling that way.

Back when I used to teach childbirth classes, I would have parents hold ice to learn pain-coping practices. We began by holding ice for one minute, during which I’d ask them to share how they felt. Inevitably, parents would say that they wanted to get rid of the ice, that they wished they didn’t have to hold it. 

At the end of the minute, I’d share about the difference between pain and suffering. Although some women report pain-free births, in labor and life, pain is nearly inevitable. Suffering is not. 

Pain is a sensation. Suffering is caused by the stories we tell ourselves about the sensation. Stories that there’s something wrong with us for feeling the way we do, or there’s something wrong with the world. Pain is what sometimes happens when we pay attention to how we feel. Suffering is what happens when we try to escape what we feel.

When we honor our pain, it can become a catalyst for action. When we try to escape our pain, we can waste precious energy. We are more likely to be distracted from the task at hand and depleted in the face of it.

That all said, I’ll ask again… how are you?

I invite you to grab some paper and a pen. Pause. Get comfortable in your chair. Turn your attention inward. And ask yourself the following questions, writing down what comes up:

  • What do you feel?
  • What are the sensations in your body right now? (Sensation words might include tense, releasing, hot, cold, clenching, fluttery, heavy, light, shallow, full, and so forth.)
  • What are the emotions you’re feeling? (Emotion words might include calm, nervous, happy, sad, worried, defiant, eager, and so forth. I highly recommend BayNVC’s feelings list to help you name yours.) Don’t pressure yourself to find the right words immediately. Try out different words until you land on one that resonates with you.
  • Ask the part of you who has the feeling: What do you need? Perhaps you need rest or action or learning or connection or something else. Again, BayNVC’s needs list can help.
  • Finally, ask yourself: What is one tiny step you can take today to attend to your needs? Perhaps that’s taking some vitamins or donating money or going to bed early or making a phone call. Whatever you need, commit to taking one teeny-tiny step in the direction of meeting your needs in the next day or two.

I hope that, no matter how you feel right now, you keep taking steps to care for yourself. There will be many important ways for you to show up to create change in this world. We need you nourished and ready to rise to the challenge.

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

In love and solidarity,

 

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