Designed to Feel

The time of Covid has been a learning experience for us all. For me it has inspired deeper reflection around grief and connection and healing. I have been processing this through in my art and in my relationships, now I want to lay some of my discoveries down here.

In my twenties when my grief was heavy and the darkness felt too scary to go near, I didn’t. I did not dare take one step towards it, I was certain it would eat me whole and I would not survive it. So I chose disconnection over healing. This is what that looked like:

  • Staying busy. Stillness led to my Truth creeping up on me and I was running hard from those Truths, busy kept those thoughts and feelings at bay, there was no room for them in my life.

I stayed busy at work. I stayed busy after. Social plans and errands and any possible thing I could think of to not be still. It worked. I rarely felt anything and if I did find myself still long enough to start feeling, there was numbing that could take care of that.

  • Numbing. I turned my feelings off with alcohol and drugs, benedryl and red wine were a go-to during my darkest moments, usually though it was beer, vodka and/or marijuana. This relationship was drugs and alcohol was short lived for me, my real go-to, as I have shared previously, has always been food and shopping. I also did not realize until more recently, TV. After I gave birth to little bubby we would not have the TV on in our home from 7am-7pm and I went through major withdrawals.

When I am numbing nothing gets through, it is even more effective than staying busy, it is like a kill switch for emotions.

  • Self-abandonment. Numbing and staying busy are two examples of how I would self-abandon. It was most pronounced in my relationships though. I would chose others over myself again and again. I was not attuned to Self, I was not aware I had needs so zero effort was being made to get them met. I did not experience myself as having value so it was very easy for me to invest myself outside and abandon all feeling inside.

For me self-abandonment meant avoiding conflict to keep others happy, which translated to them accepting me rather rejecting me. It meant forming myself into molds to “fit in” with expectations placed upon me by family, by partners, by friends, and by my employer. It meant hustling for my worthiness because it was always attached to something outside of myself. The outside world had the final word on whether or not I was enough.

Choosing healing was the beginning of my untangling process from these ways of being.

Covid is a global crisis, the whole world is experiencing this massive trauma together. So friends, you better believe we are ALL in our work right now. Whether we are choosing to show up in connection and healing or disconnection and darkness is a personal choice each person is faced with right now.

This is what surviving this trauma through choosing connection and healing has looked like for me.

  • Being aware, consciousness. Everyday I wake up I am faced with all of the same choices I was faced with in my twenties (and earlier in life) – feel it or numb it. Connect to Truth or run from it.
    Let me share this friends – You CANNOT run from your Truth. You cannot run from your Truth anymore than you can run from your SELF. It lives right here (I am pointing emphatically at my heart), it will always be with you and you cannot out run it. You completely unable to live outside of it, just as you cannot live outside of your body. The denial, and the numbing, and the trying to out run it – that is not living.

With that said, I have been choosing connection, I have been choosing to feel. I have chosen healing and Love.

Now before I outline how I do this I have to give you all sides – there have been moments I have chosen disconnection, this is where the consciousness comes in. I am aware of the choice I am making and I am allowing myself to have these moments because the body and the spirit needs breaks. Because I am aware of the choices I am making I know what I am feeling that is bringing on the desire to disconnect and have compassion for myself in these moments. I am not punishing myself for going to the chocolate or turning on reruns of The Office, I am allowing myself grace, and like any good parent I am setting limits with myself. This is the difference between then and now, unconditional love and belonging with Self.

  • Emotional, Mind, Body, and Spiritual self-care. My list is long on how I practice self-care, I do not feel a need to outline it. What is important, the real take away, is knowing what your needs are and taking the steps to get them met. Some of your needs can only be met by you, others require you to show up True, and sometimes vulnerable, in your relationships to voice and advocate for them.

This is what it means to not self-abandon. It is about knowing what you need and making those needs priority. It is about valuing Self first. And before you can denigrate yourself or this idea I am going to stop you and say – No, this is not selfish.

Let me give you an example – I meet with soul friends at least once a week on zoom for deep connection and emotional processing. I am committed to this group, I committed to getting my needs for outside connection met with them. I am committed to the promise I made to be someone in their life they can show up True with. AND I have cancelled and rescheduled with them when needed when another inside need took priority. Like sleep for example. If my body is telling me it needs rest more than outside connection, I listen. I will not self-abandon for these people I love. And my constant hope is that they would not self-abandon for me, because my Truth is, I am no longer interested in being in that kind of relationship.

There is one last piece I want to cover before closing this out. The reason the self-care and the awareness are so important is because connection hurts. It is why we do not choose it, it is why we choose to numb. It hurts to feel the grief, the loss. It hurts to be exposed to suffering and violence and panic and fear.

Making the choice to heal, to be connected, to feel it all – it will hurt.

So this is what I leave you with:

You do not have to feel it all at once, and you do not have to walk this path alone. Set limits with yourself. Give yourself times of day when you feel safe to tap in and hold the all of what is coming up for you. Give yourself safe spaces where you can feel everything you need to feel ( a lot of people love the shower). Give yourself permission to be held in safe relationships while you hold and process it all. You do not have to do it all at once and you do not have to do it alone.

Human beings are designed to connect. We are emotional beings designed to connect, this is our evolution and it is a beautiful design. It is why we have these feelings, all of them. It is why we are born into families and live in communities. We are designed to feel and to feel together.

Denying our feelings, choosing to numb and disconnect, it goes against our nature. It is the true root of suffering. When you numb you are going against your true nature.

You are not a rock. You are not a couch or a chunk of pavement. You are not inanimate. You are alive. You are meant to grow and have experiences (all kinds) and feel and process and connect.

These are scary times. There is sorrow and so much fear. And here you are, already surviving it. You are not alone in this. Take this time to lean in and be with yourself. Take this time to reach out and connect and speak Truth with those you love. This is an invitation to the entire world to Live, really Live. Give yourself permission to accept the invitation and feel.

With BIG Love and an open heart,

Jillian

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