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Community—that feeling that you belong to other people and that they belong to you—is a comfort. The people in our community, people in our inner circle, are there for us to call on when we can’t deal with uncomfortable feelings. But sometimes we hesitate to reach out to them. We think they won’t have time for us, they won’t really care, but the truth is we’ll never know if we don’t give them a chance. Give ourselves a chance to find help.
As for beauty, it’s all around us. What a beautiful planet we live on. Find beauty in nature, find it in smells, sights, and touch. Find beauty in love, hard work toward meaningful goals, and small, unexpected places throughout the day. I hope this podcast is one place to find community and beauty. Where else can you find it?
Loving Your Imperfect Life
One of my favorite J. Cole songs is Love Yourz. You can listen to it on the LTVF Season One music playlist. Love Yourz is about accepting your life right in this moment. There may be challenges for sure, challenging feelings and states of mind like loneliness, fear, hunger, and other uncomfortable states, but finding the good in what we have (and who we are) puts things in perspective. We can’t make some of those uncomfortable feelings go away at will; they are part of our life, and because that life is ours, it’s better for us to own it and try to seek out the good in it.
J. Cole is one of my favorite artists, and this song is dripping with a soulful, Southern, authentic vibe that reminds us to try to love and accept the place we are in right now. It’s real, it’s ours and we need to appreciate where we are in this moment. As he reminds us, there’s beauty in the struggle. Our will and strength to handle the human condition are beautiful. But life is often lived along a hard road. It challenges us, tests our strength, and surprises us with twists and turns. Can we accept where we are right now? Can we recognize the value of what we have—family, a home, a job, a creative gift—even when they may seem modest in comparison to what others have? And can we stop comparing? It’s hard to hear that you have to love what’s yours when all you think about is getting more.
This song tells us that we can find beauty in the struggle, and the best pathway to that experience is through acceptance and gratitude of this moment. The truth is that money doesn’t buy happiness—the facts back that up. After your basic needs are met, having more results in a negligible increase in happiness, but still we chase it. What if instead of chasing, we accepted where we are?
We all have days when our minds are filled to the brim with curse words, and we feel like we are fighting a losing battle, and for some reason, someone has to come along and tell us things will get better. We don’t want to hear it. We aren’t ready to know, we can’t conceive that we will get out of the current state of hell we are living in. We have few internal resources, or positive reserves to call on to try to make our day better.
We Can Choose to Accept Shitty Days
But … at that moment we do have a choice. And no, it’s not between a bad day and fooling ourselves into thinking the day will get better. It’s about acceptance. Accepting the shitty day. Accepting that we don’t feel good, that we are sad, angry, depressed, overwhelmed. Trying to just sit with those feelings, feelings that will go away, but haven’t decided when.
I’m telling you though, on the turn of a dime, the tables can turn and a glimmer of hope presents itself. Our situation changes. Life is about change, so can we sit with our shitty day long enough to wait it out and wait for the change? That is the question.
Here’s my take on those shitty days when nothing seems to go your way. I call this poem On Dragons You Can’t Slay.
On Dragons You Can't Slay
By Jill Hodge
Sopping wet, but still alive,
Freshly fished out,
A deep breath does revive,
Made it out, delirious, deprived.
Clutching the rim, I’m sliding.
Slick black cauldron,
Fingers lose grip, I’m sliding
collapse of my will, colliding.
Clipped wings can’t fly
Under the weight of beguiling fate.
Stop testing, life
stop spinning, stop strife.
Grounded for life.
Invisible blood, but it’s there.
Sticky crimson, prickly affair.
A matted mess, twist and tear
caught up in my curly, black hair.
Numbing stare straight ahead.
Blackened air quickly spreads.
Smoke is rising, I’m in the ring.
Blows keep coming, damn bells gotta ring.
Which round is it? Am I the king? TKO but bees gotta sting.
Spectator sport for all to see.
I’m sad for me, life’s losing decree.
No kings or queens save this day.
It’s all dragons you can’t slay.
No kings or queens save this day.
Dragons you can’t slay.
Tomorrow offers another day, I’ll pass.
I can outlast, or so they say,
but they’ve said other things and they were wrong.
Grief can’t be pushed aside.
Your last request denied.
You’ve nothing left but to believe
the shifty naysayers, happy-daysayers.
They smile like they know, belief with no negating.
Tomorrow will be better, I swear
and it’s always rose-scented air.
It’s all dragons you can’t slay.
Not on this particular day.
Dragons you can’t slay,
they’re everywhere and in the way.
Settle deep into defeat,
but just as you do
hope’s walking down the street.
It says hello and settles in
a cozy, velvet seat.
And you say, finally, you have arrived.
Stay a while, fuck it, I survived.
In this poem, I talk about how we can lose control over the state of our life and our feelings of dread, sadness, and anxiety. Those negative feelings are the dragons, and in the moment, you may be helpless to slay them. You want desperately to get back to the equilibrium. You want to push through these crappy feelings to get to a better place—and quickly. But life doesn’t work that way. We can try to soothe ourselves with positive affirmations (and they have their place), but some days you just have to face it: the day isn’t going to go your way and you aren’t going to feel good.
A Work in Progress
I’m gonna be honest here and say that sitting with uncomfortable feelings is really difficult for me. For most of my life, I’ve been a compulsive overeater, and I’ve used food to help push down feelings since I was a very young girl. In my early 50s, I started working on slaying my dragons, sitting with uncomfortable feelings instead of eating over them. Through therapy, diet, and exercise, I lost more than 60 pounds. And for several years, I kept it off, until my mother’s illness. Initially, I lost weight when she got sick because even food couldn’t help me in the dark place I was in. I was also too busy managing her care to eat, during the time when she lived with me. But over time, once we settled into a new way of living, I began to pile on the pounds. I used food as a release at the end of the day. I’d eat a healthy breakfast and lunch, but when I “relaxed” at night, I’d eat. I gained back 30 pounds. I know what it’s like to try to get out of slaying your dragons. What it’s like to use faulty coping mechanisms to deal with feelings and situations that make our lives seem impossible. For a few years, I tried to slay my dragons through exercise and a whole foods diet (which made me feel incredibly well physically) but turned out to be temporary fixes for a bigger problem.
Overeating to deal with uncomfortable feelings robs me in two ways:
- it takes away an opportunity to deal with my emotions in a healthy way (and to deal with shitting feelings by sitting with them until they pass—and they do pass) and
- it keeps me in an unhealthy loop of sleeping, working, feeling uncomfortable feelings, eating, numbing myself with food, and then repeating. Not much of a life.
It is empowering to be able to sit with your feelings and know that you’ll make it. I work every day to get more comfortable with uncomfortableness. Because, let’s face it, life is full of uncomfortable moments, painful moments, embarrassing moments, and scary moments. I may use food in destructive ways, but it works the same with drugs, sex, money, and drinking. There are a million distractions and counterproductive ways to deal with feelings.
It’s time to find some ways that don’t hurt us in the long run. I could bullshit you and tell you that a positive affirmation, some daily exercise, therapy, and the latest 8-week mindfulness course are going to get you out of your funk and turn your life around, but I don’t think it works that way. All of those individual strategies could be an important part of the puzzle of getting comfortable with uncomfortable feelings, but there isn’t a trick that gets you out of the hard work of sitting with these shitty feelings. I think there are tools and strategies that can help, but they won’t get you out of having to accept some painful moments and learn how to deal with them.
Recently, I’ve been trying to sit with my shitty feelings more, because they do pass and brighter thoughts do pop up. Hope does walk through the door—just not on our schedule. But it does come, so we need to power through the shitty feels to get to the glorious ones.
Community + Beauty to Escape All the Shitty Feels
Find a community that understands you and speaks your language. I hope you’ve found one here at Let the Verse Flow. But there are other communities too, like Wondermind.com, a community where people can get support during their mental health journey. I was reading an interesting collection of quotes from therapy sessions. The article on best therapy techniques mentioned two that are relevant to what we’re talking about today.
The quotes were:
“healing is messy and takes time”
"feel your grief so you can also feel your happiness.”
The first, is what I’m talking about here in terms of not seeking a shortcut to dealing with your feelings. I thought I had found a way to deal with my feelings through a healthy diet and exercise, but when my world got turned upside down, I couldn’t sustain those things when I was having such a hard time even getting myself out of bed. It wasn’t going to happen then. I needed more time to heal before I could go out in public and push through my day. I also had to feel my grief before I could step back into my daily routines. This idea also resonates in my poem. You have to deal with the dragons and you may not be able to slay them. Instead, you pass through the feelings to get to a better place where you experience some hope and then happiness again. Check out Wondermind.com and see if there are perspectives that fit your needs.
If you have to sit with your feelings, why not sit in a beautiful place, a place that engages your senses? It could be a museum, a park, or a beach. It’s hard to sit in any of those places and not feel connected to something greater than yourself. Call it mother nature or the creative spirit, whatever feels right to you, but sitting in these places helps us do two things—it takes us out of our heads for a bit so we can see the beauty that continues to go on in the world. We can then know that we will be part of it in some future moment (just not now). It also helps us put some space between our feelings and our heart. When we take in beautiful things, our senses start to tingle and new feelings rise up. It’s a healthy distraction that we can use if negative feelings become too overwhelming to sit with. Sometimes immersing yourself in new positive sensations can override the negative emotions.
Here's an example. You may have heard me mention a bumblebee in one of my previous podcast episodes (trailer). I saw this chubby bumblebee hoving over a flower one morning. I was sitting on Columbia University’s beautiful campus in NYC while waiting to see my mother at a local hospital. I had arrived too early for visiting hours, so I got some coffee and headed over to a bench on the campus. I was in a really sad place then. I was looking down for most of the walk there, and at some point, I sat on a bench. I looked up and realized that it was an amazingly beautiful day. The weather was perfect (sunny, nice breeze) and there were these colorful flowers across from the bench. Very close to me. I hadn’t even noticed them, but suddenly I saw a chubby little bumblebee hovering inside a beautiful yellow flower. It was a moment that brought me some clarity. Beauty was still in the world, and I would be able to see it again someday. I was struggling in that moment, but it didn’t stop the beauty from being there, all around me. I had to have faith that I would experience better days at some point in the future. And I have.
Journal Prompts for Sitting with Shitty Feelings
Alright my creative tribe, here are this week’s journal prompts. Sit with your feelings, take in some beauty and then write about it. Please, let me know what you find out about yourself. I’ll discuss it on the podcast and we’ll add your thoughts into the mix.
Until next time, don’t forget to stay on the bright side of the beat. 🌞
Music: My thanks to all the musicians who make incredible music and have the courage to put it out into the world. All music for my podcast is sourced and licensed for use via Soundstripe.
Songs in this podcast episode:
Humble Beginnings by Ghost Beatz; Winning Streak by JeesGuy; Pink Tiger by Sam Barsh; Pyaar Kee Seemaen by Cast of Characters
LTVF Season One Music Playlist: Check out the songs that inspire me, and connect with artists from many genres who add to our collective, human soundtrack.
17 People Share the Best Things They Learned in Therapy at Wondermind.com
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