What I should’ve done was allow myself to feel whatever I was feeling and not tried to verify or justify it. It was a feeling and it was real. That’s all that mattered. At times, I was an angry teenager that missed him and was mad at him for not being in my life. At other times, I was the little girl that adored her Daddy and thought that the world started and stopped when he looked at me with love. And, there were also times when I was the pragmatic woman that understand that this moment was less about her and her feelings and more about his life and honoring him. He had given her life, served his country and, at one time, loved her mother. He deserved to be honored. If the Bible teaches you one thing, it is that broken men can accomplish great things.
What I understand now is that I wasn’t loving myself in that process, I sentenced myself to suffering. I did not allow my feelings to be what they are without putting judgement and labeling on them. Since then, I have learned what “not suffering” means. I thought I knew, but I was so wrong. My way of “not suffering” was to clench my jaw, tighten my muscles and ignore my feelings. When you deny the reality of the moment and you stuff your feelings somewhere deep inside, you are suffering. Recently, this all changed for me.
I read an article that instructed me to try something different to stop suffering. It told me to tap into my feelings, understand them and allow them to be. It asked me to sit with them. At first, it seemed like the scariest thing anyone could ask of me. I am a master of distraction. When I’m feeling uncomfortable, I can redirect myself or someone else with a laugh, a song or a task. The first thing I had to do was to figure out what was going on in my body. I sat, silently, and felt my body from the inside. I rarely did this, so it was foreign to me. I realized that the muscles, all over my body, were constricted. My jaw was clenched tight and I was grinding my teeth. The next step asked me to put words to what I was feeling. I grabbed a tablet and pen and the words came pouring out.
Anger, regret, hurt, abandoned, unloved, unworthy, invisible, frustrated, guilt, lost, failure, disappointment, alone, ignored, forgotten, fake, stupid, and sad. I looked down at the page. My eyes scanned the list and, at first, I didn’t want to connect with any of those words. Denial kicked in and I told myself that I was crazy to feel like that. The exercise asked me to sit with those feelings. I took a deep breath and scanned the list again. This time, I stopped at each word and let it rest in my mind. As it did, it connected with the piece of myself that has been telling me that it’s apart of my story. Surprisingly, as I acknowledged it, it no longer held as much power. I felt the pain subside. The other thing that happened was that I felt sympathetic towards me. I loved myself through those words. When I understood that I was walking around carrying all of this, I couldn’t feel anything but sympathy for me. Finally, the love I gave others was available for me.
This exercise changed me. I’m more in touch with my feelings. Whenever I become aware that my muscles are clenched and my mind is racing, I tune into my thoughts and feelings and figure out how I feel. At that moment, I decide to allow myself to feel the feelings and it’s okay. I have found that my world is no longer rocked. I’m much calmer about things. My feelings don’t overwhelm me. They are not outside of myself. I feel them. I appreciate them and I understand that they are there to get me through that moment.
Interestingly, connecting with my own emotions has helped me heal and deal with my father’s passing. I understand that we were both doing the best we could at the moment. Just because he didn’t love me in the way that I needed to see it, it doesn’t mean that he didn’t love me. And being angry about that doesn’t make me a bad person. It makes me human.