May 1, 2012
So it is official. In two weeks I leave for Spain.
I like to imagine that I have continued to feel calm and collected in the face of final preparations for the Camino de Santiago. I imagine:
• That I have not felt nervous about how my pregnant body will feel sleeping on its side on a bunkbed in a room full of strangers.
• That I have not wondered about how hard it will be for me to live into the belief that it is not about how many miles I walk, but about being – just being – on the path.
• That I have not felt moments of panic about all the things that “I need to get done” before the plane takes off.
It is nice to have a wild imagination.
But here is the truth. I have felt nervous and panicked. I have questioned my intentions. But you know what made me start to feel okay with NOT feeling calm and collected? Honoring my emotions.
I find it so easy to embrace joy and love and happiness and excitement. When I am generally feeling in a light and positive mood, I can both appreciate and even begin to expand the emotions radiating from within me.
It is harder to find the same openness for anger and frustration and sadness and judgement. Anger shows up and I swallow it. Frustration stands up and I fly past it. Sadness peeks its face in and I shut my eyes. Judgements emerge and I close my ears.
Ignoring these emotions does not make them go away. They just show up in different places. The To Do List that seems to only get longer sits in my lower back. The comment that rubbed me the wrong way goes straight to the sliver of space sitting behind my shoulder blades. Even the tears I quell start to make their way out in tiny sweat droplets on my nose. Most people do not notice. But my body sure does.
I’d like to imagine that these emotions are only stirring because of exceptional circumstances that I face. But I cannot even write that sentence without smiling a wide grin. Here’s the thing: Whether you are preparing to go take a spiritual walk across Spain while 6 months pregnant or you are simply waking up to a comfortable routine, emotions of all types WILL show up.
You can run from them, but they will catch up. My recommendation? Do not close your eyes to the magical space that your emotions occupy. Honor them and see what happens.
Every time I find myself hit with an emotion that feels uncomfortable (read: something I deem as best avoided/negative), I whisper to myself honor this emotion. The simple act of calling attention to what I am feeling offers me gratitude, acceptance and ease.
Periodically throughout the day, whether walking to my next meeting or brushing my teeth, I say to myself, honor this body, where so much of this emotional experience lives. In those moments I am called to stretch, to move, to dance, to rest – to listen to what my body needs and to heed the call.
Ask yourself: What would it look like if I honored my emotions today? What whispers sit in this interior domain? What do I need to let go of to honor my emotions – those that I judge as “good” and even those that I do not? What can I hold on to to support me in honoring my feelings? My body?
PRESENT DAY REFLECTIONS
This practice of honoring my emotions is one of the big ones that started along my camino path and never went away. I still use this simple phrase – honor it – to acknowledge how I am feeling. I believe this practice has supported me in exercising and strengthening my own resilience.
I also continue to explore the connection between physical strength and emotional strength. For me the two are inexorably linked. When my body feels strong, I feel strong. And that is not about fitting a cultural norm. It’s about paying attention to and heeding the messages my body gives me. Our bodies have a language all their own and if we pay attention we can pick up this new vocabulary and learn from it.
As much as I clearly resonate with this original post, there are two things I notice that continue to be areas of tension for me. First, as much as I know the value of honoring my emotions, I can recognize that I’m still first drawn to the exterior world and not the interior world where my emotions sit. It’s easy for me to see how others are feeling (about me or themselves); it takes more work for me to look inside myself and ask myself how I am feeling about it. Second, I could not help but notice in returning to this reflection how drawn I was to honoring the “negative” emotions. It has me wondering what would happen if I put an equal amount of energy into honoring the positive emotions. My suspicion is that there is a great growth and possibility in paying attention to the good. Letting it radiate out from us and expand in the process. This is a hypothesis that I am going to have fun testing in the weeks and months ahead.
ABOUT THE SERIES
My Pregnant Pilgrimage is a blog series that I’m sharing in the Spring of 2017 during my present-day maternity leave. The arrival of my third little seemed a fitting time to return to these journal reflections from those last months of my life pre-parenthood. Learn more about this series here.