I gave my first hug to a friend I hadn’t hugged in over a year. I felt a mix of tenderness, joy, relief, sadness, and distance. The feelings surprised me. I expected sheer delight – I love this person SO much! Instead, I think the hug was exactly what is meant by the word bittersweet.
I recognized something else in that hug and subsequent first hugs after. My feelings right now are different than I assumed. They are milder and murkier than I expect. I think this is because for the last year, I was not able to have many nuanced emotions.
My mind has been locked down tight. I was focused on attending to the safety and wellbeing of my family and the community. I watched Covid take people’s lives, wellbeing, and livelihood. I witnessed the racial reckoning of our country with held breath and continued to find what I must do and undo professionally and personally to be a part of ending racism. I observed friends navigating hardships from a distance and did my best to send love. I supported clients in their huge lifts to carry on their missions.
This last year I felt sad, and angry. At times I felt grateful and glimmers of sweet joy. And that was it.
My focus was tight and that was necessary, but it had its repercussions.
I did not make room for a larger reflection on what was missing.
My spectrum of thinking, feeling, and experiencing was constrained to attend to the immediacy of survival and to respond to immediate personal and societal concerns.
This is not a new thing for humans. We all close in our emotions, and perspective in our daily lives in moments of pressure, trauma, conflict, violence, and loss.
As tender and quieter thoughts and emotions emerge, I can feel the shape of the cold, exterior container I built to get through the last year. I do not want to be in that container but I know it will take awhile to set it down.
I want to share with you the slow ways I am dancing with the re-emergence of a fuller spectrum of emotions and thoughts. (I am not a trauma-expert, so I am including other resources below.)
You can better see and support others in your work and life, if you tend to where you are emotionally, mentally, and even physically, in this transition.
Here is what is supporting me:
- I am paying attention to how I am feeling in the moment.
- I am moving at the speed I can and trying to understand what others may be feeling or experiencing (i.e. go at your own pace and support others in their own pace.)
- I am building connections with people who can listen without judgement or shame and whom I can offer the same to.
- I am reflecting alone with walks, movement, and writing.
- I am finding moments of appreciation, thinking “I appreciate this… I appreciate you for…” and then letting the appreciation sink in.
The cliff notes:
- Notice your feelings.
- Go at your own pace.
- Know and understand other peoples’ pace.
- Connect with others who can listen, and you can listen to.
- Reflect alone.
- Appreciate the people, moments, the things you can.
Reflection questions to go deeper alone or together:
– What have I been feeling about…
– What am I feeling now about…
– What do I need? What do you need?
– What am I experiencing right now?
– What do I want to take with me from last year?
May you have moments of real connection with others and with yourself this month.
Here are two guides from the past months to support in this continued time of transition:
Trauma, grief & tending to emotions – a mix of resources
People on Insta for support & resources:
@nedratawwab – Nedra Tawwab
@Alex_elle – alexandra elle
Self-compassion – Dr. Kristin Neff’s resources & meditations
Cloud Sangha – facilitated mindfulness groups, including groups for people of color and women
Spell for grief & letting go – adrienne maree brown
The Wisdom of Trauma movie – Dr. Gabor Mate
The Body is not an apology, Sonya Renee Taylor
The Body keeps the score, Dr. van der Kolk
No Mud, No Lotus: The Art of Transforming Suffering, Thich Nhat Hanh
Walking each other home: Conversations on loving and dying, Ram Dass & Mirabai Bush
The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity, Nadine Burke Harris
Thank you to my social work colleagues for these resources!
Have others I should include in my list? – Please send your recommendations.