It’s Saturday, and I have feelings.
There’s a prevailing wisdom about feelings – that we shouldn’t act on them. After all, feelings aren’t facts.
That may be true. They may not be facts, but they are real.
My feelings are beautiful and strong and entertaining. They excite and stimulate and inspire me. My feelings often take me outside my comfort zone and break me out of routine. Other times, my feelings are a routine, a habit that I barely stop to question. My feelings disappoint me, regularly. Occasionally, they disgust me. My feelings scare me.
But don’t ever say my feelings are just an illusion. Don’t try to soothe me that way – by telling me those scary, disgusting, disappointing, habitual, exciting, stimulating, inspiring, entertaining, powerful, BEAUTIFUL feelings aren’t real. I told myself that lie for far too long, and when someone tries to “make me feel better” by dismissing my feelings, I feel angry. Especially when the person doing the dismissing is me.
My feelings are my responsibility; not a problem to be fixed, but a reality to be accepted. How many times have my own children expressed their feelings, only to have their mother try to make those feelings go away? As uncomfortable as I am with my own feelings, I’m doubly so with theirs.
I’m sure the people in my life sometimes feel that way about my feelings, too, so I don’t hold it against them for wanting to make me feel better. It’s because they care, and also because my feelings make them feel uncomfortable. I’m ok with that. Your feelings are your responsibility, and I won’t change mine to make you ok with yours.
There was a time when I believed the conventional wisdom. Don’t act on your feelings; they aren’t real. I could tell you where that got me, but if you are reading this you probably already know. The day that I finally acknowledged my feelings and let them have a seat at the table when the committee in my head convened, my life changed. For the better.
I challenge the conventional wisdom. My feelings are real and they deserve to have a role in determining our shared destiny. Relegated to the darkest closets of my mind, my feelings wreaked havoc on my life when they occasionally escaped. I was terrified of them, even the pleasant feelings. But when I gave them a place at the table, when I listened to what they had to say and what they had to contribute, I was amazed.
The Feelings, it turns out, were very closely acquainted with Honesty. Without Feelings on the committee, Honesty was there but didn’t really participate except when called upon by the chairman of the board, and only then with great reluctance and timidity. The Feelings brought Honesty out of her shell. Now Honesty is one of the first committee members to speak.
The Feelings, it turns out, were not big fans of Action. When first invited to the table, Feelings kept pretty quiet, afraid that speaking up might cause Action to do what Action does. The chairman of the board had to remind Action that we need to hear everyone’s voice before making decisions. Only then did the Feelings speak up. It turns out, Feelings rarely wanted action; they just wanted to be heard.
That woke up another half-asleep participant on the committee – Compassion. When feelings spoke, Compassion listened. Thinking and Discernment did their best to interrupt before Feelings had their say, but Compassion stepped in. Caution, too, was reluctant to give Feelings the floor, but when she saw that nothing bad happened, Caution regularly consulted Feelings before going to Action for results. In fact, with Feelings at the table, Caution became much less afraid of Action, who had been dominating the committee along with Thinking and Discernment.
With the help of the committee in my head and the wisdom of friends who’ve “been there done that,” I’ve come to repeal and replace the conventional wisdom into which so many of us have bought. “Don’t act on your feelings” has been changed to, “Don’t react to your feelings.” That means my feelings get to exist, get to be heard, get to be acknowledged – even the unpleasant ones. Instead of reacting, I respond to my feelings. I reflect on them. I take them to heart. I consult them whenever I have an important decision to make, and if they speak up loudly, I stop whatever I’m doing and listen. They are my early warning system when I’m going off course as often as they used to be the rudder that steered me off course.
It’s Saturday, and my feelings are mine. What I do with them will shape my destiny.