Feel Your Feelings: When It's Okay to Wallow

Okay, so I have to be honest. Currently life is pretty fucking great. My little brother got married in Mexico this weekend, and I’ve been in a ridiculously luxe beach house for the last six days staring out at the ocean and thanking my lucky stars that I escaped the snow back home. There isn’t much to complain about over here.

And yet less than a week ago you wouldn’t have recognized me through the snot and the puffy, tear-stained eyes. I was en route to this vacation with my husband and 6-year-old daughter. Our bags were packed. We’d gotten up at 3:30am to make a 5:50am flight. And in the blink of an eye, it all went awry.

The dreaded cancelled flight.

I can’t even go into all the specifics, but suffice to say it was a verifiable shit show of freezing fog, apparently improperly-trained pilots and poor communication all around. We showed up jovial and elated at the airport at 4:30am, and by 7:30am we were driving back home with our bags still packed in the back of the car and our flight rebooked for an entire 24 hours later. To say we were devastated would be an understatement (and would grossly misrepresent how much I hate winter and the snow). My daughter and I literally cried the whole way home from the airport.

When we got home we had no idea what to do with ourselves. We were supposed to be gone. My daughter had already been excused from school. All the plants were already watered. The thermostats in the house had already been programmed as if we were on a beach somewhere. And yet there we were. Not on our way to the beach. Staring at feet of snow out the window. And feeling utterly exhausted.

The logical part of me felt silly for how emotional I was. We would leave tomorrow. It was no big deal. And yet the sensitive side of me totally got it. The tears were coming in big overwhelming waves, and as I sat at home on the phone with the airline trying to get our travel all sorted out, my voice kept cracking as I choked back the frustration. This wasn’t how this was supposed to go.

I couldn’t get above it. Me, the person who can meditate her way to clarity. The person whose guides show up in a moment. The person who knows there’s always a bright side if you can just wait out the darkness. I couldn’t find a way through. I was a hot mess of bitter tears and justified airline rage.

And somewhere in the midst of the huge fucking mess that that day had become, I decided to allow myself to feel really epically bad. I mean, I really let myself wallow in it. I didn’t try to trade up my emotions, and I didn’t try to affirm myself into believing everything was going to be okay.

Have you seen the animated movie Inside Out? (If you haven’t, do!) I basically laid down like the character Sadness, poked my sad arm in the air, and waited to be dragged around…sadly.

Because sometimes you just need to feel your feelings. And you need to do it with an exclamation point.

I led a mini-retreat for some of my girlfriends recently, and one of the women in attendance talked about a loss she’d recently gone through and how her husband was trying to rush her though the sadness. As she shared what she hadn’t been able to express to him, it became clear her sadness was not only necessary, but it was a natural part of what her soul needed right now. I told her, “Why don’t you just tell him that it’s making you happy being sad right now?” He was so determined on helping her be happy that he didn’t see that sad was what she needed to get to happy.

And it’s what we needed too. Because sometimes the shortest route to happy is right through the sad.

If I hadn’t allowed sad, I might not have had the genius idea through all my angry depression to leverage the opportunity of having our flights rebooked for free to extend our trip (which we did!). If I hadn’t allowed sad, I might not have had that moment when Chloe said “Mom I feel sad about not getting to go to Mexico today” and I wouldn’t have gotten to say “it’s normal to feel sad when something like that happens. Let’s go be sad together”.

And we did. We nurtured our sad hearts on the couch all day.

The disappointment we felt sucked. It sucked so hard. And we let it suck deeply and authentically until our bodies told us it was time to let the suck go.

When the sun had almost set, we finally peeled ourselves up. We went to a late lunch as a family, and we found our way back into happy. We played. We joked. Chloe said, “Let’s call our no-fog guides tomorrow and our no-rain guides and our no-snow guides. Wait! Let’s just call our good-weather guides!” And then she erupted into a fit of laughter at her own genius.

And then we were okay. The angry heat sizzled off of us. The tears dried. The solutions surfaced, and new hope formed.

“Tomorrow. We’ll get there tomorrow,” we said.

And we felt happy.