disclaimer: I love New York City. Like a lot. I love the hope and promise and struggle and 24-hour convenience it affords. I love being a New Yorker. Like a hell of a lot. It’s given me eye contact and half smiles with strangers on the subway. It’s given me pride and gratitude and fast feet and independence. It’s given me evenings that would make any culture vulture swoon and friendships with bodega owners that I’ll always cherish. It’s at the core of who I am. For fuck’s sake, I have it tattooed on me. BASICALLY, bad things happening to NYers makes me reeeeal emotional.
Today I want to make space for the fact that many people might still be reeling from the recent acts of terrorism and natural disasters that have disrupted, and ended, too many lives. Many of you may be in pain, and I am too.
I didn’t realize that I am. You may not have realized your pain either.
I’m nauseated just by thinking about the human details of each of the fifty-eight people that were senselessly murdered in Las Vegas.
And my heart breaks to think about the lives lost, and disrupted, due to mind-bending natural disasters.
My blood boils when I think about the far too recent act of terrorism that left a young woman dead in Charlottesville.
But, I didn’t realize how good I have become at separating my life from The Sadness Over There. I used to think this was resilience. But, I was kidding myself. It’s tragedy fatigue.
I think that I’ve been empathetic and angry and saddened and scared and confused about these things in an unattached, confined way because I know that it will happen again and again and again.
They feel almost constant, honestly. I’ve come to realize that, subconsciously, I haven’t given myself the space to truly grieve and feel the weight of these horrific events.
I’ve been trying to suppress the realness and the magnitude and the bombardment of violence and sadness and destruction until I couldn’t ignore it anymore. When it was about me. And my people. And my home.
Self-centered? Undoubtedly. And painfully honest.
I wish that I was the kind of person who dropped everything to volunteer in refugee camps. Or ran towards victims to help instead of running away towards safety.
I thought I would be. Maybe someday I will be.
But, right now, I’m just like most people. I’m burdened with sadness while simultaneously numbed by the requirements of and responsibilities of my daily life. I have to keep moving.
Evolutionary theory–and common sense–suggests that we act in ways to preserve our well-being. I, and I would bet many others, have been doing just that. I’ve been trying to preserve my emotional well-being by unintentionally rationing out my compassion, connection and humanness. My irrational thought: there is always more sadness down the pipeline— I can’t throw myself onto an emotional roller coaster for this one because I’ll be too exhausted to acknowledge the next.
Sounds crazy, right? Well most self-destructive behaviors and maladaptive thoughts are. Well, I actually don’t like the word crazy so let’s call ‘em irrational. It’s irrational to stockpile emotions in the event of a future disaster–that’s not how emotions work.
These behaviors are unbelievably common. But, you knew that already–right? They can be overt—think excessive drinking and eating distortions. But, they can also be subvert–like sabotaging our chances for fear of success or persistence when it’s clear that our efforts are in vain.
Of course, some self-destructive behaviors and maladaptive techniques can cause more damage than others. Yet, they’re all negative ways of coping with discomfort. In a simple effort to ease discomfort we often rely on behaviors and thought patterns that ultimately create pain and suffering for ourselves and those around us.
To break these habits and replace them with new ones that express our real goals–to love and be loved–we have to care and love ourselves. And that, my friends, is fucking hard. On my better days I’d call it revolutionary. On my worse days I’d call it crazy.
I want to make space to try to break habits that aren’t serving us.
I want to make space for the fact that terrible things will continue to happen.
I want to make space for the fact that good things will continue to happen, too.
I want to make space for me and you and for anyone who needs it.
I want to make space for the feelings that we don’t like feeling.
I want to make space for the fact that feeling the feels sometimes feels worse before it feels better.
And I want to make space for the fact that, no matter how much artificial distance we create between ourselves and from terrifying realities, it can be so goddamn tempting and easy to lean into your self-destructive habit of choice.
I feel some of those thoughts/habits sneaking back in. And it sucks–it can feel like a huge regression. If this is you, too (it can’t be just me, right?!), have compassion for yourself. It’s really hard to break habits that are ultimately self-destructive, because they present as completely rational–they seemingly stop the present pain.
You deserve more. You deserve the freedom to feel and be present and be messy. When things are easy and when they’re steeped in pain.
You deserve to live a life worth living, even when that life is difficult, as all of our lives inevitably are sometimes.
Feelings needs space. You need space. I need space.
This isn’t selfishness, it’s self-endorsement towards wholehearted loving and living. It’s normal to be sad when you think about the fact that eight New Yorkers got ready this morning and they won’t get unready tonight. By giving feelings, and yourself, space you allow them to stand and be accepted as they (and you) are right now.
Sadness is an essential part of life. I know that at first glance that might seem a little dark, but I promise that it’s not. I’m pretty sure (but not positive) that life is about the range of feels that we feel. Ya feel me?
If you’ve ever experienced extreme emotions–like having your heart broken into a billion pieces, or being publicly mortified or accomplishing a huge personal project–you know that in those moments of intense feeling is when we feel most alive.
I got really sad today. Not only because of the Terrible Thing That Happened today but because I haven’t given myself space to get sad when other Terrible Things happened. Let your sadness live. Feeling it means you’re still alive and kicking and fighting the good fight.
Your sadness will be short-lived—you’ll might feel shitty and apathetic for a while, but then you regroup and do something that will make you feel worthy once again.