Those that know me know that winter just isn’t my time of year. I really dislike being cold. As a kid and young adult, I enjoyed skiing and ice skating (still do) but what always killed it for me was being cold. And when I get cold it seeps all the way into my bones and I feel like I can never get warm. It sucks. Add in the darkness and basically my instinct is to crawl into my nice warm bed and come out sometime in April.
I’ve long suspected that I suffer from S.A.D. (seasonal affective disorder); things always seem a little harder to deal with in the winter and the dark, but like any other sign of weakness, I’ve blown it off telling myself that I need to just suck it up. Grin and bear it. Tough it out. But here’s the thing. I’m so tired of doing that. I’m tired of saying that everything is peachy keen even when it isn’t. I’m tired of feeling like I always have to be little Mary Sunshine sprinkling rose petals on the path of life and pooping rainbows. Somewhere along the line I got the message that if I wasn’t always thinking positively the world would reject me. Well, screw that. Life isn’t always puppy dogs and lollipops.
Don’t get me wrong. I believe in the power of positive thinking. I know that the laws of attraction are real. I have experienced for myself the way you get back what you put out into the universe. My favorite parable has always been about the two wolves and the fight that goes on inside every person. I know which wolf I need to feed. I recently posted another parable of the same ilk on Facebook about two dogs, one friendly and one not, who go one-by-one into a room. The friendly dog comes out even happier, tail wagging and loving life. The other comes out growling and snarling. A woman goes into the room to find out what could cause such different reactions from the dogs and finds a room full of mirrors. The happy dog saw thousands of happy dogs and the other saw a room of dogs ready to attack. Yes. I love the truth in this. I get it.
The bottom line is that there are some times when I get sad or scared or frustrated or overwhelmed with everything that I’ve got going on. I know that people have it worse than I do and that I shouldn’t complain and I should just be grateful for everything I am blessed with. And I am. But it gets exhausting pretending that it is not freaking hard sometimes. Pretending that the choices I’ve made haven’t led me to a place that isn’t exactly easy street. Pretending that sometimes I don’t think, gee, I really wish I lived on easy street. Wouldn’t it be nice if I hadn’t made so many mistakes and didn’t have so many worries?
Does it make me a negative person to acknowledge these thoughts and feelings? Does the negativity just breed and then things keep getting harder for me? Maybe it does. I remember when I was pregnant in the hospital and was so scared and lonely and miserable and uncomfortable and I was crying, a nurse told me that I needed to stop or that when my babies were born they were going to cry all the time. Nice.
I feel like all along the line I have been conditioned to believe that it isn’t OK to feel negative emotions. And it definitely isn’t OK to show them or let anyone else know you are feeling them. I want to call bullshit on this.
The last thing I want to teach my kids is that their feelings are wrong. How can feelings be wrong? Why are some feelings acceptable and some aren’t? Behaviors, OK. We can’t go around punching people when we are angry. We can’t literally crawl into our beds and never come out when we are sad. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t feel these things or that it is wrong to feel that way or even talk about it. It doesn’t make us negative people to have these natural emotions. It makes us human.
One of the things that I’m trying to work on with C is the anger thing. We both have tempers and neither of us ever know what to do with our anger. This is definitely the scariest of the “negative” emotions for me because for those of us who have stuffed it down for so long, it can be explosive. The trick is figuring out a way to feel the anger and let it out in a constructive way. What I don’t want to teach him is that getting angry is “bad”. Because what is “bad” is the stuffing it down part; the not acknowledging that something has made one angry and holding it inside because you want to be good and lovable and angry people aren’t good and lovable. I want to teach him that good and lovable people get angry sometimes. Because bad stuff happens sometimes. Things that aren’t fair. Things that aren’t the way we want them to be. And it is OK to be angry about it and to say you are angry about it and to find a proper vent for that anger.
And then there is sadness, which is the most insidious of the “negative” emotions. Especially for sensitive souls like G and myself. We are told from a young age “big boys/girls don’t cry”. We are told throughout our lives to “get over it” and “move on” from the sources of our sadness: the loss of a prize, a dream, a relationship. Even seeing someone mourning death makes many people uncomfortable and so people who are grieving are encouraged to do so in private. Why? Why can’t we be openly sad? Because crying and sadness are equated with weakness. And weakness isn’t valued in our society, only strength. So, we try to smile and keep our chins up and all the things that show the world that we are good and lovable and strong people. But if unreleased anger is like fire that will heat us until we explode, lingering sadness is like water filling all the space inside until there is no air and we drown.
I’m not saying that one should dwell on negative emotions. What I am saying is that it is not healthy to ignore these emotions or to label them as wrong or bad or to make people feel guilty for feeling them. It isn’t healthy to constantly put on a happy face because that is what is expected and accepted by the world at large. Yes, sometimes you have to suck it up. But sometimes you don’t. And it is OK if you don’t. Especially during the winter when it is so cold and dark outside. As for me, I’m going to pour myself a nice hot cup of tea and start counting the days until spring: 50. How’s that for looking on the bright side!