January 21, 2019

Spoiler Alert - We Have No Way of Knowing

I do not like surprises. I guess I'm just too much of a control freak to 'let go and let God' enough to enjoy them. I don't mind small surprises, like an unexpected visit or call from a friend. It's the big surprises that are more of an issue. Things that make you feel like the rug has been completely pulled from under you on a random Tuesday and you're left scratching your head and trying to make sense of the fragments scattered about the floor.

Of course this makes life rather challenging for me, since it tends to dish up a fair share of the unexpected.

Maybe this is why I prefer more predictable forms of entertainment....i.e. genre books and films that stick to a certain formula. I especially love re-reading or re-watching favorites that I've seen umpteen times, since I know exactly what will happen in each subsequent viewing/reading. 

George Bailey will find redemption. Boo will save Jem and Scout will understand more about her father. Alice will wake up and realize all was but a dream. 

There's something about the predictable that's oh so comforting. 

I am guilty of trying to figure out what the ending of a book or movie will be before I opt to experience it. This is why I usually read spoilers before watching a film that I know will be a tear-jerker. It allows me to mentally prepare myself for what's to come. 

Books are a bit trickier because even thorough reviews don't always give away the major (heart wrenching) plot points. So I often end up choosing books that seem like a sweet story but end up turning me into a big old weeping mess.

Feelings aren't always so cut and dried. You can flip to the last page of a book to relieve anxiety about what's coming, but this doesn't work for feelings. As much as you might try, you can't actually predict them. I never know how a certain situation is going to make me feel until I'm in it.

And of course all these things are very personal. What speaks to or tugs at the heartstrings of one person is going to be completely opposite from what affects another. What bothers me may not give you a second thought. Things I miss completely may keep you up at night.

I can't always explain why certain things make me cry or laugh or feel angry or frustrated. But those things are part of who I am. As much as the fact that I'm tall or have curly hair or bad vision. Maybe those things are even more a part of ourselves than the outside stuff. And I don't think we should have to stifle or suppress it just because it makes others uncomfortable, even if the uncomfortable others are ourselves.

One of the biggest takeaways I've gotten from my past year or so seeing a counselor is that feelings are neither good nor bad. They just are. I can't tell you how many times I have said "I hate the way I feel about this or that" or "I wish I didn't feel this way." 

But we have feelings for a reason. They serve a very important purpose in our lives. Like a glass window pane created to let light pass through, our feelings and emotions are functional. And yet somehow some of us have decided that our feelings are wrong. So we get the expensive plantation shutters (or in my case the cheap mini blinds) and the blackout curtains to ensure no light peeks in. 

We do things to hold our feelings and emotions at a distance. I've definitely been guilty of this. We take away their ability to serve us as they were intended. And then we find ourselves in a dark room without any idea how we got there or what is a possible solution to fix it. 

There's a saying in the psychology lexicon, "to sit with your feelings." Mostly it has to do with feelings we consider to be negative.

It's easy to sit at the popular table. Feeling cool, excited, or accepted doesn't present the same challenges. It's the other, more difficult feelings I don't want to sit with. The ones that make me feel misunderstood, unwanted or unloved. Like the weird smelly kid at the cafeteria lunch table. 

I don't have a resolution yet. The story isn't over. Right now I'm just trying to give myself a bit of grace so when the uncomfortable feelings present themselves, I can let them be. I will sit with them even when it's uncomfortable and awkward. I will sit with them when I can't make eye contact and there's no easy conversation to be made. I will sit with them when everybody else is shifting sideways glances and judging me as a loser. I will sit with them when nobody else understands what I'm doing or why. I will sit with them until I get to know them and understand them even if nobody else ever does.

I will sit with my feelings until they stop being my enemy and become my friend.