Feelings are kind of my thing, taking action too. But feelings, they’re like my weather vane, my early warning system, my bullshit detector. I ignore them at my own peril. You’ll pardon me if I get a little agitated when someone tells me to get over it!
Mom had certain rules. Rule #1. NO sadness and NO unhappiness. (Anger was SO forbidden it didn’t even have to be on a list.)
When I was sad or unhappy, I was sent to my room and admonished not to come out ’til I could put a smile on my face. After two minutes alone, there’d be a knock on the door, followed by my mother opening the door and telling me that’s long enough, get out here and put a smile on your face. I did. Every time. I don’t know how. I wanted her to love me.
In this way I learned to abandon a whole part of my emotional landscape. It did not prevent me from unknowingly leaking sadness and unhappiness everywhere, and for decades.
I don’t know all the reasons my mom was like this. I imagine part of it was that she came of age in an era of intense anti-semitism in the world. Even in the US, there were discriminatory policies. Once my mom actually put a non-Jewish last name on a job application. It was important to her not to cause waves, to be charming, easy to get along with, beautiful, and therefore acceptable. She saw unhappiness and sadness as unattractive, perhaps calling negative attention to oneself, getting in the way of “success”, read — survival. I know she meant well. I know she wasn’t and isn’t alone in dissing difficult emotional states.
Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen (author, and professor at the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco) must have had a similar mother. Here’s a poem she wrote.
MOTHER KNOWS BEST
about your troubles.
No one loves a sad face.
The truth is
cheer isolates, humor defends, competence intimidates,
control separates, and sadness…
sadness opens us to each other.
Let me be clear. I’m not here to advocate for sadness or despair. I am here to say having familiarity with the lay of our emotional terrain –all of it, accepting it, honoring it and acting in congruence is what we now call emotional intelligence. It’s a good thing.
This doesn’t mean we start verbally or physically assaulting people when we feel angry.
As Aristotle said,
“Anyone can become angry. That is easy. But to be angry with the right person to the right degree at the right time for the right purpose and in the right way, that is not easy.”
Anger can be a strong motivator into action, but it needs to be handled skillfully.
Beneath feelings of anger is always fear, and perhaps sadness and despair. We need to be like Kwan Yin and listen, to hear the suffering. Our own and the suffering of others.
Attend and be-friend, as Tara Brach says.
Some people were saying get over it! the first day after the election, but I think those were mostly Trump supporters. After two days even friends and family started saying get over it, let’s give him a chance, let’s see what happens.
Please don’t tell yourself or your friends to get over your (or their) feelings; it’s not helpful.
I want to re-iterate Step #1 in a blogpost I am about to highly recommend to you. To remind myself and you what is happening in our country IS NOT NORMAL. Of course our bullshit detectors are going to be sounding an alarm. That’s a good thing. We need to listen and we need to take super great care of ourselves and each other.
And… Yes, we need to resist!
I read this great blog the other day that says everything I wanted to and more. Please do take the time to look at it and see if it speaks to you. I’d love to hear what you think. I’d love to hear your ideas for acts of resistance.
The other day I donated to Planned Parenthood in Mike Pence’s name, so he can be notified of my contribution. 20,000 other people have also contributed in this way since the election, including my mom. (Yep, the same one with the rules! Yay mom!)
Also, there’s going to be a Million Woman March in Washington, D. C. the day after the inauguration. There are millions of us who are not going to passively accept our country and planet being devastated. NOT. GONNA. HAPPEN! This. Is. Not. Normal.
The Blog post I’d love you all to read is this one with the fabulous title I Am Begging My Mother Not To Read This Blog, “Twenty Things You Can Do When The World Is Terrifying”. It’s really good. I promise. And again, I’d love to hear your thoughts and feelings!