Have you even gotten upset about something after you’ve already let it go?
I know, me neither.
Just kidding. I constantly find myself irked by irksome things I’ve already moved past.
I suspect that when that happens, I, along with you, probably haven’t really let it go or moved on. I just feel a little better eventually as time marches forward, and then I pretend I’m over it (sometimes I even really believe this is true), then get to be all surprised when I get all hot and bothered by the same damn thing over and over again.
I’m pretty sure I’m not alone here, but maybe this will help you out, like when we’re “asking for a friend…”
Obviously there’s no shortage of things to be upset about in life, and I don’t care how enlightened you are: if you’ve got a pulse, then you probably have some feelings about it all.
And you probably have a lot of wisdom telling you that it’s no use being upset over things you can’t control. That if you can’t change something, there’s no point in letting it get to you.
And that would be great advice, if it actually worked. It would be helpful if it meant that you actually stopped being upset by things that you couldn’t control just by knowing that fact, but hey, you put your pants on one leg at a time just like everyone else, and this stuff gets under your skin, just like everyone else, too.
You can’t leave a place until you’ve been there. This is as true for your physical location as it is for your emotional position.
There have been many moments over the last year or so that I have been able to just be with the fact that we’re in a pandemic, and understand that my wishing otherwise was probably not going to be the thing that ended it. I mean, if wishes worked that way, then the sheer volume of wishes of probably almost the entire population of the planet should have brought this global crisis to a swift end months ago, along with a few other pressing concerns to the fate of humanity.
Alas. It hasn’t.
And sometimes, I’ve not been able to just be with it all. Last week in the post office, I fought an irrational urge to rip down the plastic divider over the counter. Not because I don’t think it’s necessary (I’m all on board for not spreading the plague), but because if it was down, then it would mean this was all over, and I desperately want this to be over.
Sometimes, after a year of following restrictions and guidelines and official advise, I lose my shit when I see the numbers climbing, because clearly, a whole lot of other people aren’t doing their part and I can’t even. I try to let it go, but it doesn’t work. People are dying and other people can’t stop going on spring vacations and ski trips. I’m angry. Sad. Frustrated. Helpless.
Pretending I’m not feeling those things doesn’t work. Writing those feelings off with a shrug and a flippant, “Choose your battles, Bay,” doesn’t work, even and especially when I felt and shrugged off the exact same feelings a day, a week, a month, a year ago before.
What really doesn’t work is telling myself there’s no use crying over spilt milk, though it’s good advice when we’re ready for it. But we have to be ready for it, first. It also doesn’t work to come to terms with something once and expect that to hold for all of time.
The thing is, you don’t just slap a Band-Aid on an injury without cleaning it out first. That’s pretty basic first aid, whether it’s physical injury or emotional hygiene we’re talking about.
When we have a physical wound, we need to change the bandages, or else the wound gets infected and either hurts more, hurts longer, takes longer to heal, or gets really gross, causing infection that spreads to healthy tissues, leaving even more and deeper damage and scarring.
When we have an emotional upset, the same goes. You have to change the bandages as often as it takes until it’s healed. It’s not a one-and-done thing. It can be, sometimes, if it was a minor upset, but even then not always, and especially not when the wound keeps reopening, or it opens an old wound back up again after a long time left dormant.
Forgiveness and completion are the bandages and the salve here. Forgiveness you already know (I hope), and completion is the act of forgiving all of whatever happened or didn’t happen, including your part, taking responsibility for what you can own, and then letting go of any energetic hold you have on it, on others, or any shaking off any energetic hold it has on you.
Just like we clean out a wound before we cover it with a bandage, we need to clear out the energy the upset is causing. Sometimes, this is a journal entry (or several). Sometimes, it’s a conversation with a loved one who can just hold space to witness and let you vent, or a therapist or trained professional who can listen and help you tease the tangle apart. Sometimes, it’s a hard workout that breaks down your carefully guarded walls so that you can finally cry it out. Sometimes, it’s screaming into a pillow, throwing a tantrum on a bed, or chopping wood with way more force than really necessary.
Sometimes, it’s all of it. Over and over again.
This pent-up energy is the dirt, germs and debris in the emotional wound. It needs to get out before it can be healed. And I think most of us grown ups tend to skip this part, because that’s what everyone else is doing, and that’s what we’re taught about being adults. Pull it together. Keep calm and carry on. Stiff upper lip, and all that.
No wonder we’re all so frigging touchy, pandemic or otherwise. We’re all a bunch of emotionally constipated land mines, just trying to avoid getting blown up by our own feelings, let alone anyone else’s.
The answer to what to do when you can’t even is to let things go, but not just once. We have to let it go, over and over again, as many times as it comes up for us. And, in order to do that, we have to let things in, first. We have to let go of the judgment we have on ourselves for letting something get to us that we need to let go of in the first place.
We have to pick the gravel out of our skinned knees, and know that the stinging when you clean the wound is part of the healing process. It’s so much easier to pop a pill and numb physical pain, the same way that it’s easier to distract ourselves from our feelings to ignore them, too.
I’m not saying it’s wrong to numb out. Sometimes, we need to numb out, give ourselves a little space to breathe. But stay numb for too long, and you’ll miss the signs of injury or sickness that is worsening, like cancer. And like cancer, you don’t want to find out that it’s too late to do anything about it after it’s too late.