Life is like kettlecorn
I’ve had a breakthrough.
I woke up this morning, our last day of vacation in a beautiful resort, with terrible anxiety. It’s a great way to wake up, one that I know far too many people share.
And I did the only reasonable thing, I started beating myself up for being anxious (like that is going to help). After all, I just spent a week with my family, my kids have had a great time, the weather has held out (except for the tornado warning and tropical storm where we had to hang out in the concrete stairwell), and I actually read a whole YA fiction without a care in the world.
So why did I wake up anxious and what does that have to do with Kettlecorn?
I woke up anxious because that’s what my brain likes to do in the morning, or because of the high cortisol levels that our bodies have first thing in the morning. This can cause physiological symptoms that our bodies identify as stress… hence the anxiety. Either way it is really annoying. Especially on vacation.
So my first line of defense is always some type of breathing or meditation (after resisting the urge to check the time). But I don’t know if you have ever tried an approach like this first thing in the morning, it’s not easy. After all, it has to compete with all the crazy thoughts that seem to have been waiting for that first glimmer of consciousness to come barging in.
Back to the breakthrough.
It’s safe to say that everyone would agree that there are highs and lows in life. And when we feel low, we really want that feeling to go away so we can feel better. Even with the morning anxiety, the first thing to do is a practice that has been shown to alleviate it, like meditation. It makes sense, especially as nurses, that we want to fix what’s wrong and build what’s right.
But it can be so frustrating. Especially when the symptoms don’t just go away, or are chronic. And the worst part is, we then feel like we have to wait for this to get better to feel better.
But what if this wasn’t true?
What if instead of spending so much energy resisting and fixing, we just let the anxiety be there and we felt other feelings right alongside it?
What if we didn’t have to stop feeling bad to feel good? What if we could have both at the same time?
Like the salty sweet of kettle corn?
The point of the sugar in kettle corn isn’t to drown out or cover the salt and the salt isn’t there to make the sugar palatable. They are both just part of the experience (yes, kettle corn is an experience).
Let me give you some examples of what this could look like.
What if we can be,
Anxious and calm at the same time?
Stressed and relaxed at the same time?
Worried and peaceful at the same time?
Angry and compassionate at the same time? (this one is tough, but doable)
Embarrassed and confident at the same time?
Aggravated and patient at the same time?
Sad and happy at the same time?
Motivated and stuck at the same time?
This is the breakthrough my friends: we don’t have to stop feeling one way to feel another. We can hold space for both within ourselves, for ourselves. I only stumbled across this reality a few weeks ago and it is already changing my life. Instead of working really hard to feel better before moving forward with whatever it is we want in our lives we can just allow space for both feelings and just get started. It’s not either/or.
Maybe feeling sad doesn’t lend itself to making some elaborate plan of getting in shape. But maybe if we allow ourselves to not wait to feel better, just getting started on something today can give some happiness while we are sad. WE CAN HAVE BOTH.
Or maybe it’s totally fine that I am anxious, that I feel that somehow I should have taken more advantage of this week, enjoyed it more (whatever that means). I can feel this way AND so happy that we have had a great time. I don’t have to get rid of the anxiety to feel whole, and happy, and worthy.
What are you struggling to overcome in your life?
What are you telling yourself needs to change so you can be happy, or productive, or, God-forbid, “better”?
What if you can have ALL the feelings AND move forward toward what you want? What would happen if you drop the black and white thinking, the all or nothing? What if you just gave yourself a little grace and space?
You may be tempted to think this won’t work, that we have to feel a certain way to move forward, that we need some “fixing”.
The key is not to ignore or suppress the “negative” feeling, not to push it away. This takes a lot of energy and, frankly, doesn’t work. The key is to feel both feelings, bring both along for the ride.
This was suggested to me last week when I was anxious about getting everything done FOR vacation. I was struggling with competing thoughts of “you won’t get it all done” and “it will all be fine”. If the thought is easily changeable, by all means, do that and change the resultant feeling. But sometimes the thoughts are persistent and distracting.
So it was somewhat mindblowing when it was suggested that I could be anxious and calm. I was trying to get the anxiety to go away so I could feel calm and be productive. But the thoughts weren't easily changeable so the polarizing feelings that come with them wouldn't change either. Just knowing I could actually feel calm despite the anxiety made me feel so much better.
Invite all the feelings in and do what you want.
The kettle corn is just part of the carnival, it comes alongside amazing rides and weird clientele. Whatever you do, don’t skip the kettlecorn.
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