this week, i watched the movie "Inside Out", and man, was it so good (and cute, and sweet, and moving, and authentic). seriously, my inner-pixar-loving child was coming out big time. in a nutshell, the movie discussed the emotions and inner feelings of an eleven-year-old girl. from joy to sadness, to fear to anger to disgust, it truly captured it all-- the good, bad, and ugly, as they say.
what i loved so much about this movie, and what i have learned to be true in my life as of late, is that it is okay to have memories and situations that are not marked as strictly "joyful" or just "sad". you can have a mix, and, to me, it is actually encouraged. beyond the black and white of the world, life is more complex than we want it to be. if we block out emotions like sadness or fear, how do we ever grasp the fullness of joy and freedom? to accurately keep our lives in a healthy state, we must experience genuine feelings-- ones that hurt and make us cry, and ones that come with a grin and that warm feeling in your chest. we must have one to obtain the other.
so often, i look for permission to "feel something". whether that be permission from a friend, family member, counselor, or book, i constantly ask those around me "is it okay to feel/think ____?". i have always been a rule-follower kind of girl ever since i can remember. i can recall the one and only time i got in trouble in elementary school. it was the one hundredth day of school, so my class was sitting on the rainbow carpet in the middle of the room carefully examining jars filled to the brim, each with one hundred items. my teacher reached for the jar of marbles, eager to twist the cap of to share with us, yet was having trouble. she asks the class "who is strong in here and can help me?". i immediately respond with a loud "i am!" as i reach for the girl's arm that is next to me and twist it so hard it turns red. the teacher gasps, the girl cries, i cry, and the dang jar went unopened. i was mortified and had to have a talk with the teacher between my hyperventilation and excessive tears about what just occurred. sorry, haley (girl whose arm got twisted), i have been beating myself up for this since that day. *whew! talk about guilt!* all this to say, i do not break rules. i go the speed limit, do not pass "do not enter" signs, and rarely eat food past it's expiration date. however, when it comes to more complex situations, with no rule or course to go by, i question how i should act. i used to denounce any anger. disappointment, or sadness in response to a circumstance where that was my natural response. i thought that by allowing myself to feel those emotions, i was weak, vulnerable & not the 'strong, independent woman (who don't need no man)' that is so prized in our society. yet, that is so far from the truth.
i was texting a friend recently about a situation i was quite frustrated about. i tried to "play it cool"-- you know, no exclamation points or all-caps-- to appear that my current dilemma was no big deal. i expected an overly-positive "it is all going to be okay" reply, but was met with feedback that contained validation and permission of my feelings. sometimes, allowing someone to be angry, sad, frustrated or disappointed is needed to get to the next step. not to give them permission to wallow in their own pity for weeks on end, but granting someone the freedom to act on what is emotionally natural in the moment. whether that be to scream, cry, vent, or to scowl and growl (my personal favorite), by giving permission to hurt, you open the door for growth, acceptance, and embrace of the circumstance.
(^thanks, friend! you know who you are.)
phrases such as "spread good vibes" and "positivity only" surface a good portion of pinterest boards, instagram feeds, and walls of hip coffee shops. while it sounds enjoyable and simple in a water-colored print, is it really doable? can we really only be happy all the time? the answer, my friend, is no. not to be negative-nelly here, but is just unrealistic to think that life is going to be all daisies and roses. the facts are this: hard times have come (and are coming), yet also great experiences have occurred (and will continue to occur), plus every little happening in between. some years, it will be a 50-50 split between the good & bad, and most years it will vary like no other. yet, do not let yourself miss out on the reward of true joy by not admitting an initial emotion. metaphorically, i am saying that it is okay to not immediately turn lemons into lemonade (what? who are you and what have you done with Cate?!). it is okay to miss someone that is no longer in your life, or to wish for a state of life that has come and gone. let yourself taste the bitterness and pain of the situation for a moment so that you can thoroughly enjoy the sweetness that is to come.
(pro tip: ditch the lemons altogether, and make some brownies.)
learning to let yourself go through the ups and downs of life, taking each phase at your own speed, is part of being a fully authentic individual. because, occasionally we have to remind others that we also do not have our crap together. but who really does, anyway?
(read more on this in my post on letting go of perfection here )
give someone permission today to be themselves-- to respond with true gentleness and validation for the sake of emotional progress and a genuine soul. someone out there needs it,
and it may just be you.