What happens to us when our feelings feel too big to handle? When we are not sure of what the expression of what’s inside should look like? I would like to share a story that shows how unexpressed feelings can push behavior.
I’d like to introduce you to Levi. Levi is 8 and a half. He is truly the apple of my eye. He’s bright and funny and let’s just say perfect! (I know, I know but I’m his grandma!) I have just spent the past month with him out West. It’s our last day. We are meant to have a quiet morning together before we leave. Levi is bouncing off the walls. He is making a ruckus. His mom is getting annoyed and threatening to punish him. He is having trouble settling down.
I call to Levi and have him sit with me. I say out loud to all – “What was your favourite part of the holiday?” No one answers right away so I go ahead. At this point Levi is sitting in my lap and I am rubbing his back, not able to see his face. I begin by saying my favourite moment was watching Levi at his Christmas concert. He sang with such joy, such heart, raising his little arms in the air with such gusto, looking back to check on his family, beaming with pride. As I am saying this, my own voice cracks because it really was a beautiful moment. (So much so that when Levi came to me after the concert I was in tears I was so proud – to which he of course said, “Grandma KooKoo don’t cry” – because my crying makes him cry!)
His mom all of a sudden says “Levi why are you crying?” – and I realize he is a sobbing puddle in my arms. He wails out, “I am going to miss KooKoo” (that’s me). And there we had it… the feelings Levi was trying to shape, trying to cope with, that were pushing him to distraction. I tried to explain that the degree that you miss someone is a wonderful sign of how much love there is between you, and while these feelings feel really big, they aren’t bad. This helped him settle, helped him calm down. The cork was popped so to speak and we went on with playing a game and enjoying our time, before we all got up to go.
As we were dropped off at the airport, at our final goodbye, Levi looked up at me and said “Grandma Kookoo, please don’t make me cry”. He was asking me to contain myself. He was asking for help to contain his feelings – which he might not have known what to do with later on, after I was gone. So I gave him a wonderful last hug and saved my own tears for when I got on the plane.
Feelings can be big, complicated, messy things. Feeling our longing is hard but it will never be the end of us. Many of us engage in behaviors that distract us and help us not feel – but the problem with that is feelings remain hidden, lurking… pushing things on the inside that make us behave in ways we probably don’t want to behave. Some of us drink, or shop, or engage in risky behavior, cause chaos… whatever, all to avoid feeling sad, lonely, or being in touch with our longing. Truth is though, once you let yourself feel that longing, like Levi was able to do, you’re much better able to move forward, to contain your sense of yourself, to breath easier.
Just some things to think about in the new year ..
Peace to you.