Written by: Gracie Mayer, contributing writer
This slip is good for an entire holiday season of the feels. Yes, you are welcome. This slip entitles you to all the feels, the full spectrum – happy, sad, furious, delighted, grateful, love struck, heartbroken, and yes, even all of the grey area in-between. Whenever you notice that you are turning to one of those negative coping skills that is sure to numb all of your feelings and turn you into an emotional zombie…STOP, re-read this slip, and SIT IN THOSE FEELS. I want you to allow yourself to experience whatever emotions come up for you, and in addition, I give you permission to feel these feelings without judgment. This in NOT a permission slip to shit all over yourself and call yourself a grinch if sadness, loneliness or anger creeps up. This permission slip is an all inclusive reminder to feel without judging yourself, to feel with courage and passion.
I have only met a couple of people in my life who feel without inhibition. These few lean into the raw beauty of feeling honestly and openly. The first time I met someone who felt so freely, I was scared shitless. I assumed that this person was irrational, too exposed, or maybe even someone with ulterior motives. This person felt and felt passionately, refusing to operate under the societal notion that he was only allowed to show the appropriate emotions, at the appropriate times, in the appropriate manner. I was blown away by the free flow of honesty and his ability to “wear his heart on his sleeve.” This was a quality that at times I could admire, but my admiration was clouded by the reality that I could not properly control and manage my emotions in the outside world. Society had led me to believe that it’s ok to feel; well, to feel sometimes. And only the feelings that are desirable and socially acceptable. Oh, and if you do express these emotions, be aware of where you are and who is around you. Oh and make sure that your emotions are not a burden on others and their own struggles. Oh and don’t be too open too fast. Oh and also don’t forget about “gender normative behavior,” so anger is off the table. Oh and also just be happy because it’s just easier to make people like you, but not too happy because heaven forbid someone interprets it as “fake happy.”
I was led to believe that “wearing your heart on your sleeve” was just an unfortunate case of not being able to control your emotions or manage the image you had so carefully presented to the world. But here is the truth – and I’m sorry Shakespeare – the world is not a stage. You are not an actor. You are a human being and every feeling you are experiencing in this moment has been felt before. Those around you, those who have come before you: we are all connected by the fact that somewhere, sometime, someone has felt exactly as you are feeling now. When we deny our right to feel emotion, we deny ourselves the ability connect to others and the world around us.
Yes, with greater emotional exposure comes greater risk of being hurt. However, with greater emotional exposure also comes deeper connection. When I find people who allow themselves the full range of human emotions and allow it without judgment, I am fascinated and instantly enthralled. I am inspired by people who lead with their heart. I find that relationships with true “feelers” are uncomfortable at times because the mask that provides comfort and security has been taken off. But they are also the deepest relationships we will ever have and that is what makes the vulnerability worth it. I am not saying that we should open the flood gates, acting on every little emotion we face this holiday season – screaming at the in-laws, dropping down on one knee to propose to the cute Whole Foods cashier who has been so nice during all the crazy holiday shopping, or confronting Aunt Millie in front of the whole family to let her know that you will not be eating the green jello casserole because it is reminiscent of Nickelodeon slime. However, even if I gave you this permission slip to “freely feel,” I doubt many of you would rush to do any of those things. Mainly because, if you are anything like me, allowing yourself to openly feel your emotions is scary enough as it is.
However, I would like to ask you what you are feeling right now? What is this article bringing up for you? Check-in with yourself. Sit back. Put one hand on your heart and one hand on your belly. Breath deeply and connect. Hold space for whatever comes up for you and try to meet it with compassion and non-judgment. What would you express if you were given permission to feel the WHOLE spectrum of human emotions? What would you tell others around you? What would you do differently? And… do you think, just maybe, that at the end of your little feelings experiment, you might just end up feeling free?
I will end with a quote from one of my favorite songs, “Mary Jane” by Alanis Morissette. I hope it inspires you to allow whatever comes up for you this holiday season to be seen, heard and honored:
“Please be honest Mary Jane
Are you happy?
Please don’t censor your tears.
You’re the sweet crusader,
And you’re on your way.
You’re the last great innocent,
And that’s why I love you.
So take this moment Mary Jane and be selfish,
Worry not about the cars that go by.
‘Cause all that matters Mary Jane is your freedom
So keep warm my dear, keep dry.”