I’ve really been struggling this week. All my life I have been taught that it is important to be kind, and loving and forgiving. To get rid of “negative” emotions. Fake it till you make it. Be a good girl, wife, mother, worker. Be humble, put others before yourself. That all worked pretty well until my husband died. That cracked me open and I have been leaking a rainbow of emotions ever since.
Fast forward to this week’s sermon at church. Pastor Pete is doing a sermon series based on the book “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality” by Peter Scazzero. My summary is that we are multifaceted beings (emotional, spiritual, intellectual, physical, etc.) and in order to be spiritually mature we need to grow in all areas including emotionally.
To quote Pastor Pete, “We’ve all got some drama goin’ on.” However, it isn’t the drama that causes us suffering, it’s what we think about it that does. It is the thinking that causes the feelings. Presumably we are referring mostly to the “negative” feelings like sadness, anger, jealousy, frustration, etc. I am supposed to get my brain under control to change my perspective about my life drama. Without that constant cultivating of our thoughts, Kristin St-Germain on “The Widowed Mom Podcast” says that the mind becomes like a toddler with a Sharpie on the loose.
I can see how this works in a simple situation. Lets say somebody tells me I am lazy. I can think “What a horrible person! How rude!” and ruminate on it all day feeling angry. Or I can think “Okay, I was taking a break when they saw me, but I know I am a good worker.” and move on. It’s a little more complex than that: I am having all these emotions related to the death of my husband. How do I change my thoughts regarding that? I don’t think I’m being dramatic in thinking that this is the worst thing that has happened to me. I’m stumped as to how to control my thoughts here, and to what end?
Furthermore, I want to keep all of my emotions now. There is no way to vacuum them up and put them back anyhow. My emotions and memories (thoughts) are tied toge. Tese are what I have left of my husband and our life together and I don’t want to lose any of it, the good, the bad, and the ugly.
I was scribbling down notes and observations, trying to piece it all together, but it just wasn’t adding up. I had a flashback to senior year of high school, history class with Mr. Donohue. I can’t remember what we were studying exactly but I just couldn’t get it through my head. I was so upset, to the point of tears that he took me out of class, into the hall to talk to me. I was having that same feeling. I was so engaged with the sermon, and suddenly it became clear that I am missing some key point, or maybe I really haven’t got what it takes to have emotionally healthy spirituality. I wanted to rip my several pages of notes into tiny pieces, throw them in the air and walk out with a squall of paper confetti raining down on me.
I think the toddler with the Sharpie isn’t even on my radar right now, because there is another one repeatedly hitting me with building blocks, and a third trying to set fire to the curtains. Don’t worry, I am not throwing in the towel yet, although I am prone to fits of emotion, and as of late, door kicking (see “The Door Needed Kicking” post). I am not done. I will wrestle with this one too, or with the nearest theologian, psychologist, and philosopher until I pin down the meaning of all this. If all else fails I will be imagining my Sharpie wielding toddler drawing mustaches and Groucho Marx eyebrows on all of them.