Everyone person on Earth at this moment gets to claim the dubious distinction of living through one of humanity’s historic events. Our planet is in the grip of a pandemic, a situation that’s showing the many fault lines in our economy, governments, and education, healthcare, and housing systems.
There is so much discomfort at this time. There is so much unknown. We weigh every decision, life must keep moving forward, we need our relationships, and we also need to be smart. The words that press into our minds carry a lot of weight.
And I want to talk about feeling it and expressing it, free of guilt and shame.
First of all, let’s talk about toxic positivity. This is a concept that, according to Psychology Today, insists that “keeping positive, only, is the right way to live your life. It means focusing on only the positive and rejecting anything that may trigger negative emotions.”
The problem, of course, is that our wise bodies and minds developed the ability to feel negative emotions for important reasons. In a bad situation, fear’s gonna save your ass. Vulnerability softens your edges and deepens your social bonds. Worry helps us predict and plan. Sadness can be a gratitude practice performed in reverse. As Glennon Doyle writes, “grief is the receipt we wave in the air that shows the world: Look! Love once was mine.”
So, if you need to hear this today, here it is:
You’re allowed to talk or write about what worries you, what makes you sad, and what makes you angry. These fleeting emotions do not make you negative, do not make you less than ideal. They make you human. It’s okay to feel afraid or vulnerable or uncertain or small or pissed off right now. It’s okay to share these things, and since we’re not hanging out as much as we used to, it might make the most sense to share these feelings through social media. Don’t let someone silence your voice because it’s better for someone else’s bottom line if we all play pretend. Your right to free expression is every bit as valid as theirs.
There is no virtue in constant positivity. No prize for being insistently upbeat. There’s no courage in the absence of fear. Bravery can only exist if one is first afraid. Strong is feeling the pain or discomfort and carrying on anyway. Strong is baring the weight of a thing. Easy has nothing to do with strong. There’s no rule that says you can’t cry out.
A great mystery of this world is that two contradictions can be true at one time:
You can feel fear as well as gratitude.
You can be afraid and hopeful at the same time.
Sometimes worry is simply proof of deep love.
And the really, truly, beautiful thing about being alive
is that you can to feel it
and you get to speak it
Every damned, gorgeous, horrifying, brave, new now.