Nachos and emotions

24 10 2011

I often feel afraid. I get scared for the world, my son, our finances, aging, illness, random accidents, violence, my parent’s health, my ability to perform, ad insania. I am aware that fear is a healthy part of the human experience and while it is uncomfortable, I can usually let it have it’s say then be done for a while. However, there is a particular variety of fear that I have difficulty with. It is the fear that I might not be doing the “RIGHT” thing. The fear that I might be choosing the wrong path and this will be the beginning of a long and difficult downward spiral that will ultimately lead to me and my wife being homeless and living under a bridge. I usually operate under the principal that the best policy for any emotion is to treat it like a less than welcome relative at a family reunion. This fear however is the relative that ruins holidays, eats all of the turkey skin, and just won’t leave.

Only bad emotions eat all the turkey skin.

In my experience, at any family gathering, there are relatives that you are excited to see like Aunt Margie, who, on an intuitive whim, bought you your first book of poetry and set you off on a lifetime of passionate reading and poetic discovery. You give her a warm hug and invite her to sit next to you at the table so you can discuss the passion of Neruda or the subversive puckishness of Cummings. Then of course there is Uncle Hank, ( a close talker) who upon hearing that you liked poetry asked you if you wore a bonnet while you read, setting you off on a lifetime of defensively blurting out “YEAH I LIKE POETRY!”” WHAT?!” Him, you give a half- hearted handshake to ( of course, he squeezes too hard) and pray that his ulcer acts up so he has to leave.

You're damn right I wandered lonely as a cloud!

At my own family reunion of the soul, I really enjoy sitting next to Aunt Confidence and Cousin Playfulness both of whom are delightful guests that always bring warm appreciation, encouragement, fun conversation and REALLY good blue cheese and bacon potato salad. Alternately, I try to avoid Uncle Anxiety and Aunt Indecision, who come barging into my conversations to ask,”do you really think that you can succeed doing this “coaching” thing and wouldn’t it be more prudent to go to school for a few more years, after all isn’t it selfish and unrealistic to expect that doing what you love will be enough to feed your family?” “By the way, did you try our carrot, mayo and raisin salad?” (Come on Ulcer!)

The culinary equivalent of anxiety.

I try to be patient and remember that abiding their company only makes me stronger. I try to be like Byron Katie and just let the emotion speak so that I can learn from it. But in order for that to work I can’t be thinking “Speak your truth, oh wise fear, so that you can get the f^%$ out sooner.” Apparently it doesn’t work that way.  Unavoidably, I usually end up sitting with just them at 11:30pm, chewing on dry turkey breast that just won’t go down even after I have had a swig directly from the gravy boat. At the end of the day, after they have had their way with the pie and my self esteem, they leave and life goes back to normal.

Rumi imagines the human experience as being a guest house. His advice is to make room for all who come as according to him they all bring gifts. That is an elegant and poetic way to say sit with it and stop complaining. As far as I can tell, he is right and it seems that all teachers say the same. Sitting with difficult emotions sucks worse than sitting through “Disney on Ice.” At “Disney on Ice” at least you can get nachos. But there doesn’t seem to be any other way. The feelings are going to be there and they are going to get their two cents in no matter what you do. Like pain in the body, they bear a message. The pain is trying to tell you something. Uncle and Auntie are making me aware of my need to really appreciate the path that I am on and give it my full attention and focus. In short the message I got was to be grateful, keep working hard and be clear about what I want.

My problem with emotional pain is that while it is loud and certainly uncomfortable, it is less of a clear communicator than the pain you get from being too eager to eat ice rink nachos. The message there is clear “Slow down fat kid, this cheese is like napalm!” The other troublesome thing about Emotional pain is that we can share it. When (not if) I blister the roof of my mouth on a 6 dollar tray of nachos,


I can’t point at the guy doing a double axel in his Quasimodo outfit and make his mouth hurt as well. Not without a spoon and amazing accuracy, that is.  (You have to wait until he cries out for Esmeralda to get the shot.) But, if I feel anxious and miserable, I can easily walk out into the street and inadvertently cause the mail man to feel anxious and miserable as well. If he is up for it, that is.

Easier than feelings, in some ways.

So, because I can’t live with myself when I inadvertently project my negative emotions onto others, (or my hot cheese and jalepenos) I choose to sit with my feelings. I choose, however begrudgingly, to make a nice place for them at the table. I don’t always sit them next to me, but maybe down there by Grandpa Compassion. If he wakes up, he will know what to do with them.




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