I'm a Little Verklempt Over Here

Oh my god, I’m so sorry, I sobbed to the girl next door when she said hi; I’m not usually like this.

A fair statement, no? Let me, however, set the scene.

I've been staying in Bali, and my family is in the States. This means there is a 12 hour time difference and for the past 3 days, before this ridiculous statement was uttered by me, my dad had been in hospital with a failing heart and failing kidneys. My oh-so-logical brain was doing everything it could to process the few messages coming through from my family in the morning [their evening] and having to wait what seemed to be an interminable length of time for their day to start so that I could get any more updates. They were sleeping while I was telling myself not to think the worst, but ya know, actually thinking the worst.

So, a few days in, when a neighbour passed by and said Hi, I lost it, the floodgates opened, and I sobbed uncontrollably. I'm not *sob sob sob usually *sob like this.

What does that even mean? I’m not usually like this? What, upset that my dad is not well?

My identity has been so wrapped up in not being an emotional person, at least that's how I would have described myself. I am stoic, logical, thinking, not swayed by emotion in my decision making. In reality, that is deluded.

First, I was dealing with something that none of us ever wants to deal with: the very real possibility of losing a parent. So, am I normally emotionally fragile? No. But I am not normally dealing with major health issues for my dad who is, quite literally, half a world away.

Second, what is with this narrative I have for myself that I am not emotional? Emotions are real! They are physical responses to real events that happen. They are unavoidable, and by their very nature, illogical. So, to say that I am not an emotional person is, truth be told, a ridiculous statement. Yet, it's one I've been telling myself (and everyone else) for years!

Now, feelings, on the other hand --

If you'd asked me, Are you a feeling person?

Wha? Hold the phone? You need to even ask? I am one of the most empathetic people you'll meet! Not only am I sensitive and concerned, but I genuinely feel empathy for everyone I meet. This would have been my reaction.

So, when I said I'm not an emotional person, what I meant was that I am not a person who is controlled by my feelings. And, there may be some truth to that - since our feelings are the reactions to our emotions based on experience.

In my life, I learned to keep my feelings at bay, not to let them bubble to the surface. I learned not to feel deeply and not to show feelings as my way of avoiding pain.

Which is what led me to say that I am not usually a crier, while I was going through a very feeling-fueled situation of concern and worry and fear. Oh, with a little isolation thrown in.

The thing about our feelings, as opposed to our emotions, is that we CAN control them. Once you know that your feelings are formed by your very real and very natural emotions, you can identify clearly how you feel.

I felt frustrated, alone, confused and worried.

Once I knew this and thought it through - allowing myself to feel the feels so that I could work out what exactly they were - my logical mind was re-engaged. I took control. I removed the narrative that I'm not an emotional person. I removed the narrative that not showing feelings meant that I wasn't showing weakness. I removed the narrative that I was a crazy lady for feeling sensitive during a very sensitive situation.

I changed the story I tell myself - and you can too.

Kristen Franey