What's in the gallery?

We dissolve stuck and rewrite patterns. We apply radical playfulness to life (when we feel like it!), embarking on internal adventures (credo of Safety First). We have a fake band called Solved By Cake. We build invisible sanctuaries, invent words and worlds, breathe awe and wonder.

We are not impressed by monsters. Except when we are. We explore the connections between internal territories and surrounding environment to learn what marvelously supportive delicious space feels like, and how to take exquisite care of ourselves. We transform things.* We glow wild.**

* For example: Desire, fear, worry, pain-and-trauma, boundaries, that problematic word which rhymes with flaweductivity.

** Fair warning: Self-fluency has been known to lead to extremely subversive behavior, including treasuring yourself unconditionally, unapologetically taking up space, experiencing outrageously improbable levels of self-acceptance, and general rejoicing in aliveness.


This is what I’m feeling.

I keep talking with people this week who are … who are feeling conflicted about feeling ambivalent about feeling whatever they’re feeling.

There’s got to be a better way to say that but I don’t know what it is.

It’s as if we forget that it doesn’t really matter what other people think we’re supposed to be feeling — or even what we think we’re supposed to be feeling.

What I think.

Ambivalence is absolutely legitimate. Always.

And yet there’s this weird societal thing* that comes into play when we think we know what we’re “supposed to be feeling”.

* I should mention: this does not happen to everybody. My gentleman friend, for example, does not doubt his feelings. It’s pretty cool. But it happens to me. And to a lot of my clients and students.

We put pressure on ourselves to feel a certain way when a certain something happens. Or we feel frustrated and anxious when the emotion we’re feeling doesn’t match the one we think we’re expected to feel.

Like this: we think that when we get the thing we’ve wanted for so long, we’re supposed to feel gleeful.

We’re supposed to feel overjoyed. We’re supposed to turn cartwheels and throw confetti and run into the sunset, kicking up our heels like Christopher Robin. And there will be jazz hands. Jazz hands!

It just doesn’t work like that.

At least, it doesn’t always work like that.

Because, you know, we’re complex beings.

We have mixed emotions. We have complicated and nuanced understandings of situations.

And we have our own personal history and relationships with different aspects of whatever situation we’re dealing with.

But here’s the really important part — and I’m saying this as much for me as I am for anyone else:

You are allowed to feel whatever it is you’re feeling.

If it’s something you’re feeling, it is a legitimate thing to feel.

No one gets to say, hey you’re feeling it wrong!

  • You’re allowed to feel fearful and happy at the same time.
  • You’re allowed to not know what you’re feeling.
  • You’re allowed to want to feel something else than the thing that you’re feeling.
  • It’s pretty much all fine.

The one thing that I am absolutely sure of is that ambivalence is totally normal.

It’s what’s for breakfast.

You don’t always feel sad when someone dies. You don’t always feel free when something ends. You don’t always feel happy when you do the thing you’ve been waiting to do.

One of the hardest parts about getting divorced (for me) was everyone going oh nooooooooooooooo. And not wanting to explain that what I was feeling was relief and fear and freedom. That it was complicated.

And you don’t have to feel happy when you get what you want.

True story: whenever I make any sort of big life change (or something that feels like a big life change), I start throwing up like crazy. Lovely symbolic body stuff.

When I stopped being a bartender and transitioned to full-time yoga teacher? Oh, the vomiting.

When I met my gentleman friend? I threw up all over the place. In fact, every time I’ve fallen in love that’s happened.

It’s not because these aren’t good things. It’s because processing change is scary and weird. Which is okay.

So feeling conflicted or confused or a bunch of mixed emotions doesn’t mean the thing isn’t actually what you want, or that you’re not grateful to have it.

And just because a decision doesn’t result in you feeling over-the-top elated doesn’t necessarily mean that it wasn’t a good decision.

It just means that you’re processing.

The only stuckified part is the guilt.

This is where I get stuck. I find myself saying things like, “Why am I so tired?” or “Why am I so sad?”

And I forget that … the thing you’re feeling is the thing you’re feeling.

So I’m really trying to work on rephrasing that stuff so that I can say things like this: “Wow. I seem to be really tired right now. I’m going to find out what I need.”

Or: “I don’t know yet what the reason is behind this sadness that I’m experiencing, but I’m sure it’s a good one, and that this is a reasonable thing to be feeling right now.”

Also, giving legitimacy to feelings is a really weird practice. And definitely not one that gets modeled a lot.

So. Here’s to not having to feel what you think you’re supposed to feel. And to not worrying about whether other people might take issue with whatever it is you’re feeling.

And feeling however you want to feel about that, dammit! Ha. Jazz hands!

Comment zen

We all have stuff. We’re all working on our stuff.

29 Responses to This is what I’m feeling.

  1. Emma Newman
    Twitter: emapocalyptic

    Oh my, I don’t think this post could have been more timely. In fact, just before coming over I tweeted about feeling all over the place. Discombobulated. I’m being pulled in so many directions at the moment, expending tonnes of energy, and being really, really brave. I’d like to think you’d be proud of me ;)

    Thing is, this past week I’ve broken through some huge blocks and finally launched my ittybiz. I even went to a real world networking event. I was thrilled about it all, and now… now I’m just… meh.

    Maybe it’s a come down, maybe there’s still loads to process, but, oh my, I didn’t realise how much I could feel all at the same time about one thing. Enough already!
    .-= Emma Newman´s last post … Lemon-free networking for social media types: my first Brrism =-.

  2. Carol Logan Newbill
    Twitter: 2fishweb

    You don’t always feel sad when someone dies.

    My sister died early this morning after a long and very painful bout with cancer. I can’t be sad because she is no longer in pain. I will miss her but in a lot of ways I did my grieving earlier, when I found out how little time she had left. Others in the family don’t understand this. That’s not easy.

    But I am very glad that I am old enough and have healthy boundaries enough to say that’s their stuff, not mine. I feel as I feel, they feel as they must. And I won’t let them dictate how they think I *should* feel.

    Here’s to many fewer “shoulds” and many more “this is how I am and it’s okay” for all of us.
    .-= Carol Logan Newbill´s last post … Two Great Ways to Send Your Readers Fleeing into the Night =-.

  3. Barbara J Carter
    Twitter: barbarajcarter

    I like it. “Giving legitimacy to feelings.” This is really another aspect of sovereignty, isn’t it? Not worrying about whether you’re feeling what other people think you should be feeling.

    My own divorce-feeling story: A friend of mine had been through two divorces herself, so when she heard my marriage had ended she heartily congratulated me. To her, divorce is something happy to celebrate. But I was crushed. My divorce was the most painful, sorrowful episode of my life. It threw me into a deep clinical depression.

    Now, years later, I still feel echoes of the powerful overwhelming sadness from that time.

    I’m good about giving myself permission to not be productive when I’m feeling bad, but I think I can take it to the next level and listen to what I need when the feelings are hard. Thank you for this!
    .-= Barbara J Carter´s last post … “Dots 14? little bitty painting =-.

  4. steph says:

    Wow am I in that category of people (feeling conflicted about feeling ambivalent). I’m trying (sometimes successfully, sometimes not) to remember to make space for whatever the ambivalence-of-the-day is today. Thanks for sharing this.

  5. Tracy says:

    Havi, you’re so good at saying (writing) the stuff that no one else says (writes). Feelings are messy and confusing and weird enough without smothering them under layers of shoulds and whys. Sometimes things are just hard, in their own peculiar nonsensical flavors of difficulty, regardless of what we were expecting to find.
    .-= Tracy´s last post … Reflection: Stitching Meditation =-.

  6. Marcy says:

    This is what I’ve been needing to hear for the past few months…since May I found out that my mom has cancer (scary, but treatable), my grandfather died (sad, but expected), I got fired from a job I hated (scary, empowering, how do I pay the bills?), and I got engaged to my fabulous supportive partner(exciting but scary in a different way). I didn’t know what to feel, but I’ve been spending so much time focusing on what I should be doing and should be feeling, that I’ve sort of forgotten to see what it is that I really need and want. I haven’t really allowed myself to be who I am and who I need to be for fear that it wasn’t the right thing to be doing or feeling as a newly engaged/unemployed/daughter of cancer patient kind of person which I apparently am. Your posts on sovereignty have helped me to begin to see how I need to accept where I am in order to see where I might want to go, and this one was the best yet. It’s the impetus I need to cherish the time I have as an unemployed person to take care of myself, and let those creative sides of myself that were so stifled in my crazy job to run free.

    So for this post and so, so, so many others these past few crazy/exciting/scary months, I thank you.

  7. chris zydel
    Twitter: wildheartqueen

    Dearest Havi,

    Thanks for another wonderful post! This is something that I am constantly working with as part of my practice of radical self acceptance with myself and my students, so I’m happy to hear you talking about it here. But it’s hard.

    Hard for most of us to just accept where we are at any given moment, because we all have a lifetime of experience of being TALKED out of our experience. It starts with other people who often love us and are well meaning but get uncomfortable with what we are feeling cause they can’t accept what THEY are feeling and the whole thing just goes around and around. And we are left with not knowing how to trust ourselves. And feeling vaguely wrong and guilty and ashamed. And forgetting how to love all of our wacky complexity.

    So thanks for the reminder to try and accept the wisdom of our body and our hearts. To make space for what is going on with us no matter what it is.

    And to give ourselves permission to be as ambivalent and interesting as we are!!
    .-= chris zydel´s last post … Abuse Your Art Supplies =-.

  8. Wormy
    Twitter: SecretWormy

    Wheeee! I love this – just love it. It is so timely and so incredibly Havi and just wonderful.


    Thank you.
    .-= Wormy´s last post … Clothes! Hats! Men Dressing Up! Oh, Handbags and Hairstyles – it’s all happening here. =-.

  9. Faith says:

    Perfect post for me today, since I spent the morning paralyzed with anxiety over what should be happening now that I’m not going to work for the moment, rather than just enjoying the space I have while I have it. I am always ambivalent, and constantly conflicted about it. It’s tiring.

  10. Dawn says:

    Thanks, Havi, for this beautiful reminder. I experience a great deal of pain and grief over this. Over not feeling a certain way, or feeling a certain way and then worrying how that will make me look to others. Gah! I’m full of “shoulds” around feelings.

    This is especially timely because I have had major changes the past couple of days. Just a couple of days ago, I finally landed a new full-time job, so that means a MAJOR life transition. I’ll be leaving my current part-time job, which feels like such a loss, but is also full of opportunity. I am also preparing for my dissertation defense in a little over a month, so another huge life shift.

    I love how gracefully you model healthy behavior, and I’m grateful for you!

  11. Sonia Simone
    Twitter: soniasimone

    This is cool, thank you. I have a lot of stuff coming together that truly is wonderful, and I have a lot of freaking out to do around it.

    Actually, it feels exactly like it did about 15 years ago when I went to Moscow. The plane was coming in low over the dachas around the city, and I was gripping the armrest thinking nonononono. One of the best travel experiences I’ve ever had, but dang, immense resistance and fear.
    .-= Sonia Simone´s last post … What Makes Marketing Hard? =-.

  12. emilylime
    Twitter: emilylime

    Great, this is great! Loving this reframe:

    This is where I get stuck. I find myself saying things like, “Why am I so tired?” or “Why am I so sad?”

    And I forget that … the thing you’re feeling is the thing you’re feeling.

    So I’m really trying to work on rephrasing that stuff so that I can say things like this: “Wow. I seem to be really tired right now. I’m going to find out what I need.”

    Or: “I don’t know yet what the reason is behind this sadness that I’m experiencing, but I’m sure it’s a good one, and that this is a reasonable thing to be feeling right now.”

    Just… really totally practical and useful. In a tiny exploding sparkles kind of way.

  13. Yesterday my in-laws put down their dog with a shot-gun. And I was upset. And some of them were upset that I was upset. And then I wondered if I actually SHOULD be upset. In thinking it over I realized that I was actually upset about it in a different way than I thought I was upset, or thought I should be upset.

    Anyway, that was a long way to say that this post is perfect and at the perfect time.
    .-= Hayden Tompkins´s last post … To Kill or Not To Kill =-.

  14. Andi
    Twitter: annaline_39

    Timing as ever, is right on. I received a call from the gallery my group is currently showing in. They had someone inquiring about a work, and they didn’t have the price. All kinds of feelings, like “I asked too much” and “OMG someone could buy a piece” and, and, and… (also some self-beating up over wondering where the price list went? I remember emailing it to the gallery, and then blame as in “why didn’t they say something before now”, and also the whole “this is what I want, so why am I having such a hard time with this?”) And I thought “boy I wish I could go and talk to someone about this” and here’s your post.
    .-= Andi´s last post … Taking the Leap =-.

  15. Christine Myers
    Twitter: LadyChrisMyers

    I also really resonated with “the thing you’re feeling is the thing you’re feeling.” Since I was laid off and got married a few months ago, I’ve been fighting feeling tired and stressed out. I question my “right” to feel that way because what could possibly be making me so tired and stressed?

    But there is no right or wrong. It is what it is and I need what I need. Which, right now apparently, is a lot of yummy naps.
    .-= Christine Myers´s last post … Want to Rent Some Space in my Head? =-.

  16. Jane says:

    Thank you. Thank you. I feel like I should be more articulate about why, but don’t have the words right now. In fact, I’ve wanted to say, thanks about many, many of your posts. So, many, many Thanks.

    Sovereignty Rocks! And I want some. :-)
    .-= Jane´s last post … Math Tutor =-.

  17. spiralsongkat
    Twitter: spiralsongkat

    Yes. Yes. This.

    One of the things I’ve been learning, this past year, is that I don’t always have to understand my feelings, that it’s okay to simply feel what I feel, with or without the insight. Closely related to this, I believe, is the dawning realization that I don’t always have to fix my feelings (gasp!!). When I feel like crap, it’s okay to feel like crap. It’s just a feeling. I can ask myself, “What do you need?” which is not at all the same thing as asking myself, “What’s wrong with you?”
    .-= spiralsongkat´s last post … There’s a nap for that. =-.

  18. Alicia says:

    Dearest Havi,
    I am feeling like you are awesome.
    Thank you for this,

  19. Kate T.W.
    Twitter: Kate_TW

    I too have vomited every time I’ve fallen in love– in fact, that’s how I’ve known it was love. You are the first person I’ve read about or spoken to who has admitted doing the same, not including that character on South Park.

    This is also a good post for me as I recently decided it is o.k. to feel conflicted a lot of the time– I don’t have to meditate my way out of it. The world is complicated and it is possible that feeling conflicted is the perfect thing for me to feel. Hurray!
    .-= Kate T.W.´s last post … lovedrunk freewrite in which I do something that scares me =-.

  20. Sarah Bray
    Twitter: Sarah Bray

    This completely reminds me of what that guy says in “Stumbling on Happiness” (which I’m thanking Mark Silver for). Current Self is always making sacrifices for Future Self, thinking that Future Self is going to be gleeful and eternally grateful, doing the happy dance til kingdom come.

    Which rarely happens. Future Self is usually asking what the heck the (then) Current Self was thinking. There are a myriad of new complexities to consider now. Our happy outcomes are not what we thought they’d be. Though still great, we totally overestimated how they would complete us.

    Well, I’m paraphrasing. And as I’m reading the book right now, everything’s a nail. But it rang so true for me. :)
    .-= Sarah Bray´s last post … Scaling Mount Local: How to start expanding your borders to reach a global audience =-.

  21. Mark W. "Extra Crispy" Schumann
    Twitter: MarkWSchumann

    Havi, I totally get the feeling-guilty-about-feelings feeling. There was this funeral, a lot of in-laws, guy who’d had Alzheimer’s really bad for something like ten years… and people were half-whispering to me, they hated to admit it, but yeah, we’re kind of relieved.

    It was one of those open secrets–they’re all so relieved, those close family members, but they had to play along a little with the whole grief trip. It was understandable, but awkward, and the awkwardness was understandable too. I mean come on, you’re not supposed to be happy about your uncle’s death especially if he was a really good guy. But there it is.

    Havi, this whole idea of being okay with your emotions (and with other peoples’ emotions) is a Big Thing. People really tie themselves in knots when they try to justify or make a big principle out of what they feel in their guts.
    .-= Mark W. “Extra Crispy” Schumann´s last post … Why pair programming is kind of cool =-.

  22. Havi Brooks
    Twitter: havi

    Wow. Yes. So much good stuff here.

    I think what Chris Zydel (mz wildheartqueen herself – hi sweetie!) said is so right on target.

    That people feel “uncomfortable with what we are feeling cause they can’t accept what THEY are feeling and the whole thing just goes around and around”.

    I think that very often people want so much for us to feel *happy* or for our feeling to validate their feeling in some way that they just cannot meet us where we are.

    And there is so much friction in that. Like with Hayden’s pain over the dog and people not being able to meet that pain. Or Carol’s experience of losing her sister (ohhhh … such a big hug to you, honey).

    Anyway. Crispy Mark is right. This is SUCH a big thing.

    @sonia simone – ohmygod. I can’t even tell you how many times I have done the “gripping the armrest thinking nonononono” thing. That is so, so familiar.

    @Kate T.W. – yay! a fellow vomiter! That totally makes me happy. Thank you!

  23. Havi Brooks
    Twitter: havi

    @Carol – I didn’t mean to imply “hug for the sad” — unless you want one of those too. :)

    I meant hug for the situation of knowing what you feel and being okay with it, but encountering the pain of other people not getting that.

    Loved and appreciated what you said about having the experience and the acquired healthy boundaries to separate between your stuff and their stuff and to not let anyone tell you how to feel. Thank you.

  24. Char
    Twitter: Charsfirststep

    This is one of your most powerful articles yet (if there is such a thing really – not sure about that last sentence)

    I have a dear friend who has two family members seriously ill and we were talking on the phone today laughing and talking “all around” this stuff – then she wondered why she wasn’t more upset. I sent her your post as I think she’s find great comfort in this.

    You are such a blessing in my life Havi. Thank you so very much for this. So wise and amazing!
    .-= Char´s last post … Happy New Year!!! =-.

  25. ieishah says:

    i wish i’d come by yesterday for this post! i live in spain. my family lives in new york, along with droves of extended family and fictive kin. i’ve lived in europe on and off for the last 10 years, and i love it. my family is super-close and haven’t always understood my need to explore. they’ve come around, though, and they’ve even taken to traveling with me every year, which i love. my parents are my best friends, so it isn’t like by not living close to them, i don’t love or miss them.

    i was in new york for the last 3 months, and it was glorious. but finally my eu residency came through and it was time to go. of course, i was so sad! but everyone kept asking, ‘don’t you like europe? aren’t you happy to be leaving? if you’re so sad, why don’t you stay??’ i mean, complicated feelings are those things EVERYONE has, but somehow, no one understands. so instead of openly balling like i wanted, i had to take a deep breath, put on a smiley face and say, ‘of course i’m happy! i love living abroad!’ ugh. at least my annoyance held some of the sadness in abeyance.
    .-= ieishah´s last post … world movie wednesday =-.

  26. Patty says:

    “The only stuckified part is the guilt.”

    Oh Havi, the statement above totally illustrates my messed up thought processes. I feel guilty about, oh, everything I do. Or don’t do. Or planned to do, but didn’t.

    I’m going to apply your re-phrasing trick to some of my guilty thoughts and maybe I will become just a little less stuckified :)

    Thanks for sharing. You rock!

  27. Kate
    Twitter: ingoodcoproject

    Loving the throwing up thing. I mean, obviously, not, because throwing up sucks and I’d rather you didn’t have to do it. But it’s wonderful to hear that other people have such visceral, physical reactions to change, too.

    My thing is I have insane levels of adrenaline when I’m doing anything – well, basically anything other than lounging around on the sofa 24/7, and sometimes even then.

    And sometimes it’s like, is my body living a different life from my head? Does my body actually belong to someone who does a lot of extreme sports, or swims with sharks, or something, and I get their adrenaline and they get mine? Because really, I’m just like, installing a plugin or something, so the overwhelming stomach cramps with a side of nausea seem a little random!

    I loved Pace and Kyeli’s chapter in the Usual Error about – oh, crap, I forget the name for it – the fact that when you get angry, your body gets all these angry chemicals flowing around it, and often even once you’ve resolved what you were angry about, the angry chemicals are still flowing, because you’re made of meat and your body works slowly. And so because your body still feels angry, it’s easy to think that you must still be angry, even though you’re not. But if you understand that it’s just the chemicals, then you can give your body the time it needs to calm down before you try and do anything about it.

    Way to be succinct, Kate.

    Anyway, I was on the plane to Berlin last month, on my way to tango, and feeling really scared, as I usually do, and I remembered about that, and thought, ‘Hm, maybe it’s just that my body has lots of chemicals flowing around – you know, adrenaline – and my mind is just interpreting that as it being scared. But maybe my body isn’t actually scared at all. Maybe actually it’s excited instead – cos that’s just adrenaline, too.’

    And as soon as I had that thought, all the fear seemed to flow out of me. I still had the adrenaline. But suddenly I felt relieved and relaxed and excited instead of scared. It was magic.

    I’m pretty sure I’ve just written the waffliest comment in the history of comments. Do I get a biscuit?

  28. Josiane
    Twitter: kimianak

    Thanks for the bit on rephrasing the “why?” stuff into something that gives space and legitimacy to the feelings. I’ll have to work with that; I have a feeling it will be useful, and probably enlightening too.
    .-= Josiane´s last post … Practicing body poetry with Havi =-.

  29. Melody says:

    Oh boy, is this true! How many times have I felt guilty for feeling a certain feeling, which wasn’t the feeling I thought I was supposed to be feeling?

    But no more.

    Even though I’m backpacking through SE Asia, Nepal and India right now, something I’ve wanted to do forEVER, I don’t feel as elated as I thought I would. It might have to do with the people I’m traveling with, it might have to do with all the rest of the feelings (such as fear of what comes next, fear of the unknown, fear of missing out on cool/important things to do, and others) that I feel… Who knows?

    But the point is that it doesn’t matter. And I love myself for being able to feel, for feeling these feelings, and for allowing myself the opportunity to have a trip that arouses these feelings in me.

    It’s all part of the experience, and I’m going to enjoy it whether I feel up or down.
    .-= Melody´s last post … Let’s catch up =-.

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