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Permission to be where you are, even if where you are sucks.

I moved home to Maine last week after pining for the home that it’s represented for me my whole life. When you cross the Maine state line you’re greeted by a sign that says: “Maine: The Way Life Should Be.” As far as state mottos go, this one really floats my boat.

I just wrapped up living no place in particular for the past 15 months on. My man and I did more than 30,000 miles by car last year, I logged many more in the air, and we slept in over 100 beds.

I was burned out. I was having a major hankering for a home. I was ready to nest.

So The Freedom Tour came to a close back in December, we nestled in for the winter on the east end of Long Island in a tiny, seasonal town called Wainscott where more than 2/3 of the houses in our neighborhood were vacant. Ultimately it was a little too sleepy for us. So, heading an insistent call I’ve been putting on hold for 11 years, we moved to Maine where I grew up.

When you finally do something you’ve been dreaming of doing forever it gives you the beautiful opportunity to manage your expectations.

After reading every word in Maine Magazine, including the ads, every month for the past year, fantasizing about the smell of salt air and the taste of fresh seafood, and imagining what it would feel like to finally be HOME, we finally did it.

I would love to report that everything as soon as we moved in everything was completely perfect, that suddenly my life made more sense, that I gained tremendous clarity and insight, and that I felt relieved, relaxed, and regenerated. But the truth is, I felt depressed. It didn’t feel like “the way life should be,” at all.

And this somewhat bottomless, endless feeling of blah didn’t go away in a day the way I thought it would. It kind of lingered the way the smell of the garbage wafts around for a few minutes even after you take it out. And because I thought I should be feeling ecstatic to be finally fulfilling a long time dream, I didn’t tell anyone how I felt. I felt ashamed that I didn’t feel totally psyched.

Here’s the thing about emotions that go ignored: they fester. They ferment. They get into all the little nooks and crannies that can only be cleaned out using a q-tip.

So yesterday I got on the phone with my coach and when she asked me how I was and I replied, “I’m okay,” the tone of my voice alerted us both to the contrary. I proceeded to cry pretty much for the next 60 minutes as she gave me permission to be exactly where I was. There was no judgment, no asking me to move through it, no giving me suggestions for what I could do to feel better.

In fact, she encouraged me to stay right there in my icky, yucky, depressed, sad state.

Our society, myself very much included, has a strong leaning towards the positive.

Put on a happy face.

Buck up.

Grin and bear it.

Fake it till you make it.

I was raised on affirmations, choosing a thought that feels better, the power of pure positive thought, and getting into vibrational alignment with the good that I want to attract. So staying in depression and not trying to do anything to fix it feels antithetical to my very nature.

See the thing about positive psychology, affirmations, the law of attraction, and a lot of the self-help aisle of the bookstore is that it discounts an entire spectrum of emotion that may not feel “good” perse, but is nonetheless valid. And to deny, sublimate, push down, push away, or try to escape the tapestry of emotions, whether you deem them good or bad, that make up experience of being human is denying a part of you, as well.

After my coaching call I sat on the couch and took deep breaths. I set a timer for 25 minutes because I know how deeply engrained my tendency to move away from difficult emotions by getting into action is. Chela, my coach, suggested opening to whatever I was feeling – opening so wide that I eventually would become bigger than the painful emotion itself.

I’m still trying to get a grip on what that means, exactly, but I’ll tell you what: after sitting and taking deep breaths and focusing on the physical and emotional experience of being depressed…

I felt really honored.

I felt really seen.

I felt totally validated.

And of course, as the tides of emotions tend to do, things shifted and I ended up having a delightful evening seeing The Avengers in 3D with my mom and Mike at the Cinemagic in Saco, Maine. (Not that feeling better was the point. I’m just reporting in.)

Chances are pretty good that there will be a moment in the next few days when you’ll feel an emotion that doesn’t feel so hot.See what it feels like to feel it, breath into it, and stay. You might feel like it will swallow you (I did.) You may feel like if you let yourself go deeper into it you’ll never come back (I felt that way.) But in the name of knowing yourself better, and at the very least soaking up every delicious and not so delicious drop of the human experience, stay anyway.

My mom always told me you have to feel it to heal it.

Honor yourself by being exactly where you are, even if where you are sucks. Then report back. I’d love to know what happens.

 

 

 

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  • Mara says:

    “You might feel like it will swallow you. You may feel like if you let yourself go deeper into it you’ll never come back.”

    Yes! Thank you for saying this. As I read it, I realized that’s exactly what happens when I don’t let myself feel what I’m really feeling. So tricky!

  • Oh Kate, thank you for writing this! I too have a tendency to get into action when feeling a ‘contrary’ emotion. And usually it’s because the apathy (the only other option that feels available) just sucks way too much. Both of these options don’t allow me to validate myself AT ALL. If I remember to be gentle with myself (not just say the words but actually take time and nurture whatever in me is ailing) things go a little better.

    Thanks also because in a few weeks time I too will be back home in Maine, with a house and landscape to boot that promise (threaten?) to fulfill every dream and magazine clipping I’ve spent the past 18 years obsessing over. Let-down is inevitable, methinks.

    Thanks to your kind reminder, I will ease into this. Take it slow. be gentle with myself (and my loved ones) and do my best to be in the moment.

  • Helen says:

    Thank you Kate. I’ve seen so very many people struggle with guilty shame on top of ‘bad’ things happening (and the emotions that follow along with those kinds of events), especially if they’ve been excited about the law of attraction. “What have I done wrong? What bad vibrations have I put out to deserve this? No, I don’t want to talk about it because that is giving it more space in my life etc etc”.

    Where is the room there for ‘feel it to heal it’?

    How much texture and depth can ‘fine / great / awesome’ bring to our lives when it stretches on forever, through deaths and separations and loss and plain old bumpy old life experiences that seem to suck? Where does wisdom develop if we shut ourselves into 2D-ville, refusing to experience all that we are?

    There’s much more subtlety to the law of attraction and positive thinking. If one’s mindset and beliefs are predominantly negative it’s possible to take even glorious, positive tools like law of attraction and use them to beat oneself and others over the head. This need to create blanket rules and join the dots systems and one size fits all denies us the responsibility that is open to each of us to be individuals.

    It takes courage to feel feelings – and it creates depth and delicious awareness (including compassion and perspective). Yay Kate for bringing this up so poetically. I think it’s time for humanity to develop the maturity to experience the full spectrum of emotion while at the same time understanding dee

  • Christy Lightowlers says:

    This post is PURE GENIUS and an example of self love.

    Having been through a really tough 3 years where myself, my friends and my family (because they love me) wanted me to:

    Put on a happy face.

    Buck up.

    Grin and bear it.

    Fake it till you make it.

    No matter how hard I tried, and believe me, I gave it my all, I could not.

    You giving yourself permission to be where you are at, gives me the hope that I can do the same when I am not lovin where I am at.

    Reading your post, I feel seen and validated.

    Thank you for writing!

  • […] how surprised was I when I opened my email and received this post from a different blog that I follow — all about “permission to be where you are even […]

  • This couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. I blog about this very topic and I had to share yours in my post today because it was so perfect and explained so well the process I’m moving through. Let go and ride the wave. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  • This is beautiful… and exactly the same insights I apply to my work with organizing.

    A really wise woman once told me that the only feelings that dissipate are the ones we feel fully. Brava to you for feeling all of it and making space for it after your call. The idea of setting a timer to just *be* is profoundly inspiring to me. I know what I’m going to do the next time I’m in the slumps.

    And, by the way, welcome home. <3 Thanks for sharing your journey.

  • Danielle says:

    This is something I’ve been learning how to do this past year. Everything in my life changed and I’m back to my roots. Living in the same place that I grew up…but I haven’t lived here since I was 17yrs old…so, of course, lots of childhood triggers and unresolved emotions around the move and life changes have been coming up. Being kind to the “little” girl inside of us is so important. We have to be kind to ourselves and give a little extra love during the transitions in life. Feeling really is healing!
    Thanks for sharing, Kate!

  • […] Permission to Be Where You Are Even If It Sucks […]

  • Danielle says:

    I can totally relate! This is something I’ve been learning how to do this past year. Everything in my life changed and I’m back to my roots. Living in the same place that I grew up…but I haven’t lived here since I was 17yrs old…so, of course, lots of childhood triggers and unresolved emotions around the move and life changes have been coming up. Being kind to the “little” girl inside of us is so important. We have to be kind to ourselves and give a little extra love during the transitions in life. Feeling really is healing!
    Thanks for sharing, Kate!

  • Kate, thank you for a wonderful and honest post! I saw a link for it on Danielle LaPorte’s fb feed and so happy I clicked on it!
    Your story about Maine and allowing yourself to sit with present emotions even if they are not pretty reminded me of an interesting mindfulness practice that I started a while ago. Basically, I noticed that I was overeating at dinner and then feeling really guilty about it. Fighting it head on with willpower didn’t work for more than a few days at a time. I would still end up angry at myself with a stuffed belly late at night.
    Once I recognized the trend, instead of trying to fight it, I decide to observe it and to fully experience it. I let myself eat without constraints and than feel how it felt to be stuffed, full, bloated. No judgement, banning the guilt. Just full awareness and presence with all the feelings.
    Just a few days later, I stopped overeating. I clearly remembered how it felt to be too full, and my body didn’t want to go there anymore. A signal to stop at the right moment became a lot more clear.
    It is amazing how much it means to recognize things for what they are and to stay true to your feelings whatever they are so you can learn from them and move forward when ready.
    Namaste!

  • As usual, Kate, great advice! I’ve been in a bit of a funk lately myself, but this time around, I am doing exactly what you have prescribed here. Instead of bailing or turning away from my deep-seated feelings, I am digging into them and allowing them to be heard. We could all use this message every so often as most of us are naturally inclined to bury are deepest, darkest emotions. Thanks for giving your permissions on this one.

  • Dave says:

    Cool! What this seems to be saying to me personally is that:

    You have to feel it to see it
    You have to see it to question it
    You have to question it to understand it
    You have to understand it to move beyond it

    (question broadly, persistently, and without judgement for clearest understanding)

  • Mary Katherine says:

    The same thing happened to me tonight!! I was let go from my corporate job on Friday the 13th. I took it as a blessing in disguise because I am able to move where I want to move and work in a company that actually appreciates social media. Plus it gives me time to work on my own business that I am developing. It’s been a while since being let go and I thought I was cool, calm, and collected about it. No tears when I was let go until tonight. It’s been tough not working 9-5 which I have been use to and especially just applying to jobs and waiting to hear back. I felt like such a loser, a failure, and I had let my family down. I’m the oldest and to be let go just made me feel like I wasn’t good enough at all. After crying to my mom, it felt good to just release it. I have been so strong about the situation and I just felt free. It is still weird not going to work and looking for a job again but I know that it will get better after really letting my guard down and telling my mom how I felt about everything. It’s tough keeping a brave face all of the time.

  • Tisha Palmer says:

    Hooray for championing the “entire range” of the huge human experience. I have a tendency to “feel” (which I suspect is really thinking, not feeling but that is a whole other can of worms) so disappointed/guilty for feeling bad that I reflexively “chastise myself” for my sadness, disappointment or despair. I use big mind tricks to achieve this platform of righteous guilt… born from a litany of very well-meaning books (your mother’s included). My favorite is “I have no RIGHT to feel this way because I have manifested this reality” Wow- doosie. Thanks for reminding me that my feelings have RIGHTS too.

  • after 16 years living between the US and Europe I returned to Africa. “You got to feel it to heal it” makes me smile inside and out, thank you for sharing your journey it helps me know Im not alone.

  • Kathie says:

    Woah….what a timely message Kate. You will inspire many people to examine accepting their emotions; I really value that lesson, especially today.
    The truth is that if change was easy, everyone would do it, right?
    We all know the cliche….there are only two things you can count on: death and taxes….well I’d like to add change to that list because as much as we humans deny it, change is always happening whether we like it or agree with it.
    I too am a positive person who subscribes to the law of attraction, or as I like to call it: the law of allowing…..our emotions or feelings are really at the root of what we’re attracting into the physical world; that’s why I feel it’s so important to be with whatever we feel, so that we don’t miss a lesson. The wisdom gained from this period of transition, change or growth whatever we choose to call it, will allow us to be more available to receive what we want in the future.
    In one week, I will unplug from a career spanning over 35 years in broadcasting as an on air person and producer to become what I know I already am: a life artist! I will finish my book Inspiration in Action: A Woman’s Guide to Happiness. My mission is to inspire and support women as they create their best life. Each day we have a fresh, clean canvas and with our thinking we choose what goes on that canvas. How beautiful will your life be today? It sounds like it’s colourful to say the least…maybe a few flowers and a bright yellow sun will make it even more spectacular! Enjoy every second!

  • Robin says:

    Have you read Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Outliers”? It talks about how really successful people feel when they achieve their dream…let down. It is not the destination, it is the journey that is so fulfilling. It’s the dream….I am certain that you will find a new dream soon and begin a new journey.

  • […] I got an email from the very perky Kate Northrup called Permission to be where you are, even if where you are sucks. I breathed deeply, and smelled the first wisps of pleasant-happiness that I’ve detected in a […]

  • Mo says:

    Perfect.
    Thank you for sharing this – it was exactly the message I needed to receive.

  • Kathleen Herriott says:

    Thank you Kate for being honestly raw with your emotions. I helps validate all of us for being normal and okay with where we are for the present moments. I appreciate your candor.

  • Colette says:

    This is one freaking amazing post. Raw and real. Feel it to heal it. I finally get it.

  • LisaJUlmer says:

    ………I Can Certainly Try to Do That……. :)(: …………………..—>>It May Take Awhile…. ;) ……………………………………….

  • Yes Kate!

    I love that you wrote this. I struggle with this all the time – especially when it comes to parenting. For example, I learned about crying – a lot about crying – in the past several months.

    I noticed that people downright EXPECT you as a parent to do ANYTHING you can to STOP the tears. We distract, we persuade, we physically move – ANYTHING. When Jackson (my son is four, for those of you who don’t know me) has a meltdown in the grocery store and I let him – people look at me like I’m totally nuts. (My approach is not to just let him stand there and wail, by the way, I sometimes hold him, sometimes just get close enough to let him know I’m supporting him through expressing these emotions that he’s having, etc.) We are SO conditioned to not even EXPRESS the emotions that are in place to KEEP US HEALTHY! I notice it first with children – just because that’s where I’m at, but then with myself as well.

    Thank you for being brave and transparent in your sharing Kate. It’s so nice to have confirmation that we’re all sort of swimming in the soup together. :)

    xo,

    Kathleen

  • Clare says:

    Yes! Sometimes everything stinks. The sweet, sticky stink of a life that’s unravelling and not in a good way. Denying it, gratitude-ing your way out of it and adopting the ra-ra positivity serves no-one. Least of all you. Sometimes things stink and the best way to move forward is to accept it. Thanks for your honesty, Kate.

  • Moggy says:

    Thank. With my mom in hospice it’s been a roller coaster of emotions. Maybe tomorrow or the day after or next week I’ll just sit with those feelings and see where they take me. I used to write my way into and out of the tough feelings but I just am not going there yet.

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