It’s 3:30 am in the eastern time zone. 12:30 pm in the west (in San Francisco, where I am now, on my first ever business trip). And I’m not tired. I have a deep current of energy streaming through me.
This evening after a very busy day at work, I went to a women’s AA meeting. I enjoyed a lovely dinner at Fog Harbor. I walked Pier 39.
And now, after midnight, I’m thinking about going out to see China Town.
This is mania.
Not just the energy, but also the impulsiveness and lack of awareness. The truth is, I will have time to see China Town tomorrow, when it’s safer and after I’ve had some rest. The truth is I need to be aware that my first priority while I’m here should be my job, and in order to do a good job, I need good rest.
Unfortunately, another truth is I cannot rest right now. I have allowed my feelings and emotions to build up inside to the point of bursting, and they are worming their way out in the form of physical symptoms.
The meeting tonight gave me some insight into something I do to myself. We read from the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous (4th Edition) – the story “My Chance to Live.” On page 316 the storyteller writes, “Sobriety is nothing like I thought it would be. […] My emotions were new, untested, and I wasn’t entirely certain I wanted to deal with them. I cried when I should have been laughing. I laughed when I should have cried.”
I can identify with this storyteller with one exception. I am entirely certain I do not want to deal with my emotions. I don’t like them. I don’t understand them. And I don’t know what purpose they serve except to get me into trouble.
So I bury them. And I have more than one way to bury them. There’s the age-old “bottle them up” idea, which is an old favorite of mine.
Then there’s what I’ve done lately. Instead of paying attention to what I’m feeling, I just stay super busy, especially with work. If I’m busy, I don’t have time to feel. I don’t even have to bother with bottling the emotions up. They just get lost under a mountain of work and “To Dos.”
I should be feeling a lot right now (and when I stop to think about it, I am feeling a lot). But I haven’t stopped to make space for those feelings. I haven’t shared those feelings, except in passing, with anyone.
Making space for my feelings involves moving other, sometimes very important, things around. Sometimes it might mean taking a sick day from work. Sometimes it means making myself vulnerable by sharing what I’m feeling with someone. Sometimes it means moving myself out of the way so that my emotions can come to the surface.
I admit, I need help with this. I often reference a feelings chart in order to hone in on the primary emotion that I’m feeling. Perhaps that would be a good exercise right now.
(If you’d like to print out the above feelings chart, I found it here.)
I’m feeling overwhelmed. Work is intense. I’m insecure about my performance. Impostor’s syndrome is rampant in my mind, which is making me distressed and uneasy.
I’ve overwhelmed by the experience of being in a strange place! It’s exciting and different and amazing. It’s been so long since I’ve traveled, and I have wanted so badly to travel for so long, that missing a single moment feels unbearable. I feel thrilled and exuberant and passionate!
To hold such extremes within myself without ripping apart at the seams is an astonishing feat. But I live in a false sense of security. Tonight I am coming apart.
Don’t do what I do. Don’t bury your feelings under mountains of busywork. Don’t wait to talk about what you’re feeling until you’re in crisis. Make space for your emotions now. Honor what you’re feeling.
I am making an attempt to do the same for myself tonight. I’m sitting in bed, wrapped in the hotel bathrobe, doing my best to calm down and rest. Writing about my emotions here has helped.
I did prepare for possibly becoming manic during this trip, and I was able to catch myself before doing something impulsive and dangerous. I’m still sober. For both of these things, I am grateful.