Feel the Feelings

You know it’s a cold day in California when you’re skyping with your niece in Ohio and she’s wearing flipflops and summer dress while you’re wearing 3 layers and have a blanket in your lap! Well, you really know it’s a cold day in California when it hails (what?!). Yep, not once, but twice this week, we had hail…and believe it or not, it takes a starring role in this week’s RIE Win.

One of the gifts of my RIE in the Wild classes has been the spontaneous nature walks that sometimes happen. We wander along, at toddler pace…sometimes breathless, sometimes motionless…looking to see what catches their eyes, what hooks their attention and their imagination. We let them chart our course, until we inevitably have to turn our feet back toward home…it’s never long enough for them, they could always go longer. When you’re in living in the moment, and that moment’s wonderful, you don’t really want to give that up.

And just like we do in RIE classes, we observe, and we discuss…we talk about what we’re observing, what comes up for us, and things that are on our minds. On this particular walk, we got into what’s been on my mind these last two weeks: emotions, especially ‘difficult’ emotions. As I talked about in my article last week, we often have the proclivity to want to rush through hard feelings…whether they’re our own, our friends’, our spouse’s, or (or perhaps especially) our children’s. Turn that frown upside down! Look on the bright side. Look for the silver lining. Count your blessings…do any and everything but feel that feeling. But here’s the thing: feelings are there for a reason…the ‘good’ ones as well as the ‘hard’ ones. They come up for us to signal something, to give us information. As Brené Brown says, they provide data, and when we can look at them as instructive, we can make important changes.

Of course, not every emotion is signaling the need for a change…sometimes we feel overwhelmingly sad or angry and there’s no doubt in our minds what’s triggering those feelings. But feelings are just feelings. Stuffing them, ignoring them, teasing them away, pretending they aren’t there, won’t make them go away. And it won’t make what caused your upset to go away either. That was something that really stuck with me, and with the parents I was chatting with on that walk: when we get comfortable with our emotions, rather than slapping a smile on our faces, we live in the world as it actually is, not as we wish it to be. It makes us stronger. It makes your children stronger.

We were hashing this all out, headed back to the house but still a good 5 or 6 minutes away, as we got to this point in the conversation, when suddenly the rain that had been misting us turned into a deluge and then…to ice pellets! Hail! We all had the impulse to run for it, but one of the Moms turned to me and said something like “this is perfect!” And I knew instantly what she meant…the weather was giving us a literal interpretation of our philosophical conversation. Cold rain and hail came down hard on us. Some of the group did duck and dash up the hill toward the house, but those of us who’d been chatting figured we’d be just as wet and cold (and hey, not winded!) if we continued walking. Our small group embraced the weather and kept putting one foot in front of the other. And you know what? We ended up having a really great time…and have an incredible story…without even trying, simply by accepting the weather instead of trying to avoid it.

In our lives, we get furious, we despair, we rage, we weep, we tremble…we feel all the feelings! And the most important thing you can teach your children is that even the hardest emotions pass…when you let them, and sometimes you even learn something from them. Those hard emotions aren’t something to be feared, but are simply part of life.