Some people get energy from being around people, getting all social up in their lives. I am not one of those people. I need downtime. I need to be alone to regroup and recoup my energy. As a mom and writer a lot of my energy is directed at what I give to others. I’ll never grow tired of hearing “I love you mama." Or having a stranger tell me that something I wrote has helped them. But today nothing sounds better than spending the day alone, in my room, with the blinds closed. Napping and getting lost in some good fiction. Sign me up for a cave, unwashed hair, and no electricity. I’m in.
In the past I have tried to figure out why I’m feeling the way I’m feeling. Trying to understand what was “wrong” with me. I labelled my emotional state as depression. I have seen first hand the severity of clinical depression. I’ve never been diagnosed but I have felt what to me was true depression. A lot of what in my opinion was the result of heavy alcohol consumption daily, and the daily detox that came with it. While I was drinking my soul was deeply unhappy, which is why I drank. Leading to the day after. The self-destructive cycle feeding itself. I’m not depressed today. I just want to be alone. I don’t want to mother or wife or martyr myself with busyness.
I do get “sad for no reason." I’m **sensitive** emotionally and energetically. The goings on of the of the world, politics, mass shooting, human inequality, drip down from the macro into my microsphere of energy. I feel heavy and dense, even when my life is relatively stress free and hashtag blessed. I feel other people’s emotions: pain, sadness, confusion, desperation. I’ll see an elderly woman walking down the street, her clothes mismatched, hunchbacked pushing a grocery cart and looking lost. I stop. She says she’s OK. I go on with my day but she stays with me. I pray that she has a reason to smile today, and my heart winces a little as I think about the state of elderly care in America. Other times I’m overwhelmed with grief, or longing, or hopelessness. I do my work to see if the emotions belong to me. When they don’t I create space for the energy, often cry, and the moment passes.
My children sense other people’s emotions, especially mine. They observe that the dance party is missing while I cook dinner, or tears are on my face while I listen to Elton John. They ask if I’m OK. I say, “I’m just having one of those times when I’m sad for no reason. I’m OK, but I would love a hug.” Now my 10 year old uses this language. It doesn’t criminalize or minimize his feelings. And most importantly, it doesn’t make anyone feel like they are wrong or bad for not knowing why. Or for having the feelings in the first place.
I’m not anxious. I don’t feel panicked or like I am going to die. My skin isn’t crawling. My mind isn’t racing. I’m not afraid. I can breathe deeply and fully. I have 33 years of living with anxiety as a barometer to compare how I feel today to. This is not that.
I’m in “the in between place” that Brene Brown refers to in Braving the Wilderness: I’m not up, I’m not down. I’m in between. I am not the same woman I was 3 years ago, 1 year ago, or even 6 months ago. I started seeking long before I got sober, but was never really able to sustain or process what I was learning because of alcoholism. Now my mind is clear. I am seeking and learning and changing. I see an exciting future ahead me that fills me with hope. I see the past behind me and am grateful for what I have learned. I am firmly grounded, my feet on the earth. I know I am on the right path. I’m just not exactly sure where the road leads me. It’s unfamiliar and unknown. It’s not the paralyizing hyper vigilance of anxiety. It doesn’t overwhelm me with the doom of depression. I’m not overly content or satisfied. I’m in between.
And that’s OK. Today I listen to my body and know I need rest. I need quiet. I don’t have to spin into storytelling and justify how I’m feeling by labelling it something that makes people more “comfortable” with who I am. Or treat myself like something’s wrong and that I should be feeling some other way. I don’t want to be around people because “peopling” overstimulates my senses, it drains me. I'm not a bitch. I don't hate people. I want to be alone not because people don’t understand me, or I don’t fit in, but because the understanding and solace I find in my own presence is deeply nurturing and healing to me on every level.
I can say I’m taking a mental health day, or a health day, or just a fucking day. I don’t even have to say anything. I don’t have to explain myself and seek approval to validate who I am. My being OK is not defined by people who do not live my life, in my body, with my breath and my soul. I used to spend a lot of time explaining and searching for answers. I’m still a seeker and still ask big questions. But now I understand that some questions don’t need answers. I “only have to let the soft animal of my body love what it loves” as Mary Oliver says in Wild Geese.
Being in between doesn’t need to be solved or corrected, it just has to be.