I should have been so lucky.
Alicia of seven months ago would have started texting, calling, emailing, writing, Instagramming, Facebooking, or drinking (or some to all of those -ings) as a means to deflect the deafening pain, pulling me out of concentration and disrupting my work.
Alicia of this day knew that the path of running away from a feeling didn’t make it go away, and that indulging an impulse based on a feeling wouldn’t do that either.
My heart hurt so God-damned much.
As I sat at my favorite cafe, I thought about one of my favorite quotes by Viktor Frankl: Between stimulus and response there is space. In that space lies our freedom. My counselor had said it to me on one of our first meetings, when I was just trying to learn to get a grip on my emotions. And it had come up again at the World Domination Summit just a week before – another idea that kept following me until I paid it proper attention.
I loved the idea after the stimulus – my current God-damned heart hurting – but before a response, I had a choice. And in making that choice I was ultimately deciding who I was.
Despite loving that quote and knowing what sort of person I wanted to be, I still felt pretty out of sorts and on edge. I didn’t want to be the old version of me. I didn’t want to run away from this.
Closing my eyes, I felt tears creep around the line of my lids. I inhaled slowly, and that one act reminded me of yoga class with Kimber the day before. What had she said about compassion? Something about how we couldn’t be fully compassionate to the world around us unless we were compassionate with ourselves.
“Look inside your heart,” she’d said, “and show whatever you see there loving kindness. It is perfect just as it is.”
All I saw God-damned pain. A tear bravely escaped the closed lid. I willed myself not to cry. There was no reason – it was spilled milk.
Once again, I tried to channel yoga class and Kimber’s voice. “Some people focus on inhaling all the good in the world, and letting out the bad. But eventually, most people start to think about all the bad stuff they’re putting out there. Today, we’re going to try another kind of practice: inhaling difficulties turning it into goodness in our heart, and exhaling that.”
In class, we’d worked on inhaling the difficulties of others. Today I thought I’d try it for myself.
Inhaling the pain, I could see it stir up and swirl around in my heart like a sandstorm, a million pieces all traveling separate but together. I held my breath when I couldn’t inhale anymore, witnessing the storm, being present for it.
It’s okay to feel how you feel, I told myself. When I was 16, a wise older friend told me that. I never listened back then. Then I exhaled, and imagined the sand rise up higher and shoot out my nose like a glitter explosion.*
Again and again, I felt my heart beat, witnessed pain curl up, and feeling like Rumplestiltskin tried turning it into something good simply by not judging it. Eventually, the sandstorm became smokey tendrils, almost as though the pain was dissolving. The feeling was not unlike when a knot is finally released out of a muscle.
I opened my eyes, dry, my heart happily beating away.
*Of course when I envision goodness, it’s sparkly. Naturally.