Put it in neutral

The holidays can be stressful for a lot of people if only for the expectations that are placed on the importance of it being “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” If you’re anything but merry and bright, something must be fixed immediately until you’re wearing sleigh bells and having a holly jolly Christmas, dammit.

I love the Christmas display at our botanical gardens.

Big shocker here, but I tend to disagree. Don’t get me wrong in that I love the holidays and do my darndest to be positive, but things happen. You really can’t plan emotion—yours or how someone else will react — and fighting what comes up takes you farther away from that feeling of “Peace on Earth” (or at least peace inside) that we should strive for throughout the year.

Of course this doesn’t apply only to the holiday season, but let’s stay in the present (no pun intended.)

While sadness, anger, frustration, etc. are often considered negative emotions, I don’t necessarily think that’s always the case. They can be clues and signs of things you should give a little more introspection to or simply a reminder to get your head out of your ass and gain a little perspective. I think a majority of people feel that if they’re not “on” and happy all the time, they have to hurry up and fix it. For me, that causes more stress and the cycle continues.

I'm Polish, so I had to represent.

So sometimes you have to put it in emotional neutral and idle.

Sometimes you just have to be and then be OK with that and whatever might happen from that point on. It doesn’t mean you have to like it or that it’s permanent, but rather that it’s simply how you’re feeling at the time. There is no “right” or “wrong” way to feel—just slightly more productive ways to react to those feelings (freaking out like a three-year-old and flinging noodles across a restaurant would be considered a negative reaction, for example.)


I think this was the Ukranian tree.

Because despite how it may seem, I am actually quite calm and neutral on a daily basis—not too up, not too down. Yes, there are moments when I can’t shut my head off, when I wake up and am launched into an unintentional mental marathon and want to fling noodles at people. But then there are moments where I am completely content and neutral. I’m not at peace with a lot of things about myself and I struggle on a daily basis, but that doesn’t mean I’m constantly at war with them either.

I think I accept my struggles, and although that doesn’t make them go away or “fix” things, it makes them easier to acknowledge and to find healthier ways to react.

Sometimes seemingly minor things come up and I get frustrated when I can’t figure out what I’m feeling, or more specifically, why I’m feeling what I’m feeling (enter urge to fling things.) When this happens, I kind of want to run away from it and distract myself–you know the rest of the story.

My point was that sometimes it’s OK to be frustrated, to be sad, to be pissed and not know why. It’s OK to cry for no good reason, to want to be alone, to feel like a ticking time bomb of testiness. It’s OK to actually feel emotion that wasn’t planned, that wasn’t expected and that wasn’t exactly timely (the holiday season, a birthday, a random Monday morning.)

During the holiday and any day, you can feel things without knowing why and acknowledge them or you can feel things without knowing why and fight against them. Although it doesn’t always happen, I prefer to idle in neutral, sit back and take in the scene before judging the emotions that come up.

And if I’m still feeling anything but merry and bright, I head for the bowl of flingable noodles or sharp pointy ornaments and it’s full speed ahead.

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11 responses to “Put it in neutral

  1. I’m actually working on a post that is very loosely related to this.. but in the opposite way. Mine is more about when we have issues or frustrations with other people during the holidays rather than with our inner selves, but it’s still about whether or not the holidays should influence how we behave.

    I think anyone who has ever dealt with food or exercise issues has learned (or will learn, I suppose) that fighting your feelings is definitely more destructive than it is constructive. I’ve actually learned to sit with my feelings, not necessarily like them, but accept them just as you are describing. It does feel much better than pretending everything is dandy.

    • That’s pretty much what I was getting at, but obviously failed to get ;) Most of the time when I write it really isn’t about food or exercise issues, but just generally “being” and the issues that come up. My reaction to them is what leads to the freaking food and exercise problems, but by acknowledging and realizing this, I am more aware and on point when stressful situations arise. Most of my general frustrations are actually with the external, not the internal. An acceptance of things I can’t change, especially around the holidays, is important for me. :)

  2. I have been fighting some urge to combust the past couple of days. For some reason, I have been successful at sitting with what I am feeling. Let’s face it, this December has a lot going on for me, and I am not exactly sure how to handle it all. And then there is the fact that it is the “happiest time of the year” and everyone is shoving holiday cheer down your throat. Including myself. I adore the holidays, the treats, the music, the…everything. I love that I can indulge in cool christmassy crafts and make cards. But it is hard to accept my more negative emotions when everyone is is pretending to be so merry.

  3. This post is really timely. Of course I’ve got some internal conflict to deal with (who doesn’t?) but when it is also external, it becomes for me, at times, unbearable. I’m in the middle of a really upsetting family struggle that should not even be an issue…all because of this damn holiday. I love the lights and the quieter aspects of Christmas but shit, the family dynamics are crap sometimes. It shouldn’t be that way. But the only thing to do is deal.

    If I did have a bowl of noodles, I’d probably fling it right now. And it would be SO satisfying!

  4. Happiness is overrated. Seeking a perfect state of bliss is still perfectionism, after all, and that kind of seeking rarely makes anyone happy. For me, the little things make me “happy”. Like flinging a bowl of noodles, watching an episode of curb or the office, hell even having an nice comment on my blog make me happy. A world without sadness and anger is not a world I’d like to live in. I mean, I know Larry David wouldn’t be in that world, so that is no good!

  5. I really needed a post like this. I often get upset at times “I’m not supposed to”. But stand by a saying I’ve had since I was a little girl and my mom said “Stop crying.” And I said “I’m allowed to cry.” Sometimes we just have to let it out, and setting expectations for thing to be perfect at any time is not realistic…or fun! Thank you!

  6. Kath (Eating for Living)

    I more and more come to think that feeling and embracing all emotions is crucial to become whole as a person, and to feel comfortable with oneself. You might not understand all of your emotions,but they all have a right to be there. They won’t go away just because you don’t want to have them. I’ve experienced that my own getting along with my ED is a lot about accepting and admitting all my emotions, and taking them as a part of myself. On the other side, themore I avoid, the worse it gets.

  7. Only when we can recognize the negative is there any room for growth. You are so right!

    That being said I try to balance my “realistic” mentality with optimism!

  8. I think you can also say that it’s because most of the time, we try to swallow our minor pangs of frustrations and disappointments, that especially at a supposedly jovial times like the holidays, we loose it, because we just sort of expect ourselves to get all happy and ho-ho-ho but cannot do it without feeling entirely fake.

    I’d say feelings as a whole is always a positive thing. There is nothing scarier than numbness. Because you can feel, you can access situations, you can understand things, you can start dealing with things. But without feelings…well, I would be at an utter loss.

  9. I think one of the biggest things I’ve learned about myself over the last, oh, year and a half is that I have to learn to recognize what I’m feeling/experiencing and deal with anything that needs attention as soon as possible. I can’t continue on this journey of health and wellness if I don’t look at it from an entire mind, body, soul picture.

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