My brother brought home puppies this week, and, if you know me well, you know I'm not an animal person. I'm more of a love-them-from-afar girl, instead of a let's-snuggle-in-my-bed girl. But! These puppies stole my heart and completely ruined my productivity for the week. My friends were texting asking if it was really me in the picture, cuddled up with tiny labs. It's me, guys!
Yesterday, I pupsat while attempting to work, which really just meant I held them, stared at them and obsessively checked to make sure they were still breathing. My sister said it is similar to what it will be like when we one day bring a baby home from the hospital. :)
A few months ago, I started practicing feeling sad for the first time in my life. Sadness isn't something I easily access. I'm not comfortable with the feeling, it overwhelms me and I tend to push it down and ignore it. Why be sad when you can be happy, right Joy!?
But, after a lot of reflection, I realized that by ignoring sadness, I was stifling my other emotions, too. You can't embrace the depth and breadth of joy (or any other emotion) if you're squelching a primary feeling. The less I allowed myself to be vulnerable to sadness - the really painful, hard kind - the less I was able to experience joy - the really abundant, elated kind.
Over the course of a few months, I started practicing sadness and yesterday, as I watched these tiny puppies whimper and shake, clearly missing their mama, I felt sad. A few months ago, I would have thought: Whitney! You're not even an animal person. This is dumb. They're fine. Separation is natural! But yesterday, I didn't do that. I felt sad and, as I sat there alone, I cried for these tiny puppies. And then, I cried for all of the real babies who are abandoned by their mamas. And all of the mamas who have to say goodbye to their tiny babies without wanting to. I didn't kind of tear up. I cried and cried - multiple tears coming out my eyes at once. When my brother came home, he probably thought I'd lost one of the puppies. Or my mind?
As silly as it sounds, as I sat there, allowing myself to cry, I encouraged myself by repeating: Be brave. Stay in this moment. Feel the sadness. Be brave enough to experience this moment.
Sometimes, I think we get a little confused about what being brave means. A few months ago, I would have said being brave was taking a deep breath and putting a smile on my face while playing with the puppies. Lately I've learned that, in this very moment, it was braver to let sadness overcome me.
From time to time, I get Letter Requests from women who are writing in on their own behalf. They know they are hurting and they need extra love and support from other women around the world. Every time, I'm blown away by how brave they are. There was a period in my life when I would have called that weak. Now I know it's not even a little weak. Self-care is brave. Advocating for yourself is brave.
Sometimes, bravery is big adventure and leaps of faith. But other times, bravery is staying in the moment and being vulnerable to how you really feel, not matter how hard it may seem.
Yesterday afternoon, as I went about the rest of my day, I noticed how elated I felt. I was cleansed. I'd lightened my load. Joy was back, because I wasn't afraid of the sadness anymore. I was reminded then, that sadness doesn't last forever. Sometimes it lasts a lot longer than we want it to. But, it isn't forever and, when it goes away, the joy is so much better.