Once upon a time, I randomly commented on a strangers instagram post.
She had posted a photo of the map of Australia – a pin dropped on Perth (my hometown) – and commented “I’m so far from home”. Even though I didn’t know her at all, something told me to ask the question. “Where is home usually?”
A week later Claire and I met for coffee. The week after that we booked a weekend trip away to see David Wolfe… having only met once for coffee. By the end of the trip we were living in each others pockets and laughing at what mischief and magic we would have made had we known each other when we were 18.
As I write this post, 3 short years later, she is speeding across the Nullabor desert away from Perth and back towards her home – leaving the deepest of tracks on my heart, soul and life.
She is on an adventure. She will be smiling and sniffling, excited and nervous. Her dog (who I adore) (and who adores me to a frightening degree) will probably be farting in the back. She’ll be reading a book about Germany, listening to podcasts, writing in her moleskine and no doubt talking to her boyfriend about the moon and her menstrual cycle (don’t worry – he loves it!).
I’m excited for her.
But I am also down-to-my-bones sad that she will no longer be 700 metres down the road from me and that we won’t be bumping into each other at the beach or cafe or shops or the farmer’s market or any random street I walk down.
Even though I want her to leave (because it is going to be really really good for her) I’m going to miss my friend and that makes me sad.
You would think that the above would be a straightforward enough statement, right?
Friend leaving. Feel sad. Express sadness. Done.
I felt really guilty about feeling sad. Like I was a bad friend – despite being utterly supportive of her plans, enthusiastically and excitedly dreaming up possibilities with her and only occasionally throwing in a parodied dropped-bottom lip.
I felt like I was failing some positive thinking exam. I kept asking myself “is it okay to feel sad, when such wonderful things are happening for someone I love?” Doesn’t that make me a failed friend at least, a flawed human at most? But the more I denied it, and all the other things that were going on in my life, the worse I felt.
Maybe it’s the advent of positive thinking – the happy-sunshine-unicorn-style of self-help – where we don’t acknowledge the bad.
Or perhaps it’s the fact we are all told that we shouldn’t feel extreme emotions. Think about it – big girls don’t cry, tough girls don’t cry, boys don’t cry, don’t cry at work. Just, don’t cry. We chastise our kids for tantrums and we tell people to keep their chins up.
So I asked myself the question again…
“Is it okay to feel sad?”
My heart (and tear ducts) said yes and it was like a plug that let it all out.
I cried for two days straight. Not just about Claire. About all the things that had happened this year that had been stifled under the “I’m fine” blanket. I cried while sitting in a busy cafe (in my sunglasses) saying goodbye. I cried while playing pool in the pub that night. I cried while I was walking to daycare. I cried while sitting in the bath.
And then… I stopped crying.
I woke up on the third morning feeling light and, even, energised.
We aren’t robots. We feel the whole range of the spectrum, and the more we deny those very human emotions, the worse we feel. Lying to ourselves rarely fixes things.
The simple fact that you are aware of your emotions and aware that they are not positive, tells me that you are able to turn things around. It’s totally okay to fall apart for a little while, to feel stuck or wonder where to next. You are allowed to have a bad day.
We need to trust ourselves and respect our feelings. Don’t feel sad about feeling sad. Don’t get angry about being angry. Don’t be scared of being scared.
Two weeks later – as I press publish on this post, I feel like a new person. Energised, excited and creatively charged again. I’d let go of all the heaviness that I’d been holding and was back to my self-loving self.
The whole experience reminded me of gastro (stomach flu). I remember speaking to my dad (who is also my doctor) while stricken with a particularly shit bout, pun intended. I asked for any magic pill that would please god make it stop. His response was simple;
Your body is trying to get rid of something for a reason. Despite the fact that it’s unpleasant, if you can stand it, you need to let it happen. Then it can pass.
Sometimes we just need to sit with our own uncomfortable feelings.
Feel what we feel. Don’t wallow. Let it go. Move forward.
And have Skype dates.