Making Time for Emotional Processing

“There is a difference between claiming a calm space and defending it from encroachment vs happening upon an open space where you can rest.” I said these words to a friend this morning as part of a conversation about how my week was going. Now the words are sitting in my brain, because I long for an open space, free from urgency. I (kind of) have that scheduled for Saturday, but today is Wednesday and this week has already had a lot in it.

In the past I’ve given advice to others (and to myself) about building a life you’re happy to dwell inside rather than one you need to escape from. I’m sitting with that advice today and wondering if I’m a hypocrite as I feel harried by tasks without pause. Tasks I want to run away from. I find myself wishing I could shoehorn some bonus time into the middle of my week that I would just use for watching lots of brainless television. Or sleeping. It was just last night that Howard mentioned a task and I answered “I’d better write that down in my Book of Too Many Things.” He laughed and thought the name was appropriate. I laughed too. And wrote the thing down. I might actually write that title on the cover of my current journal / To Do book. Then I’ll laugh/cry at the truth of it any time I look at the cover.

The fact that I want to laugh/cry over my lists tells me that I need to find a way to be joyful while doing the things instead of weary.

So I remember other advice that I gave out while teaching Creativity in All Things. Often our challenge isn’t with the tasks of our lives. It is with the grief or emotional processing that accompanies those tasks. This is my problem right now. Not that I’ve taken on too many things, but that the incessant stream of urgent tasks has left me with very little space to process the emotional loads of those tasks. Some of the the emotional loads have been fairly epic in scope. Some of the griefs are persistent and pervasive. I’m storing them in my mind, tucked as far out of the way as they can be, while I try to work in the space that is left over. Struggling to accomplish things in tight quarters creates additional frustration, which I also pack up and stow, tucking it in between and around the other bundles. Except most of the room is taken and I’ve reached the point where sometimes things come loose and land on my head when I’m trying to focus. Emotional clean up in the middle of my work space is kind of a daily occurrence this week.

On Saturday I need to sit down with myself and list out my griefs. Name them. Describe them without judgement. Let them be as petty, or unfair, or deep, or wide as they are when I pull them out of storage. It is likely to be messy work. Organizing always creates additional mess before it can create order. When I’ve looked at all the bundles, then I decide on action items for each grief. Who can I talk to about the experience of having your life partner become disabled? What actions can I take to set right a hurt I helped cause? When can I sit and feel sad about an experience I wanted to have, but which the time for has passed? Those action items get space on my upcoming To Do lists. My one defended emotional processing space will spawn a dozen more, which I’ll also have to defend. I may feel more busy for a while rather than less. But this is the heart of self care. Claiming space to tend to yourself.

Experience has taught me that if I claim and defend spaces for deliberate emotional processing, the result is that my mind and life begin to feel less embattled. Slowly the stowed emotions become integrated, which is when I begin to discover those surprise open spaces in which I can just be calm and happy.