Yo, yo. If you’re friends with me in real life or on social media, you have a pretty good idea of who I am. Something about how I have curly hair and a loud laugh. Also, I love my cat, Gary, so much. I like to make jokes about my nonexistent romantic life. I’m a pretty cute gal, and I know how to turn on the charm. I teach yoga and I write for a living. I love riding my bike and singing loudly and making inappropriate jokes about poop and genitals when people least expect it. I also like to swear. F*ck. (Sorry, moms and grandmas everywhere.)
I’m pretty good at painting a pretty fantastic picture of my life. I am, after all, a writer. I’m not too bad at taking photos either. Most of my pictures look like a variation on this:
Awwwww. What a cute kid. It would appear that I have nothing to complain about a vast majority of the time. In fact, I hear the words, “Ugh. Jealous,” more often than I don’t.
Like, right now, for instance. As you read this I am probably on my way to meet Sweet G in real life for the first time ever in NYC. This weekend, I’ll be starting my Art of Attention teacher training with Elena Brower. A full weekend of yoga learning at VIRAYOGA with a bunch of crazy smart beautiful people. What could I POSSIBLY have to complain about right now?
I’m gonna get real real with you real quick, though. Check this out:
Go ahead. Click on it. Enlarge the size of that photo and look that girl right in the face. That is a picture of me from 2011. A three-year relationship had ended. My heart was obliterated. I had no substantial income and I was living (rent free) with friends. I had no idea how the hell I was going to get my shit together. I was sure I would never laugh or smile or love ever again. We’ve all been there to some degree. Shit sucks.
Why the hell did I take that gut-wrenching picture? Even today, when I look at it, I can feel my heart drop into the deepest part of my guts. I took it because that was the day that I told myself I would never give anyone else credit for bringing me that low. I would never again cry like this because I let a friend, a family member or a lover hurt me. That was the last day I was going to sit there and cry like that.
I’ve got news for you. I still get that sad. My very best friends say things to me and I lose it. I worry about what the hell I’m doing with my life and if everything is going to be okay and I become hysterical. I get lonely as f*ck and I want nothing more than someone to come over and hold me and I crawl into bed and hyperventilate.
Why am I telling you this and why should you care? Because this is life and we’re all in it together. We all lose it and break down and cry our eyes out. Whoever you think is the happiest person ever – ISN’T. Trust me. If you claim to be one of those people, be honest with yourself. You get pissed and hurt sometimes. We all do.
The best thing we can do for ourselves when we feel low and hurt is to remind ourselves that these are normal human emotions.
Somewhere along the way we were told happy = good and sad/angry = bad. A very smart man told me something very interesting recently. He said that emotions like sad and angry are very important parts of our development. In fact, in order to expand your consciousness – that is, to increase your awareness and grow and develop as a human being, you have to get angry and pissed and sad along the way. Remember puberty? How many of you went through that like, “Whatevs! Boobs! Pubic hair! Hormones! Pending developmental adulthood with no real emotional preparation! I got this!” Nobody.
The trick is to be angry or sad IN ORDER to move through it. See the angry. Look at it. Roll it around in your hands and examine it. And then, for the love of whatever you deem to be holy, express it. Show it in different (safe, non-harming) ways. You don’t have to show others, you don’t have to draw anyone into it – unless you need to. How do you know if you need to? I haven’t gotten that far. I’m still trying to figure out how to be okay with being angry and hurt. I do know that when I’m angry – I made that angry. That came from inside me. Sure, others’ perceived actions may have triggered it, but it’s mine and I get to choose what I do with it.
I recently learned that feeling guilty about your anger or sadness and burying it leads to digestive disorders. Alternatively, sulking in it can turn your heart black and make you a meanie fart head. But watching it, feeling it, and rolling around in it a bit can help unearth the underlying grief that needs to be released. Sometimes this takes an afternoon, sometimes this takes years. Regardless, this is life and if you think about it, the complexity of it all is actually kind of mysterious and beautiful and worth looking into.
I mean, we’re all gonna die some day anyway, so we might as well at least explore our range of emotions so we can say we learned a few things along the way, right?
Tatum Fjerstad is a Minneapolis yoga teacher, writer and laughter expert. Learn more about her here.