(From Brainstorms &
This is what a broken heart feels like:
A pressure just behind my sternum
and suddenly I can’t breathe.
An ache radiating in all directions
slowly rendering me numb,
as though a steady drip of Lidocaine
was running through my veins.
I want to move.
I want to find something to hold on to,
to pull me back into this moment.
I want to shut down the feeling,
to pretend that it doesn’t exist.
But pushing against it only causes it to grow.
Whether heartache or rage or grief or pain, whether personal or collective, the only way out is through.
Being with waves of intensity takes presence, patience, community, and connection. Here are some practices that have helped me navigate my own periods of intense emotions, including the one I'm in right now. It's not about making the emotion go away, but expanding my capacity to feel it, to wobble, and to find a way back to center. Often, over and over again. Perhaps one or more of these ideas might be useful to you. If there's something else that's working well for you, I'd love to hear about it.
The Land: I notice a tree, a squirrel, an ant, and focus my attention on its movement for a few minutes. I feel the air against my skin and notice the heat of the sun, the texture of a breeze. I listen to a bird or a cricket and imagine the messages they're sharing. Whether in the woods, a park, or an urban center, shifting my focus from the stuff of humans to the persistence of nature connects me to hope and possibility.
Crying (or screaming or stomping my feet like a child having a tantrum): Mostly in private. Because sobbing (and screaming and stomping feet) is essential from time to time. And because it takes way more energy to hold back tears than to let them flow.
Movement: Walking. Stretching. Dancing (it doesn't have to look pretty). Swimming. Biking. Lately, my body hasn't been able to move the way I'm used to, but I'm doing what I can and what feels good in small doses.
IRL (in real life) Connection: Voice to voice. Eye to eye. Heart to heart. With a friend. With a neighbor. With a stranger. With kindness. Any small reminder that we are all humans trying to navigate this world together.
Daily Morning Pages: Three pages of stream-of-consciousness writing. Every day. First thing in the morning. Before getting out of bed. Before looking at the phone. Before coffee, even. This practice connects me to me. It gets the swirl of thoughts and feelings out of my mind and onto paper. The practice takes discipline and most days I'd rather not do it. And, over time, this practice has perhaps had more impact on my life than anything else.
The Wisdom of Carrie Contey (PhD, Parenting Coach): I've been listening to and learning from Carrie's guidance on parenting for many years. Her perspectives and offerings ground me, offer clarity, and remind me that taking the time to settle myself before caring for those around me isn't selfish. Her email newsletters always feel like a chance to take a deep breath.
Cupcakes: Because, sprinkles. And because they're just right for sharing.
Wishing you sweetness this week, with a few extra sprinkles on top.
p.s. - One way to support healing in communities that have been impacted by gun violence, including Uvalde, TX, and Buffalo, NY, is through an organization called Survivors Empowered .
If you are a trauma-informed mental health professional and would like to volunteer to provide services in Uvalde, TX, you can use this form to share your information. Someone from Survivors Empowered will reach out to you.