Rain Down On Me

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What a week. An enormous hurricane darkened the doors of millions on the East Coast,  leaving countless people without power, or worse, without homes. Tragically, some even lost their lives. Although Sandy touched down in New Jersey, it seems that New York City was hit the hardest, resulting in historic closings of public transportation, streets, schools, and even the New York Stock Exchange. Both businesses and residents are now struggling to recover, trying to get back some shred of normalcy after taking such an immense hit.

My heart goes out to all in the affected areas, in NYC, and beyond. I wish you all warmth, safety, clean sheets, and power (both intrinsic and electric). Please know that even people who don't know you are thinking of you.  

And I also want to paraphrase something that Anne Lamott, a wonderful and inspiring writer, reminded me of today. Basically, Anne said that even in the midst of big disasters, it is still okay for us to be concerned with our individual problems. And that shaming ourselves because we are upset about something in our own lives when others have lost their homes, comes from the same crazy cloth as the idea that finishing our plates will help the starving children in India.

I love that Anne brought this up because so many of us need to be reminded that it is okay to feel what we feel. Forget about the notion that our emotions can be swept away. Because, in reality, they, just like this week's storm surge, cannot be kept at bay. They can be pushed under the rug, medicated, fed, sexed, gambled, or otherwise dealt with through addictions, but they will always resurface. So it really is better to seek up the emotion, acknowledge it, feel it, and let it pass. And it will.

Besides, contrary to popular belief, feeling bad about what we are feeling doesn't actually help the person who just lost their home. Just like finishing your plate of food when you are already full doesn't do much for the starving child in India. But, healing yourself, through a gentle and kind curiosity, not judgment, toward your own state of being does. This is because healing turns out to be a joint endeavor. By some invisible web, we are, indeed, all connected. Therefore, when one person breaks through the guilt and gives her feelings space to expand, we all breath a sigh of relief.

The only "redeeming" factor about tragic events is that they tend to bring people closer. Already, stories of kindness and generosity are circling the ethers, as people remember what is most important to them. Illness can have this same effect, stripping previously "urgent" matters of their importance. But, for whatever reason, this type of reaching out to others tends to be temporary. Of course, it doesn't have to be, and we can all make an effort to extend the kindness. It is my belief that one way to do this is to practice regular self-compassion. Especially toward our own wet and messy feelings, which, one day, will all be washed away.

Hayley Bauman, Psy.D.