Wednesday Check-In: Between Writing Sessions

English: Robert Plutchik's Wheel of Emotions
English: Robert Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

ROW80 Week 2.

Goal: Write 5 days out of 7 using the writing and contemplation prompts from a chapter of The Pen and the Bell by Brenda Miller and Holly Hughes (this week is chapter 2, “Sitting Down and Waking Up”).

I’m going to say very little about the writing part and talk more about how the writing is effecting me when I’m not writing. Maybe I’ll talk more about the writing itself at the Sunday check-in. For now, I feel more comfortable leaving that specific bit alone. The writing I just want to leave be without analyzing or judging it for a while yet.

Since Sunday, I’ve had two main insights as a result of “Sitting Down and Waking Up.” First, I noticed that I feel awake to the reality that my life isn’t as compartmentalized as I routinely think of it. My life as “mother” isn’t separate from my life as “wife” or even from my pre-motherhood or pre-married life. All of those versions of me exist right now, in this moment. There is no tangible separation between those versions of myself, no such thing as “my” life separate from what I do every day. If my daily life feels like I’m waiting for a chance to be “me,” then I either need to shift my perspective or shift how I spend my days.

The other insight I had this week is that sometimes I interpret a physical sensation as an emotion when in reality it’s just a physical sensation. For example, when I drink alcohol—even just one drink—several hours after it should be out of my system I feel a fluttery feeling in my chest and I get cold sweats. The same thing happens with coffee. My husband—who is a doctor but the PhD kind, not the medical kind—diagnosed me with trouble metabolizing acetaldehyde, one of the byproducts produced when the body processes alcohol or coffee. Whatever it is, it’s clearly a physical reaction, but because it includes sensations I associate with anxiety or nervousness, I automatically translate the physical sensation into the emotion. I say, “Oh! I’m anxious!” and then go over and over the events of that evening and the past several days to try and figure out what I’m anxious about.

But what if I just felt the sensation without attaching an emotion to it? In this situation, I think that would be a liberating path that would entail much less suffering than my usual way of handling it. Inspired by this insight and the rediscovered benefits of close observation that the exercises from The Pen and the Bell have revealed to me, I’ve been looking at other situations from this perspective. So far I’ve not been able to dissect anger or boredom or overwhelm as I have that one particular type of “anxiety,” but trying to do so has helped me feel less at their mercy than I usually do.

Onward to Sunday!

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