JANE, our indie film, and FIRE IN THE HEART, the current beautiful production, were both born out of my own struggle to live in a body that is highly activated by stress, distress, and remnants of trauma. Like, well, pretty much everyone I know.
This morning, waking up way too early, I did a little inventory on my body and noticed that my heart hurt. Not organ pain like “Oh crap here comes a heart attack,” but pain that I have learned to identify as emotion. I am having a feeling and it is probably in the territory of grief, fear, or something else that hovers below language.
It remains weird to me that I am not sure if it is an emotion or not but have learned to trust that this pain in my heart is a clue.
I have some words for it, none of them very good. I feel anxious, I feel afraid, I am not doing enough, I can’t just lie here and feel pain. I have lost direct access to my emotions through too much loss and too many years of being strong and brave in the face of traumatic events. So I have to look for clues wherever I find them.
I keep circling back to how strange this must sound, but I am deeply curious about whether or not other people are also shutting down their emotions to tolerate all the chaos, fear and change we are asked to witness and often experience.
What creates resilience in you?Part of my resilience is the albeit imperfect ability to notice when I am having an emotion even if I haven’t a clue what to call it. Often, if I can get that far, it keeps me from assigning my own lost emotions to you. It stops the “you are making me feel this way” cycle that is destructive not just to whomever I am projecting onto, but to my own lost pieces. This is my emotion and I don’t know what it is about, and it is probably not about how you load the dishwasher but some flying sorrow that I haven’t been able to feel fully and just needs to go somewhere. Dumping it on you is not my best option. It causes more distress, yours and mine.
Whenever I turn on the radio, I feel this same cycle in the collective – horrible lost pieces looking for a home, and ending up in projecting hate out onto someone or something else. It feels to be everywhere in some form, which makes me curious. Have we lost our ability to tolerate our own feelings? If I can’t feel my own pain, shame, grief etc., does the incredible complexity of my unconscious toss it out into the world and ask the collective We to metabolize it for me? Do I need a Bad Object to help me carry the unbearable and unsayable feelings that I cannot access? Is it easier to live with the simplicity of You Are The Bad One than sit with the reality that I am receiving way more painful and distressed information than I can handle and I cannot bear it. So I throw it out of me and into the Great Bad You?
I don’t actually know the answer to these questions. But somehow I have decided that it is not okay to live in lock-down from difficult and distressing feelings. So personally, I am turning to the arts and communities of creative and loving people in search for a way to be present to this new, overloaded and often despairing news soup that we are all living in.
I am also going to bed very early.
*If you want to come hang with my fellow artists on a mission to feel and metabolize, creating ownership of our stories and not dumping them all over you, please join us at FIRE IN THE HEART, March 5, 2016 in Santa Cruz.