I spend a lot of time trying to feel emotions in my body. I work at recognizing them and naming them. “Oh hello, there you are happiness,” and “Oh hello, I see you disappointment.” I find that when I can name it, I won’t shame it. (free therapy line for you today)
As I have been doing some deep, inner work, I have noticed a feeling that I could not name. I recognize that this feeling has been with me my entire life. It just felt, well for lack of a better word, normal for me.
Ever since I was little, I never felt fully happy. Like completely full of happiness. I can feel happy. I can feel joy. I can feel delight. And, I really LOVE feeling this way. And there is always something else underneath.
In the past 2 weeks, I was finally able to name this feeling – MELANCHOLY.
a feeling of pensive sadness, typically with no obvious cause.
having a feeling of melancholy; sad and pensive
Having a name for this feeling has felt freeing. I had been wondering if I were depressed, if I just never could be happy, if I needed medication, if I just was a sad person that sometimes pretended to be happy. I have come to the conclusion that none of these statements are true of me.
What I have determined is, I am a happy person, with a river of melancholy that runs through my middle.
Being adopted, I never really felt settled anywhere. I feel this sense of wanderlust and restlessness that something good will end at any second, so be prepared. I have felt this way when I was a child. I feel this way as an adult.
As I have been working deeper on fully accepting myself, I have been reminded again and again about what I learned at the Adoption Retreat
I attended in Berkeley, CA this past February.
I learned I don’t have to STAY in my default network. Default network is what I have always done to make myself live small. For example, not speaking up when I have a different opinion because I don’t feel smart enough to share, or not being part of a group dance party because I can’t dance, don’t want to be seen moving. Ya know…. shame filled behaviors that really do not serve me as a whole person.
It takes a lot of courage for me to step out of my default network and cross over to direct experience. For me, direct experience is simply allowing myself to feel all my feelings, to be in my 5 senses, and to step out of the shadows to be seen. Not easy for an adoptee who has been hiding and worrying about being seen, judged, ignored, invisible, pleasing others, and generally not fitting in for 52 years.
And, I have to find new direct experiences to live big. No more small. Only big.
I have become more and more fascinated with the concept of visualizing a bridge when I feel like I am falling back into my default network.
What I do when I find myself starting to shrink or feel less than, is I imagine a bridge, like the one above. I like this picture because there are a lot of trees around, and I really love trees.
I literally visualize so I can SEE myself on the default side of the bridge. Then, I allow my emotions to be felt, I think about what I would rather do instead of stay in the place that I feel small, then…. I visualize myself stepping out and walking forward. Walking to the direct experience side so that I can not feel so invisible. It is SO hard and SO worth the effort. Change is hard and I fight myself, but I have big goals and dreams. I can do hard things.
Today, I thought about the river that runs under the bridge. I realized, it is that feeling of the River of Melancholy. That constant ebb and flow. I sometimes have felt like I have fallen off the bridge and splashed down into the river.
Today, I decided that I can just rest and float on my back to the water, in the River of Melancholy, until I reach the shore. I then can scamper up to the bridge and start over at crossing to direct practice. The River of Melancholy supports me, holds me, allows me to recognize my adoption feelings without feeling overwhelmed.
I get to float instead of drown. Floating is supportive. Melancholy supports me to rest until I am able to get back to the effort of living Big.
This is an exercise we all can do. Visualize the bridge. See yourself walking to the other side. Even if you don’t make it, you tried. Even if you slip into the river, you can float. Even if you are afraid, there are many who have crossed the bridge before you, and who will walk with you, and who are behind you.
We can do this together.