In about a month, I have the amazing opportunity to speak at an event and share part of my story. Problem is I’ve been struggling over what to say for months. There are so many things I want to say, so much I want to share. Every time I sit down to write my thoughts, I get overwhelmed. I keep starting over.
Last week I was with a small group of girlfriends for a 6:30am meeting at our favorite place. We were sharing thoughts, feelings, and struggles. I said I had been experiencing some really high highs and really low lows lately. I’ve been digging up so old wounds and working through emotions I’ve shoved down for years. I was fretting about getting on stage and what I would say. I was feeling tired, frustrated, even angry.
We left the coffee shop and I still felt all that negativity trying to work its way to the surface. Instead of forcing myself into work at the office, I headed to the gym to push myself until I puked…that’s what I do. I love that feeling, when you run so hard or done so many burpees that you’re about to pass out or puke. I like to push myself right to that edge, so I hopped on the treadmill and cranked it up.
As I was running sprints, I decided to turn on some music to fit my mood. I hadn’t listened to anything but audio books or podcasts for a few months. Rage and frustration dictated that my first choice would be Eminem…no, Jay-Z…no, Migos…Disturbed…nothing felt right. I scrolled to the Christian Contemporary station, paused, and felt compelled to give it a shot. I heard a familiar tune and when I listened to the words, I heard God telling me why I was struggling so much with preparing for that event. God didn’t want me to say what I wanted to say, He wanted me to share what He wanted me to say. The big decision that I had to make for myself to live a happier life.
No matter what happens, I choose joy.
Here were the lyrics that played from “For King and Country:”
Lately, I’ve been reading, watching the nightly news
Don’t seem to find the rhythm, just wanna sing the blues
Feels like a song that never stops
Feels like it’s never gonna
Oh, hear my prayer tonight, I’m singing to the sky
Give me strength to raise my voice, let me testify
Oh, hear my prayer tonight, ’cause this is do or die
The time has come to make a choice
And I choose joy
Let it move you….
God has been telling me for a long time and wants you to know that suffering and struggle will happen. They are happening every day all around us. Days will be hard. Life is hard. We can choose to be fearful, angry, and frustrated or we can choose to be loving, joyful, and hopeful. It really is that simple.
Pain can be tolerated, ignored, or avoided, or we can face it head on, sit with it, embrace it, learn from it, and let it go to make space for the joy that can come on the other side of it. Facing fear and fighting through pain builds strength, character, and brings peace. It sucks, but on the other side is something really special. Surrendering to the feelings, acknowledging them, and then letting them move on makes room for more peace, love and joy. If we don’t acknowledge and face them we hold onto them and there is less room for all the wonderful feelings we have the opportunity to experience in this life.
More importantly, these negative emotions hold us back from being who God created us to be. I recently read in an article, “When people are in the grip of fear, anxiety or depression, or chronic stress, they are unable to make realistic assessments of situations,” writes Dave Gray, an author and visual thinking coach. “The prefrontal cortex goes ‘offline.’ Creative thinking and innovation, indeed, all higher-level brain functions, are stifled.”
Leverage those negative emotions, that are totally normal by the way, for personal and professional growth. What are you feeling? Why are you feeling that way? Sometimes, current events trigger past emotions. I’m feeling oppressed or judged today but I can’t pinpoint why, so I have to think back to a time early in my life where I was feeling oppressed or judged and release that bottled up emotion. Don’t want to tell anyone? Write it down and re-read it, and then shred it up…or burn it. I love to burn up my old feelings and destroy them so they know they are not welcome back. Release them, choose joy…move on.
Society tells us to push through, or if we smile enough, we will be happy. Pushing emotions down or avoiding them is only delaying the time when you will need to deal with them. Trust me…I know this firsthand. Emotions have energy. Negative emotions have negative energy and they stay with you. If you are constantly avoiding or ignoring them, they will keep coming up. Acknowledge them, appreciate the gift of learning they give you, and send them on their way. Fill the rest of your day with gratitude, love, and positive emotions, and you will be on your way to healing. It is a journey.
Many of us are blessed to live pretty incredible lives. That doesn’t mean we don’t experience negative feelings. I recently told a friend, “No matter how many blessings I have and how good life gets, it can still be really hard. I’m beginning to understand I feel that way because of what I’m holding onto or telling myself on the inside. It’s a process. You are not alone. Keep trying, because you are loved and you are needed in this world.