Have you ever tried to curate your expectations in order to minimise disappointment or sadness?
As though you are trying to flatten the curve of your emotions by not letting yourself feel the high of hopefulness or joyful expectation. I have found myself attempting (and failing) to compress and ignore feelings of hope, excitement, love or desire, simply because I think in the long run – at least I won’t be disappointed.
Brene Brown calls out this tactic as an attempt to avoid vulnerability. She says, “Joy is the most vulnerable emotion we experience…and if you cannot tolerate joy, what you do is you start dress rehearsing tragedy.”
It seems being so full of love, joy or hope is the pinnacle of vulnerability.
I clearly remember the days after my son’s birth thinking, “I just needed to hope for nothing so that I can avoid disappointment.”
It was certainly my coping strategy at the beginning. But with hindsight, I can see that in my attempt to thwart the experience of pain and vulnerability, I was side stepping the best parts of living too. Because this tactic of minimising feelings isn’t selective. If I try to stop feeling some of it, I risk not feeling any of it – not fully.
In those darkest days, I have been found contemplating if loving less would help make the loss less painful.
But it is not possible to love-less.
Love grabs life with both hands whether you choose to hold its gaze or not. Grief will be just as immersive. I do not want to miss the intimacy and beauty of love out of fearing the depth and magnitude of loss. I don’t want to miss out on the giddy expectation of hope or joy because I’m clumsily trying to protect myself from, “What if it doesn’t work out?”
It reminds me of the song of Nichole Nordman, No longer.
“I wanna feel my heart on fire now
And let the safety net burn down
Throw my arms out wide
Let your love collide in me.”
In my training and parent workshops I talk about the highs being higher and the lows lower. I used to try and ‘flatten the curve’ of my emotions to prevent the unsustainable peaks and inevitable falls. But I’m now trying a different tac.
Now I’m trying to be an “In with both feet” kind of person. Instead of absorbing the cultural narrative of being a ‘small’ woman, I want to go big or go home.
I can’t avoid the heart break and I don’t want to miss out on the joy. This isn’t natural for me. I’ve of prided myself on levelling off my emotions but I want to make a choice to ride the waves in all their heights and depths.
I’m making a decision to live life with my hands and heart wide open – ready to feel everything there is along the way. Ideally though, this would all happen in bed, under a big duvet, with high calories carbohydrates and netflix – please.