So I’m at the letter P and you’d think that by now it would be obvious to me when I’ve chosen the wrong word for a letter. I mean, how many times have I started a post with “X was for Y, but actually it’s for Z” or whatever? A lot.
Actually, maybe just once. But I’ve thought it a lot.
Along those same lines: P was for pants. And it was going to be pretty dang funny. I hate pants, almost as much as they hate me, and I had tons of hilariously self-deprecating pants-related anecdotes to share with you… except, if we are of the same generation, then we both no doubt owned our fair share of stirrup pants, wind suits with matching tops, sweat suits with contrast color turtle neck, green jeans, whatevs. Right?
And if we’re not, I’m sure you had your generation’s equivalent– huge bell bottoms, stripes, plaids, butt-crack-displaying-low-rise, or something like that. Who hasn’t owned bad pants?
(I can tell you who– those girls. But I’ve already told that story. And even they probably had those pants, just not in my memory.)
But this is not a post about pants. It is a post about permission. And I was telling you about how I know when I’ve chosen the wrong word. Except I can’t really put that into words, except to say that I spend inordinate amounts of time jotting things down, writing and re-writing sentences, telling people about the “awesome post” I’ve got “cooking up” (yes, I used those exact words today… for shame), and then suddenly the real word pops into my head and I sit down to write it and it just floooows.
Permission it is!
We all live our lives by at least some rules– rules imposed on us by the society in which we live, either written or unwritten. I think most of us (read: me) also live by a set of arbitrary rules self-crafted (self-inflicted, perhaps?) slowly over time. My rule book has always been HUGE. And I do mean ALWAYS.
You can’t will away a fever that’s preventing you from attending school (and making you fall behind!! nooooo!) any more than you can control a feeling. Yet, Chapter 2, “Rules about Feelings,” has always been the longest chapter in my book. (Chapter 1– Rules about Hair, in case you were wondering. And that one’s not arbitrary; it’s trial-by-error.)
As a baby, feelings come on strong when you’re tired. You cry it out, someone notices, you go down for a nap, and wake up feeling a thousand times better. It’s a good system, really. Tried and true. But what about in adulthood? It’s not quite so simple then… people will fault you for taking a nap at your desk or sawing logs in a meeting. Myself included.
In the absence of naps (not always, I’m not a huge napper, but on Sundays, all bets are off), I’ve had to create another set of rules… and that’s where the list gets long.
Sad? Immediately look for a silver lining and explain why it’s actually good. (Also, eat.)
Mad? Label it an AFGO and move on. (Also, eat.)
Hurt? Don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry. (Also, eat.)
Flusterated? Call your mom and explain to her that the combination of flustered and frustrated really is a word. (Also, eat.)
Happy? Just eat.
And so on and so forth.
See? A solution for every feeling!
Except… feeling it. What if the first rule of the feelings section of the rule book was simply this:
Feel the feeling. Give yourself a minute. You have my permission.
Feel the dang feeling, nerd! Give yourself a cotton picking minute. Geez.
And if you’ve felt the feeling and you still feel like there’s a silver lining, it’s an AFGO, crying would feel kind of nice, your mom should hear about your flusteration, you’re actually kind of hungry… then you can do that too. But feeeeel first. It shouldn’t be that hard.
Of course, with all the “yous” and “yours” I am obviously just talking to myself out loud on the Internet, but you knew that already.
(Speaking of the internet, I actually laughed out loud during a meeting when someone said “The Google” the other day. It just came out of my throat and I couldn’t stop it! Politeness– that’s a rule. Oops.)
I use a purple pen for all of my corrections. As a science writer, I got through about 6 pens or so a year (not even kidding), but purple doesn’t seem so bad to me. It stands out, but doesn’t scream WRONG like red does. It’s kind of my thing. To honor the letter P, tonight, I pull out my metaphorical purple pen for the purpose of correcting my rule book. The first rule of feelings is now:
You have permission to just feel it. Feel the feeling. It’s ok.
When I was really little, I used to tell my mom and dad that my feelings were hurt and they’d ask me, “Which feelings?” To which I would respond with the color of the feelings that got hurt. I distinctly remember it being the blue ones most of the time. I don’t know what that means, but I feel like I may have intuitively at the age of 3 been doing the thing that it’s taken until 30 to finally give myself permission to do.
Feelings aren’t for rationalizing, explaining, pushing away… eating (ahem). They are for feeling. Permission granted to do so.
This blog was brought to you, in part, by my enthusiastic and snuggly co-author from my in-laws’ super comfy couch:
PS: My mom seriously hates it when people say “flusterated” like it’s a real word. It’s ok, mom… I give you permission to feel that hate. Feeeeel it. That’s right….