I woke up the other morning and realized I was in a funk. I wasn’t depressed, I wasn’t happy, I wasn’t angry. What was I? I continued my morning and did all of the things that usually lift my spirits (although, my spirits weren’t necessarily down…). I squeezed the daylights of out my cat, drank copious amounts of coffee, and chatted with my husband.
All morning I tried to figure out what was “wrong.” I couldn’t pinpoint the way I was feeling.
This got me thinking: Why was I so hell bent on being one thing or the other? (Just happy, just sad, just excited, just unmotivated, etc). I soon realized I spent more time, energy and frustration trying to correctly identify my feelings than just being in the feeling itself!
As humans, we tend to categorize our feelings into discrete little boxes, as if they aren’t on a spectrum. Indeed, examples of this are found everywhere within everyday conversation. Think about the last time someone asked you:
“How was your day?”
We normally amount this to either “good”or “bad.” In reality, we: had crappy morning (woke up late and was rushed), a good mid-morning (coffee was delish and the barista told me my hair was pretty), an uneventful afternoon (bored to tears at work and counting down the minutes till I’m off), and an excellent evening (husband had dinner ready when I’m home, watched the Bachelor, went to bed early.)
“Are you happy or unhappy with your job?”
In reality: some days we wake up jubilant with joy to go to work, some days we would rather be stuck in an elevator with Donald Trump than go to work.
“Do you like being single or do you want to be in relationship?”
In reality: I don’t have answer this question, Aunt Carol.
When it comes to our feelings, we are often given choices of one or the other. In reality? We can feel a whole spectrum of emotions in a matter of minutes.
The dreaded “gray area” (is it grey or gray?!)
What this one particular morning taught me was how uncomfortable I (and many of us) are being in the gray area.
The truth is, 99% of life is lived in the gray area. We are not solely happy or solely sad for months on end. We do not see life through the lens of emotional binoculars. Rather, we see life through an emotional kaleidoscope. An ever shifting, ever changing cluster of emotions.
Living in the gray area means we can feel multiple, seemingly opposite emotions at once. It means we don’t have to wait to reach milestones before we allow ourselves to feel happy. It means we allow ourselves to work on goals, but also be happy (or unhappy) with what we have in the moment.
In fact, I would argue that personal growth requires you to live in the gray area, because it is there, in the murky waters, that change can grow.
A seed does not turn into a sunflower over night. It first must undergo intense, somewhat painful change. The seed splits open, has a bunch of crap grow out of it, and sets its roots, all while being in the dark, ugly soil. Then, it needs the help of water and sunlight to grow, finally breaks the soil and grows into its beautiful little self. (This is all VERY scientifically sound). While the end result of a sunflower is beautiful, all of the “gray” areas it had to go through to get there were the real source of power and change.
Notice we don’t call this time of growth and change the “rainbow area,” it’s gray for a reason: it ain’t pretty. Just like that other morning I had, it can feel uncomfortable, annoying, confusing, and frustrating. Instead of trying to feel one way or the other, just take a deep breath and trust that your feelings will work themselves out.
When you’re feeling like you’re in the gray area, embrace it. This could be a time of growth and change that is necessary for you to turn into a
sunflower happier human.
Don’t be so focused on personal growth that you cant enjoy and be proud of where youre at.
Don’t be so goal hungry that you cant relish in the joy of reaching milestones.
I think this is especially true for millennials or people iat this age. We’re all trying to grind and
Growth requires acknowledging the things youre grateful for.
- Its kind of a catch 22, because in order to continue in your growth, you NEED to focus on the things youre happy with.
- Personal growth requires to be able to do both.
In order to move on you gotta be happy with youre at
In an age where self help books line every shelf, and people are constantly working on their growth (Yes, I realize I am part of this phenomenon) its hard to ignore the fact that people are constantly trying to “better” their lives.
That got me thinking though, that perhaps this obsession with trying to do things better, (eating sleeping, communication, etc) that maybe we’re forgetting to enjoy where we are too. Life, my friends, does not need to be so black and white.
Society reinforces the need to categorize things, and humans already tend to focus on things as black and white. The need to make a distinction or decision on how we’re feeling about something forces us to make rash decisions.
Upshot: feelings aren’t permanent
Downside: feelings aren’t permanent