I’ve been trying to write my next blog post for a while. I have a sticky note with all these ideas about recovery and body positivity that I seem to be able to spew out on some days. But for over a month I’ve been stagnant creativity and writing wise. This post -like all my great ideas- happened in the shower, and therefore is probably not going to be the most eloquent writing I’ll ever do but at the bare minimum it’ll be what I mean.
Relay for Life is an 12 hour fundraising event that my University does to raise money for cancer research. I’ve been on the committee since my first year on this campus and while I wasn’t able to be on the committee this year I of course knew that I would attend with my own team and take part in the beautiful and fun event that is Relay for Life.
In September this past year Mr. Steffler passed away after battling cancer. Mr. Steffler was a lot of things, he was my English teacher in high school, he was a father, a husband, a coach. But more than that he was the one that in my darkest times gave me an outlet that was beautiful to be able to feel things. When I was fighting to not feel things and was frustrated with whatever feelings I did have, Mr. Steffler gave me space to create, he gave all his students the space to create. For his classes I handed in a wooden, empty book that I crafted in my dad’s shed. I drew a picture instead of writing a final essay. I wrote about self-harm, about disordered eating, about sexual violence, about self hate. I spent 3 days of that class staring at a blank piece of paper trying to understand what he wanted from me in his class until I understood it, but even now I’m not sure I really did. I brought crayons to his class everyday, and used them more often than not. His classes were terrifying and stressful and powerful and whatever a student needed them to be. There were a lot of things high school didn’t teach me, a lot of things it taught me that I wish it hadn’t, but every single lesson that I learned from Mr. Steffler was a lesson that shaped me.
When I heard Mr. Steffler passed away my immediate response was determination to raise money for Relay, to do everything I could to get a team and make it matter. Cancer had taken away this person from the world and I wasn’t going to let that go.
But then time passed.
And I began to question why my immediate response was to fight, even if the fight is a valid one. Why was my first feeling determination or a sort of anger, why was I automatically trying to create a purpose for myself in this mess. If Mr. Steffler taught me anything it was that I am allowed to feel the things that I feel. I don’t need to cover up my emotions with an immediate response. I don’t need to define what I am feeling right away, or even know what I am feeling right away. Even when I don’t like them, even when I’m not proud of them, even when they hurt, I am allowed to be filled with those things and not just acknowledge them, but embrace them.
Relay for Life is just around the corner at my school. And to me the best thing I can do to truly be there is to not go. I think I spend a lot of time doing things. Doing, not feeling. And for the most part I see that as something I like about myself, at the very least it lets me get shit done. But for this, I’m feeling. And for now feeling consists of not attending Relay but going out into the world and feeling things. Instead of Relay: I’m going to go on a too long road trip with my friends, I’m going to make a bad playlist and probably sing too loudly, I’m going to get lost most likely, I’m going to sleep on uncomfortable beds and eat too much food, I’m going to look at the sky for longer than usual and I am going to feel these things.
Feelings don’t always make sense. They are often not pretty, sometimes they’re not even meaningful. Sometimes you regret the actions that a feeling made you do. But none of these things will happen if you don’t let yourself feel anything at all.
Please, in whatever way you need, in whatever way works best, feel your feelings. Welcome them. You don’t need to love them, you don’t need to break out the fine china for them, but when they knock on the door let them in, make them some tea, and just listen to what they have to say.