The first time I experienced feeling off—for no particular reason—was in fourth grade.
I remember, as my mom pulled into the half-egg of Cottonwood Intermediate school’s drive, thinking about having to sit through that morning assembly. I imagined a knife digging into the back of my throat, sharp, and working to cut loose a cry.
I remember wanting to say something to my mom. But Mom was busy, important, and had to get things done.
Despite how I was feeling, the day had to march on in its orderly rhythm. Part of that rhythm involved me exiting the vehicle and assembling with my classmates.
I told myself not to cry.
There wasn’t time for it—my friends might see and Mom wouldn’t be able to do anything about it now, anyway. There wouldn’t even be anything to tell her. I didn’t know why I was sad, but I knew I didn’t want to leave her and I didn’t know why I felt all this only seconds before getting out of the car.
But when she asked if I was okay, I couldn’t keep my lip from quivering. Sometimes my no-nonsense mom surprised me by stopping the world at unexpected moments.
But that’s my mom: intolerant to laziness and liars, a seer through bullsh*t,and who has the kindest heart when met with genuine need.
That morning, amid the cornfields of Kansas, my mom and I sat in a Burger King and shared bite-sized cinnamon rolls.
While my classmates were saying the Pledge of Allegiance and starting their school day, and my mom’s coworkers went about their busyness, the two of us sat in our plastic booth, frozen in time.
I don’t even remember what we talked about or if the cinnamon rolls were good.
But I remember feeling loved.
Now, I have moments, days, or sometimes weeks of feeling off, like I’m not fully functioning. I know I could get a prescription for a few different things, but I’m convinced I can one-moment-at-a-time my way through these dips.
That’s what these moments feel like—dips under, over, to the left, or to the right of where I want to be. It’s as though whatever path I’m supposed to be on, I’ve missed it.
So, like my mom taught me all those years ago, when I have these spaces of time where life makes me want to hide and freeze, I take stock of the love I might be low on.
Sometimes I need to talk to the people who know me best. Sometimes I need to physically exert myself to feel reconnected with my body.
I have also found making a safe place to spill my thoughts in a nonjudgmental way through journalling helps, or finding a private place to yell or cry. Things like singing, dancing, allowing myself to zone out or booking myself a massage all benefit me and bring me closer to alignment within myself.
Finding trust in myself to let go and let emotion roll off me has been messy and scary, but also beautiful and rewarding.
By standing with my heart instead of trying to hide it, I’ve found even ground to grow in.
This, in turn, has helped me open myself up to those around me, connect on a more genuine level, and fill my life with authenticity.
For people who visit or live in this kind of tumultuous space, awareness is a blessing within a curse.
Like Madeleine L’Engle has said, “It’s a good thing to have all the props pulled out from under us occasionally. It gives us a sense of what is rock under our feet and what is sand.”