Contagious Emotions and Giving Space

I am a formerly highly emotional person, who now is almost flippantly cold. The change does not shock me, and I know the root cause: GRIEF. But that is not the topic of this post. That will be another day. But let’s say the grief I am talking about is not your run of the mill grief, not the kind after someone you kind of knew died or left you. It is the BIG kind. The kind that makes you beat your chest and scream, and afterwards you are incredibly numb for years on end.

After this grief reentered my life, I have worked hard to not make the same mistakes as the last time I faced this beast.  Namely, I do not want to be emotionless for a while and then one day break into a million pieces, unable to pick myself back up. So I am slowly, every so slowly, attempting to give myself space to feel emotions. I ask myself to search for feeling, not to ignore it or actively push it down. I do my best to stop the dissociating and actually FEEL stuff. Sounds easy, but it is not. Three years into this big grief and the emotions that peak through seem to flood out in a fury, overwhelming and scaring the rest of my feelings quickly back into submission.

One thing I have noticed during this time is how contagious mood and emotional response can be. I can be pretty chipper, going about my day with an almost hyper attitude, because I am accomplishing so much. Then I run into someone who is not, and you can almost hear the air being let out of my balloon. Within about 10 minutes I am flat. Now equally as sad, depressed, dejected, frustrated, irritated or whatever it may be, as the person I am interacting with. It can infuriating. It can be downright ridiculous. I remember trying desperately to keep a positive attitude while working in a factory, but everyone’s mood just kind of melted into mine. So I am faced with a problem, how do I give myself space for my own emotions and moods, and also give other people there’s? In the past I simply cut out people who were not what I wanted to be around. Which of course has meant loneliness, because who is positive and encouraging all the time? Clearly this is not the way to go.

In my personal life, I have coached my significant other in holding space for me and my unpredictable moods while simultaneously encouraging him to explore his inner landscape. He is similarly detached from his emotional state, and also experiences random break through moments of intense, usually negative, emotion. So here we both are, trying to connect to our emotional states, asking ourselves how we feel, and attempting to describe our own experiences with more “feeling words.” As you can imagine, it has been messy. He has done really well with it all, and is getting very skilled at holding space for me and my moods. Not trying to swoop in and fix it, but just allowing me to feel something and being okay with it. However, he recently pointed out I do not give him space for his emotions. And he is 100% right. It is as though he is never ever allowed to be the least bit upset or angry, never allowed to be frustrated or sad, I expect him to be positive and encouraging 100% of the time. And that is wrong.

Now we reach today’s dilemma. I was pretty upbeat at work, and as the finish drew closer, I got more and more excited to go home and see my family. Especially since we had a planned evening out at Chuck E. Cheese already paid for by someone else. So I return to my home in a tremendous hurry, walk in and am greeted by the most adoring sound of “Mommy! Mommy! Mommy! Ready to go!” from my enthusiastic toddler. Ah, the warmth. Fifteen seconds later, her Dad walks out of the room, and my heart drops. I can tell from his face, body language, tone of voice and behavior that he is definitely not feeling chipper. His mood is deep and dark, he is ruffled, irritated and frustrated. I acknowledge it, but really I am saying he better change it. We head off to Chuck E. Cheese, and he is still dark and stormy, we tiff a bit in the car because it takes me no time to adopt and mirror back his roughness. Once there, it is clear he is unorganized, flustered, barely able to handle the interactions taking place. So I take over, order and set about getting to the fun. I became tense, scared, nervous, apprehensive, and slightly pissed that he is not happy. Here we are at Chuck E. Cheese and it is costing us nothing for goodness sake, put a damn smile on I think to myself. But really what I am doing is invalidating his already fragile emotional state and totally failing at giving him space to feel what he feels.

The evening continues and he is easily set off, which then makes me easily set off, and I spent the rest of the time just staying out his way and playing alone. Why? Because his mood was so freaking contagious I had to walk away. But inside I just wanted to scream at him to “Get over it!” And I am really not the great at hiding anything, so he can tell I am not giving him space. And I am sure he loves it when I repeatedly badger him with, “What’s wrong? Are you okay? Seriously, what’s the matter?”

At some point I was able to find enough of my own space to let loose and really enjoy myself for a few minutes. The kids were laughing and getting a kick out of this new experience and it filled me with joy. The joy was fleeting, but hey, I felt a positive emotion! Woohoo! But then a second later, I am back to absorbing the mood of my guy. Damn it!

We closed down the place, and of course the kids are exhausted and starting to act up. I expect it, and am just rolling with the punches, and doing my best to get them to bed at a decent time. But then again, I have been doing this parenting gig for 10 years now. With the seven years experience in my pocket helping someone else raise their kids, I know what to expect. I know that overtired kids are assholes, and that the entire experience of parenting is exhausting, no matter what. My poor guy is getting his first taste of all of this, he has no younger siblings, no close connections with any young kids of any kind. And so he is often taken off guard, he usually has no idea what is next, and fails to see the “kid view” of why they are behaving they way they are. As the nighttime routine drags on, and the kids get more and more restless and crazy, his mood darkens further. By the time they are asleep, we cannot even talk, he is too down in it. The only thing I get from him is, “I am not cut out to be a parent. I hate this.”

For some reason, I am absolutely crushed by this. I feel it is my fault we have these children. I feel like I single handedly threw him in the deep end of life by making him a parent. I was already a parent, a step-parent, but still a parent. These battles are somewhat familiar, and not nearly as frightening and novel to me as they are to him. And I absolutely love being a mom. Do I cherish every single freaking moment? Hell no. I have days were I am a terror and far more melancholy than him, but overall I just love it. When they spread food all over their face, when they mispronounce a word, when they accidentally do something so hilarious I fall to floor laughing. Life is so interesting with them. They challenge me to be a better person, they make me keep myself accountable. And they force me to heal myself rather than go further down into my neurosis. Which is why I am trying to find my emotional states again, for them. I am so incredibly grateful to be their mother, and I want to stay home with them as much as possible. In fact, I really hate going to work and leaving my kids, especially the one still breast feeding. When I gave him the whole day to “play with the babies,” I thought it was a gift, not a burden. When I planned this whole free outing, I thought it would enrich us, not drag us down. So my heart feels crushed, I keep pushing back the feelings and am genuinely uncomfortable. I am uncomfortable with his emotional state, and am doing a piss poor job of giving him space. How do I simultaneously give myself and others space? Yeah, I have no clue.


It has been a while….

So I blog rather randomly, I have the itch to write again and my brain is teaming with thoughts so I decided to look for my old blog. Well it turns out I have 5+ old blogs which I have picked up and dropped off along the way. This one is the least depressing one I found so I guess this is the one I will keep. Maybe I will try to put a few things down in print so my brain can shut the hell up. Maybe. No promises!

Heart ache

My heart hurts.  My last few months with the girls and while I love spending time with them I hate how much it hurts.

What to do with life?

I have no idea what to do with my life.

I am artist. And because of the quality of my work and the artwork of my dead mother, most of my family and friends think that is where my future lies.  But as I already said in a previous post, my art has suffered from my mental stability.  I have no idea how to put what is intellectual into art, and even as I delve into the emotional world of human injustice, no images come to mind. 

For a long time my main goal was to become a doctor, and then later perhaps a surgeon.  This seemed the logical choice for someone with steady hands who wanted to save lives and change the world.  Create new lifesaving surgeries to revolutionize modern medicine.  Travel the world with Doctors Without Borders, ready to fix everything with a shiny scalpel.  Well my idealism in this pursuit has run out, I see a future of rules and guidelines limiting the very health of the patients I wish to serve, procedures I don’t believe in and a never ending see if red tape at every step.

Graduate research then?  I do love research.  But what about?  Most everything is fascinating to me, and I  truly do not know where it is I would do the most good.  Where would my talents and skills be best used?  How can I make the most impact?  How can I avoid handing over my research to those who will do evil with it?

One of my acquaintances recently posted an interesting status on her facebook, “if you want to know where your heart lies, look to where your mind wanders.”  I immediately began to assess my ever wandering brain and concluded the things it circles back to most often have to do with social injustice and corruption.  While her thought provoking status may have highlighted what I truly care about, I am once again left with questions.  How can I fight corruption and social injustice.  How do I make even a wave in the great ocean of sadness? 

Who am I and what am I really capable of?  Where is my place in this world?

Sickness and sadness

I am sick and I am sad.  The sick is just some terrible virus running through Purdue acting like mono.  But since PUSH didn’t test me for mono, because it is “too widespread,” that could be the culprit.  But I didn’t want to write about sickness, instead I am preoccupied by sadness.  What do I do with this sadness?  Numb it down with my favorite TV shows?  Cultivate it until I am forced to create something from the build up of immense sadness?  I have often commented on how my mental stability and happiness gets in the way of my art.  Sure I can paint little portraits of pets on some ornaments in order to make ends meat.  But to really create, you kind of vomit your emotions and the inspiration onto your medium.  It burns through you until you must get it out of you.  But this process is not very good for the emotional self, and in my pursuit of stability I have nearly abandoned the real art.  How the hell do I create with passion without sacrificing my mental integrity and overall well being? I haven’t the slightest idea.

So cool.


Brain regions active when our minds wander may hold a key to  understanding neurological disorders and even consciousness itself

• Neuroscientists have long  thought that the brain’s circuits are turned off
when a person is at rest.
• Imaging experiments,however, have shown that  there is a persistent level
of background activity.
• This default mode, as it is  called, may be critical in
planning future actions.
• Miswiring of brain regions  involved in the default  mode may lead to disorders
ranging from Alzheimer’s  to schizophrenia.


Imagine  you are almost dozing in a lounge chair  outside, with a magazine on your lap. Suddenly,a fly lands on your arm. You grab the magazine  and swat at the insect. What was going on in your brain after the fly landed? And what was
going on just before?

Many neuroscientists have long assumed that much of the neural activity inside
your head…

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If I Were A Well-Off White Man… I Might Not Understand Other People Very Well.

Blogging? Say What?

After being forced to start a blog for my women’s studies class I began to think about what to do with this blog?  What the hell is a blog?  Does anyone even read them?  Does anyone give a flying fuck what I have to say?  Probably not.  I suppose that is why I have put off blogging and every attempt in the past has ended quickly.  No matter what the form of public posting, I never feel satisfied with what I write.  In past experiences, blogging feels odd: a strange mixture of pretentious, fake, staged, melodramatic, or dangerously truthful writing which I secretly want no one and everyone to read at the same time.  I find the same problem in my diaries and journals, which is why so far I have erased, trashed, and burned every one which I have kept.  Looking back and reading them makes me feel “icky” for lack of a better word, and before I know it I’m getting rid of the remnants of my imperfect mind.  So where do I go?  How do I mix my blog with my life?  Am I to be truly honest, like some sort of public diary?  Am I to make it a place for professional opinions, or am I better off keeping it as separate as possible from other areas of my life?  Do I link it to everything?  Do I run around commenting, or do I take my chance in writing?  Should I display my art?  Should I make something completely new?  I can only say, at this point in time, I have no idea what to do with this.

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