Pina Coladas and Caramel Balls

I’m all in my feelings.  It sucks.  And it’s also the most alive I’ve felt in ages.  A rollercoaster of emotions, a sweeping sense of joy followed by a deep sense of loss.  A slide into nervous anxiety, swiftly proceeded by loneliness, then a deep sense of contentment.

Where have all these feelings been all this time?  I’m 45 years old and I don’t remember feeling overwhelmed by the constant tide of emotions like this in the past.  But, then again, I’ve become an expert at burying all of these feelings my entire life.

Right from being a little girl, I remember feeling like I just might explode at the weight of the feelings bearing down on me.  Feelings that threatened to tear me apart for want of expression.  And every now and then I would, like the straw that broke the camel’s back, tear into a rage of emotion too big for my body to handle, so I let it all out in a tidal wave.  Following these massive outbursts, the old compliant little girl came back….until the weight was too much to bear again creating the next explosion.

Then I grew up.  Grown ups can’t function as effectively as they would like with so much untamed emotion flowing around and not knowing how to manage it.  So I, not having any other way of dealing with these feelings, subconsciously choose that the best outcome for me was to set about creating a body that was big enough to handle all of the emotion.

We all have our drug of choice.  Our drugs can range from alcohol, gambling, sex, heroin, food or cigarettes.  They are an avenue we use to consistently escape our current reality.  Our way to numb the feelings we fear will overwhelm us, whether we are consciously aware of them or not.  We can also escape into TV, exercise or work.  I’ve tried many of the above as a means of escape.  But my drug of choice would have to be food.  It was the easiest most accessible way for me at the time, to NOT have to feel.

And I was sooooo good at it.  The not feeling part.  And the escaping through food part.  I even did 18 months on raw vegan food and found my ways to escape.  If you’ve ever tried raw Ferrero Rocher balls you’ll know exactly what I mean 😉

So that brings me to now.  For various reasons (which I’ll go into another time) I made this commitment to myself a little while ago.  It was 14 weeks ago actually (who’s counting?)

A crazy arse commitment to stop all forms of processed sugar (including honey) for the time being.  While that seemed an easy enough idea at the time, I had been raw hadn’t I, the reality was a little bit different than anticipated.

The first big realisation was that before I even started, I had already sabotaged my progress (the addict in me is strong) because I’d already decided the times I would break the agreement with myself.  I mean, I wasn’t going to go through the Easter long weekend without sugar OR alcohol – are you mad?  If I can’t have chocolate, I can damn well have a wine or even better, a Baileys.

Then, I realised what my sub-conscious had done.  It had agreed to hold the feelings at bay until they could be handled with a little drinky poo (full of sugar of course) over that perfect extra long weekend.  Clever thing, always finding ways to escape a little feeling.

Luckily I had an excellent mentor who pointed out what I was doing.  And as much as the addict in me hated her for it, she was right.  I was planning my own demise before I started.

So, before the addict in me could protest, here I was agreeing to no alcohol also.  And before you know it, the feelings came.

Tidal waves that I had previously thought would drown me.  Moments where tears would come unbound and without a seeming purpose for their onset.  Glimpses into pits of loneliness that threatened to suck me in forever.  Times of anxiety that I’d never before experienced the depth of.

But as Brené Brown so perfectly puts it, you can’t selectively numb.  So when these feelings came, with them came the other moments that my drug of choice had stifled also.

Moments of connection so precious that also threatened to overwhelm me.  Glimpses of love from so many sources previously unexperienced.  Times of joy that fulfilled a part of my soul that the drug never could.  And most of all, an awareness of self and what I will and won’t allow, the boundaries that I’d previously allowed to be crossed that are now clearer to me than ever.

I realised also that I am a really, truly LIVE human being that gets to experience these things.  If I don’t want to feel, then like I heard in a TED talk recently, I pretty much have the goals of a dead person, ‘cause it’s only them that don’t feel.

I have just come out of a few weeks of intense work with a few personal events mixed in that would have thrown me for six in the past.  (Read: I would’ve been enjoying the comfort of chocolate or a drink here and there to “cope”)  This culminated at the end of last week with a celebration in Bali, after our last event before getting to have a break here.  The addict part of me wondered how I would make it through the evening.  No alcohol to take the edge off, and no salted caramel balls either.  (They are by the way)

I found what I always have taught to be true that night (after all, we teach what we most need to learn).  If you had a child come to you with big feelings they couldn’t express, you would hold them in your arms and tell them that they are ok.  You would comfort them until, two mins later, they jumped up and ran off to the next crazy thing they planned to do, content in the fact that their feelings had been expressed.

Children don’t dwell in their feelings for very long if they are allowed to express them, because they are used to the rollercoaster.  It’s called life.  One minute they are feeling ok, the next they’re not, then they are again.  Feelings aren’t overwhelming when they are felt, instead of squashed only to surface with a vengeance 45 years later.

So I gave little Millsy the love and attention she needed – the thing she’s been asking from me for a while.  A reminder that the love and connection wasn’t in the alcohol or the salted caramel balls, wasn’t in the chocolate or the Pina Colada.  It was where I’d forgotten to look for it, in the one place I keep showing others to find it, the one place I’d been numbing all along.

It was, and always has been, with the sadness, joy, loneliness and connection, love and light that is ALL of me.  I am it.


Written by Emilia Tomeo