Summer has officially left the building but I have not formally reflected on the summer of 2018 and will be doing so now. Reminisce with me.
Summer is a great season full of fun activities, national ice cream month, and my birthday–all the best things. Summer is also warm. Us pacific northwesterners experienced an unfathomable amount of 90 degree days and we were all on edge because of it.
“Hot weather. It’s terrible, am I right?” said every person who had an air-conditioned house, air-conditioned car, and air-conditioned work place who was being forced to make small talk with me in an air-conditioned room.
“Definitely. Super melty,” I replied while experiencing cognitive dissonance because I actually enjoyed the summer heat despite lacking the luxury of an air-conditioned home.
I think I have the last house that was built without air conditioning. It is new enough that it doesn’t have asbestos or lead paint but old enough that it has things like phone jacks, honey oak cabinetry, and an actual yard. A true gem.
Some people would have become bitter about not growing up with something everyone else had. I endured hot, unrelenting, sweaty nights of tossing and turning in my room above the heat-emitting garage. Yet, instead of resenting my hot 90s house, I grew to enjoy the heat. I grew stronger.
Summer is hot. Yet every year, folks are taken aback at the heat of summer. No one prepares themselves mentally for the three months of that they dreamt of in January. Summer brings a warm relief to cold winters and rainy springs. And as soon as it gets warm, folks turn on their air conditioning to immerse themselves back into a prison of chill.
I recall the first time I stepped outside this year and was warm. It was delightful. I didn’t have to wear socks or a coat. I was comfortable and happy. The sun was burning me and I didn’t even care.
It’s difficult imagine feeling warm in the outdoors for the first time and having the desire to return to my air-conditioned house. It just doesn’t make sense. Why not be able to experience the environment as it is?
The survivalist part of me thinks everyone should be able to endure the outdoors in all seasons in the place where they live. People have done that for all of history. Now we are weaklings who can’t handle a little sweat behind our knees on a 95 degree day. If you can’t handle your surroundings, move.
While I was sweating this summer, I realized how important it is to experience things. Weather is the #1 thing people avoid. The #2 thing is emotions.
If you were going to be outside in the heat all day, you would prepare. You would pack plenty of water, sunscreen, food, some sort of shade-provider, and maybe even a fancy little fan. If you knew you were going to be heated emotionally, how would you prepare?
Societies that prize individualism are full of people who have trouble connecting on an emotional level. Vulnerability is seen as weakness when value is placed on an individual’s ability to handle obstacles on their own. While few would turn down or be put-out by an invitation to help from someone in need, people don’t ask others because they don’t want to feel like a burden. Nor do most people want to feel vulnerable with themselves because it is burdensome to process emotions. Instead, feelings get pushed aside and wounds are left to fester under a faux scab.
We need to let ourselves feel.
It is okay and necessary to feel emotions. Experiencing the full range of emotions is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign of emotional health and strength. Experiencing and understanding your emotions, as well as others’, builds up emotional intelligence. Learning how to process through emotional and deal with hardship is a valuable skill.
Too many of us come across a hardship and, rather than confront our feelings about the situation, refuse to feel any emotion–repressing what needs to be processed to move on. But repressing emotions does not get rid of them, it compounds them–like cramming too much rubbish in a trash can. Sooner or later all the gunk will come spilling out in a moldy, fermented-smelling mess.
Instead of diving into the mess of emotions, we remove ourselves from the situation and keep ourselves from being capable of handling emotions properly due to the lack of practice and willingness.
Instead of learning how to embrace the heat of summer, we run to the safety of air-conditioning. And is it just as unnatural to be cold in the middle of summer as it is to be “okay” in the midst of hardship.
How do you begin dealing with emotions?
The first key to success is understanding you need to deal with your emotions rather than ignore them. Here are my handy tips for dealing with emotions:
Step one: Feel. If you are sad, be sad. If you are angry, be angry.
Step two: Be emotionally productive. Process in ways that are healthy and therapeutic. Some people are verbal processors, some people need to draw or write or paint or run or yell at the top of their lungs out in the forest.
Step three: Talk about it. You may feel like you are burdening someone else with your problems but you are not. Having someone to help you makes the burden lighter for both you and the other person, defying all laws of natural science. Having someone to listen, guide, and inspire you to keep going is what every person needs. You don’t need to have a trained professional, just a good listener. One day, you can return the favor.
Step four: Time. Healing isn’t immediate. Healing can take weeks, months, years. But instead of stockpiling for weeks, months, and years, your problem will get easier. Progress isn’t linear from day to day, but over time, things get better. Problems become easier because you become stronger by flexing your emotional strength muscles (#getswoll).
The more you remove yourself from emotions, the more you will be a stranger to yourself. Experience your emotions and work through them. The dog days of troubles don’t last forever.
What is Rachel doing in her spare time now?
- Ys – Joanna Newsom – This is the album I have been unapologetically exclusively listening to for more than two weeks straight. Newsom is an acquired taste and her music grows finer with each listen. NPR even wrote a neat piece about Newsom this week. If you need me, I’ll be in my car fawning over this album until I run out of gas.
- The Weather Detective – Peter Wohlleben – Wohlleben flipped my life upside down when I read The Hidden Life of Trees last year. My father gifted me with Wohlleben’s newest book, The Weather Detective, for my birthday. I’ve been happily learning about the weather ever since.
- Chess – Do you like ABBA? Do you like board game strategy? How about the Cold War? Chess, the musical, is the show for you! I saw University of Utah’s production of Chess twice last weekend because I am twice as cultured as the rest of you. It was excellent and I enjoyed learning that I either play the game or let the game play me.
- BlackkKlansman – I was pretty stoked when I heard about this movie and I enjoyed watching it thoroughly. Spike Lee tells an interesting tale based on the true story of Ron Stallworth, the first black cop in the Colorado Springs Police Department. Stallworth becomes a card-carrying member of the Ku Klux Klan. This story is chalked full of irony. Go see it.