I believe I just realized that (one of) the reason(s) why I don’t like closed in spaces is because they cause me to slow down and be careful.
One of my favorite get to know you questions is as follows: “If you had fifty words to describe yourself, what are three words that you would definitely not use?” (Someone once pointed out to me that the “fifty” in the question is arbitrary, but I’ve tried asking it without that initial word limit and it’s not quite as clear.) If I had fifty words to describe myself, these are three I definitely would not use: athletic, small, and careful.
I remember the first time someone described me (to me, at least) as gentle. I think I honestly laughed out loud. I didn’t see myself as a gentle person, but I did care about that person and their opinion mattered to me and how I treated them mattered to me, so when they said I was gentle, I believed them.
I’m an Enneagram 7, which means many things, one of which is that my natural tendency is to party on to avoid slowing down and actually processing my feelings. Bad feelings are bad and good feelings are good, so let’s keep the good feelings coming and the bad feelings will just disappear! Except, of course, they don’t. They sit there in my heart and on my mind until they can be ignored no longer and then I have to leave my classroom crying and I’m not sure why.
I have learned to sit with bad feelings, to feel them all (feelings are for feeling, after all), to process them and learn from them, and then to let them go. In turns out this is the only actual way to get rid of bad feelings. It takes longer and is a lot less fun than hanging out with friends or watching funny TV shows, but it also feels really good when I do it well.
Last week I found out some disappointing news (turns out a guy I was into has not only a partner, but a pregnant partner). When I found out I breathed very deeply and then I wrong some things down. Things like – nobody did anything wrong. He is not bad. I am not dumb. My feelings are not now invalid. Smart and true things like that. And within a couple of hours any bad feelings I felt were gone.
This is a very simple example, of course. I had a crush and it turns out he’s unavailable, but it was tempting, oh so tempting, in that moment to do one of two things – ignore the bad feelings and focus on my work (because work = productive = good and worthy person, AH!) OR shame spiral thinking about how I’m a romantically unlovable person and there’s probably something wrong with me and I’m going to die a virgin. But I didn’t do either of those things because neither of them are productive or helpful and it turns out you CAN learn to be gentle, even if you never were before, and you CAN learn to feel hard feelings, even if you avoided them for many, many years.
Today I rearranged my bedroom. My last bedroom was huge. It was so big. For a while, when I was living with a family, I had in my bedroom a queen sized bed, two bedside tables, a stand up fan, a full sized dresser, a desk, and a bookshelf, and there was still PLENTY of room. My new room is not huge. It’s not so big. Admittedly, I do have a lot of furniture in here, but this is everything I need to live comfortably right now and it’s all great.
I like to rearrange furniture. In my homes, in my classrooms, in other people’s homes and workplaces (mentally). I like fresh starts and mixing things up and spontaneous organization. This is my third bedroom arrangement since I moved here in September. I’m sitting on my bed facing my bookshelf, which is against the wall, and rocking chair, which backs up to the side of the bookshelf. There is plenty of space between the end of my bed and the bookshelf to access and retreive things from said bookshelf. BUT with the chair there, I do have to turn sideways to get to the bookshelf.
Which means when I am going over to my bookshelf (usually to light a candle), I have to stop, slow down, and carefully walk between the end of my bed and my rocking chair to avoid hurting myself. Not only do I have to stop and slow down and be careful, but I actually do. I believe I am going to have to come up with a new third word I would never use to describe myself, because it turns out I am kind of careful!
Moral of the story is, with this new bedroom arrangment, I have to stop, slow down, and move carefully to avoid hurting myself.
If that isn’t the thesis statement for my life right now… well, let’s just say it is.