Feel 2018: March Observations and Reflections

How is it already April?  Wasn’t it just Christmas?  I mean, I’m not complaining.  I’m ready for warm weather and sunshine but I just can’t believe we’re already 1/3 of the way into 2018.

As I was thinking about writing this post about my Feel 2018 observations and reflections for March, I didn’t think I was going to have much to write about.  But then I went back through my journal entries from March and discovered that I actually collected a lot more data for Feel 2018 than I had realized.  Just a little plug for journal keeping. 🙂

 

Breathe Christ In

Because of my thoughts about certain situations in my life, I had a handful of days in March where I got stuck in feeling negative emotions (NEGATIVE, not “negative”)  Carrying around these emotions and allowing them to fester resulted in feeling shame.  And that shame resulted in me being grumpy and irritable – which then just fed the feelings of shame.

Even though those “shame attacks” weren’t pleasant, they ended up being good learning experiences for me.  I wrote about all of that on my last post so you can read about my experiences there.  

 

Stormy First Drafts

On the days that I was feeling negative and stuck, I had a lot of practice with what Brene Brown calls “stormy first drafts.”  Basically, you just sit down and write.  Get out all your feelings.  Don’t censor or edit them.  Just get them out.  Here are some quotes from Brene’s book, Rising Strong…   

“The reckoning is how we walk into our story; the rumble is where we own it.  The goal of the rumble is to get honest about the stories we’re making up about our struggles, to revisit, challenge, and reality-check these narratives as we dig into topics such as boundaries, shame, blame, resentment, heartbreak, generosity, and forgiveness.  Rumbling with these topics and moving from our first responses to a deeper understanding of our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors gives birth to key learnings about who we are and how we engage with others.  The rumble is where wholeheartedness is cultivated and change begins.”

“Why is capturing this uncensored story necessary?  Because embedded in this unedited narrative are the answers to three critically important questions – questions that cultivate wholeheartedness and bring deeper courage, compassion, and connection to our lives.”

“You’ll know you’re being honest if you’re worried that someone might see your SFD and think you’re a total jerk or a nut job.  Concerns like this are a good sign that you’re on the right track.  Don’t hold back.  There is no rising strong without a true accounting of the stories we make up.”

After you’re done writing our stormy first draft, you can then move into the space of getting more clear on what’s true, and what you’re just making up and blowing out of proportion.

What more do I need to learn and understand about the situation?  

  • What do I know objectively?
  • What assumptions am I making

What more do I need to learn and understand about the other people in the story?

  • What additional information do I need?
  • What questions or clarifications might help?

What more do I need to learn and understand about myself?

  • What’s underneath my response?
  • What am I really feeling?
  • What part did I play?

Doing this exercise really did help me to get all of my ruminating thoughts out of my head and then I was able to gain clarity about what was really going on under the surface.  That was when I was able to get more in touch with what was really going on and what feelings I was suppressing.

 

Praying with Specifics

My journal entry from March 21…

I was just thinking about how becoming more aware of my feelings has helped me to be able to communicate with Heavenly Father more effectively and more easily. I am able to ask for more specifics on what I am thinking/feeling and what I need.  

This has opened me up for more of those “intimate moments with the Savior” like Al Fox mentioned in her Instagram post that I just saw today…

 

 

Sometimes the weight of our situations can get really heavy. And today, I couldn’t handle the weight… and then I realized I desperately needed the helping hand of the Savior. A hand that is never shortened. A hand that is always extended. A loving & understanding & always there hand. A capable & indestructible hand. An all-powerful, perfect hand. Today as I felt momentarily buried & burnt out from my efforts & situation, I grabbed for that hand. And the cool thing is, every time we make efforts to reach for it, a literal Savior comes to our aid, & SAVES us, bears our burdens, lightens our loads. Strengthens. Comforts. Renews. Revives. Carries. So yeah, sometimes we feel like we are struggling & gasping & sinking— Sometimes we feel dizzy from the too quickly change of course— Sometimes we feel our strength has run so thin that another day doesn’t seem like another chance, but another burden to bare— BUT, like Peter on the water, He will not let us drown. He will pull us up. He will save us. Every day. A million times a day, if we need. If we but reach. That’s a reality. Remembering Whose hands we’re in is what makes those ugly cry moments, those weak, disheartening & heavy moments, an intimate moment with a perfect Savior. And knowing Whose on our side & Whose by our side, absolutely gives me reason to keep going, keep trying, keep smiling, keep turning to Him, & look forward with hope & joy for another day. Another moment. He gives me every reason to choose laughter. And choose faith. And choose to smile, every day. To me, He is every reason to be happy & to make even the hard days, not as hard. Because even in hard times, life is OH SO good, b/c hard times or not, we are never alone. We will not drown. We are His & that.is.everything. We have the MOST powerful, all-knowing Being to ever exist on OUR side. And if that isn’t empowering, idk what is🤷🏼‍♀️🏆

A post shared by AL Carraway (@22alfox) on

 

My Grandma’s Passing

My grandma passed away in the middle of March.  She was 94 years old and lived a great life.  Her passing was anticipated (I had gotten to see her a couple of days before and say my goodbyes) so on the day that she died it wasn’t a shock.  Throughout that day, I felt some sadness of course, but mostly I felt joy. I feel so happy that she is now reunited with my Grandpa who passed away 13 years ago, and she greatly missed him.  I know that I will see her again and I know that even though I can’t see her with my physical eyes, she’s not very far away.  I’m sure she’s watching over me (and the rest of her very large posterity).

Even though I felt joy (and that shouldn’t be discounted), I think that I was suppressing some grief and sadness at first.  This (suppressing grief and closing my heart to it for some reason) is a weakness that I have been aware of and I’m consciously wanting to improve.

In the days after her passing, I had some moments were I felt some deep emotions and those emotions overflowed through my eyes.  It felt cleansing and healing to have the grief and sadness wash over me.

In the evening, on the same day that she passed away, I went to a Relief Society activity.  During this activity, one of my friends sang a hymn.  I think that it was Be Still My Soul.  I was feeling pretty calm before she started singing but for some reason this song really hit me – deep in my core.  I started crying a lot.  Like snot dripping, quiet, sobbing.  I wasn’t even really sure what was going on.  Afterward, I came to the conclusion that it was grief that I was feeling.  The suppressed feelings didn’t stand a chance against that song.  They boiled up and over and came out my eyes.

On the day after her passing, we rented the movie, Coco.  I had heard that it was a really good movie and that it was about family history, but beyond that, I didn’t know anything about it.  I hadn’t even watched any previews.

The whole movie was very touching and inspiring, but I really lost it at the end when Hector (and the Miguel) sings the song, Remember Me, to Coco.  Again, I was overcome with emotion that was boiling over through my eyes.  I kept crying for a good 20 minutes after the movie was even over.

 

 

A couple days after my Grandma’s passing, my mom asked me if I would put together a video and photo montage of Grandma’s life that would be shown at the viewing.  I like doing these kinds of projects so I agreed, at the time, not really knowing what kind of impact this would have on me.

I reached out to my aunts, uncles, and cousins and asked if anyone had some photos or video clips that I could include in the video montage.  My aunt and my brother (who lives in the same area as my mom’s cousin) both sent me video footage of my Grandma’s family from the 1930s – 1950s!  I didn’t even know that these videos existed and I was so excited to get to see them.

 

My Grandparents on the night they got engaged

One of my new favorite photos of her

My Grandma and my mom

Me and Grandma on my wedding day – and her 63rd anniversary – since we share the same wedding anniversary date (minus the year. haha)

 

So in the week between Grandma’s passing and her funeral, I spent several, several hours compiling a video of her life.  It was a neat experience.  I felt like I got to spend that week getting to know Grandma in a different way than I had before. I only knew her as an elderly woman so it was fun to get to see pictures and (silent) video clips of her when she was younger. 

Here’s a little 1 minute clip of the video that I posted to my Instagram account.  The entire video is 18 minutes long though.

 

 

A post shared by Shelly (@goodmorningshelly) on

*music is Dream by Pricilla Ahn (used with permission)

 

Compiling this video also sparked a greater desire in me to learn more about my Swedish heritage (my Grandma’s parents immigrated from Sweden and I am 1/4 Swedish.)  It was really neat to see some of their Swedish Christmas traditions in the old video clips.

Seeing video clips of my Great Grandparents (my Grandma’s parents) also gave me a greater desire to get to know them better as well.  There is one little video clip in particular that really stood out to me and touched my heart.

This is what I wrote in my journal…

 

March 19, 2018

Last night I was inspired by my great grandma – Margaret Swenson. We had just sent the kids to bed and I was looking through those old video clips that Tammy sent and I happened to run across a clip of Margaret helping Paul (the youngest of her kids), who looked like he was about 5 years old or so, get ready for bed. She helped him button his pajamas, and then he came over to her, laid his head in her lap, and said his personal prayer (all of this was silent). Margaret stroked his hair while he prayed. Then he got up from his knees and she gave him a hug.

It was so touching to get to “witness” (80 years later) this tender little moment between a mom and her son. Margaret inspired me to be more present with my kids, especially right before bed. I immediately went into the boys rooms and decided to kneel by them and stroke their hair while they said their personal prayers. I hope to make this into a habit.

 

It’s been a couple weeks since this experience and I have continued to do this every night.  On the nights when I’m tempted to just tell the kids to go put themselves to bed (because I’m ready to be done parenting for the day), I remember Margaret’s example and how I felt as I watched her mother her son.  

 

 

 

Feeling on Purpose

In March I started feeling like now that I have learned a lot about negative emotions and how to process and learn from them, it’s time to start moving in the direction of learning how to experience more positive emotions.  I’m sure I will continue to learn about negative emotions, but I have just felt this pull to focus more intentionally on increasing positive emotions.

I listened to a podcast the other day by Brooke Castillo called “Feeling on Purpose.”
This is what Brooke said that stood out to me…

“Step 1 is practice the emotions. Be willing to experience the emotions that you’ve having involuntarily. Whatever comes to your mind.

Step 2 is to practice feeling negative emotions on purpose so you can establish some authority over them.

Step 3 is to practice feeling positive emotion on purpose. The way that we do that is we say, “I am,” and then we name that emotion and then we overact it. Completely over the top act in a way that you would feel if you were that emotion, completely over the top, and then pay close attention. What do you notice in your body? What do you notice in your actions? What do you notice in your mind?

Then we’re going to continuously practice all of those emotions on purpose. Instead of feeling like we are at the effect of everything that happens to us, we will start to realize that we are the cause of it and that we can create anything we want in our lives.”

 

So I have been thinking about how I can practice feeling positive emotions. Here’s what has come to me so far…

1. take note of how my kids express positive emotions and mimic them. Evelyn (my almost 4 year old), especially, is a good example of this. When she expresses excitement or joy, she is way over the top about it. She just lets it all out. Haha. She squeals yells “yay!!”, she jumps up and down, she opens up her arms or claps her hands. She isn’t quiet about it either. Haha.

2. Music. Music is a powerful way to practice and/or enhance feelings. I love music. It’s like this mysterious magic that has the ability to speak to my soul in a very deep and profound way. I think that intentionally listening to good, uplifting music, is a good way for me to practice feeling positive emotions.

 

Spiritual Science Experiment

For a couple years now, my boys have been saying that they want to be scientists when they grow up… they want to take after their dad. 🙂 Well, a few weeks ago, for some reason I had the idea to start doing “spiritual science experiments” with them. We finished our first experiment on March 19th and that night for Family Home Evening, we plotted the results.

In this experiment we were answering the question, “Does obedience actually result in happiness.” We collected data when we were faced with a choice to obey or disobey. I wrote the data down in a little notebook. I would write down what was asked of us, what choice we made, and the result. I taught the kids to tune into their physical sensations (I’m sure there is still some room for learning here) and they would tell me their physical sensation and the emotion that they were feeling.

We had 47 data points by the end of our experiment and it was very clear that our hypothesis was correct. Obedience really does result in happiness – both in physical sensations and also in emotions.

 

 

This was a neat experiment to do with them for multiple reasons but one of the things that I liked the most was that I was able to introduce them more to the concept and process of recognizing how we feel when we make good and bad choices.

 

 

Relationship with my dad

Throughout March, I continued to be intentional about improving my relationship (on my end at least) with my dad.  I talked to him on the phone for about 30 minutes one evening; I mailed him a birthday present and card (which I don’t normally do); and I intentionally gave him a hug and said goodbye when we dropped my parents off at the airport after they had been here for my Grandma’s funeral.  Again, these are not monumental things for most people, but for me, they are steps in the right direction and I am already feeling some of the results in my heart.

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