• Jan Thoreen Lewis

Something To Look Forward To

Updated: Mar 1, 2019

I’ll admit that I’m an easy sucker for any shiny thing that I can look forward to in an otherwise ordinary, uninteresting day.  A bowl of ice cream. A nap. Reading Harry Potter again. A movie. Really, it doesn’t take much to make me feel just a little less gloomy.  But that’s the problem – none of those actually makes me happy. In fact, they all lead to some form of regret over sluggish energy, a sleep hangover, wasted time, or feeling like my brain got sucked out.

Hollyhock Glow, 22″x 30″, private collection

And when these didn’t work, I could always turn to something with the appearance of productivity – pulling weeds, doing chores, exercising, serving others.  Then I could feel good about myself, right? Maybe, but it’s still my chosen form of avoiding my emotions.  

Anything I use to avoid feeling what I’m really feeling only leads to more frustration.  Using work as a form of avoidance may feel self-righteous, but is no healthier as a way of escape.

As an artist, I was even feeling this way at times about my art – the dullness that comes with lack of inspiration, feeling stuck, or painting from duty.  Hence, the ice cream.

I figured out that having something to look forward to that’s a week or a month away isn’t good enough.  I need it daily. I’m greedy for any little thing to focus on Every Day.  

And I know I’m not alone in this! No wonder people go wherever the power seems to be.  When we feel stuck, sluggish, uninspired, hopeless, we’ll latch on to anyone who promises transformation, or at least a flash of something shiny.

Well, after sitting with (as in, wallowing in) this for a couple of days, this is what I’m learning.  I was stuffing my feelings about everything that felt disappointing. To cope with sorrow, sadness, frustration, anger, confusion, or disappointment I was turning to anything that could distract me for even a few minutes.  I was packing all those emotions down tightly lest they offend, annoy, or displease someone else.Heaven forbid that those I love should have to experience an emotional part of who I really am!

And I started letting myself feel those feelings, even letting them out in a safe way – like yelling in the car, letting the tears come while I’m out for a walk, avoiding the studio unless I feel inspired and motivated, or even just giving the emotion a nod to say “I know you’re there.”  And mostly, not letting my life be ruled by the tyrannical shoulds of my upbringing.

Juneau Garden, 22″x 30″, private collection
There’s a story about a nun who kept a sign above her cot that said, “Thou shalt not should on me.”  I love that, and I get to tell it to myself daily.

So, what can I look forward to instead of false comforters that pull me down?  Solitude in nature, time listening for God’s voice, a phone call with someone I love, Face-time with my grand kids, a virtual tour online of art that inspires me, even getting a grubby job done instead of procrastinating over it.

What lights up your day and gives you hope?  What raises your perspective above your circumstances?  What are your healthy ways of giving a nod to your emotions?  I’d love to hear about what works for you! Tell you what – let’s start by helping each other with reminders to not should on ourselves.  Then maybe we can get crazy and actually feel what we feel!

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