Today, I feel sad.
Let me elaborate.
Today, I am processing a very distinct feeling: the feeling of doing everything right, of executing beautifully, of putting forth a very fine and thoughtful effort only to find … no one gives a shit. I did the whole proverbial performance: I smiled, I landed the backflip, I scraped my knees and put holes in my tights as I slid into the big finish, and when the music ended, I heard nothing. Silence. I didn’t even get a pity clap from the guy in the back row, because there was no guy in the back row. I was there all alone. Nobody came.
As a grown up, I sometimes get too used to rationalizing this feeling and giving myself pep talks, so let me speak to your inner child to express the gross, gut punch-y level of where I am with this: I invited a handful of very special, hand-selected, popular friends from school to my birthday party. I set their places with handmade name tags, and I made sure they had their favorite color balloon tied to their chair. The party started at 3pm, and I am here with my party hat on. It’s 4pm. And nobody came.
Obviously, I am in the land of processing here, so I was trying to put words to exactly how I feel. As I was crying in the car to a beloved friend of mine, she reminded me of a tool that therapists and psychologists use to help people name their feelings called a feelings wheel. It starts on the outside of a circle with very grown up and complex and specific words about emotions, like nurturing and inadequate and serene, and aligns them with inner circle layers of simpler words for feelings, like happy, scared, and mad. You might feel amused, which maps to playful, which maps to joyful/happy, for example. Or frustrated, which maps to angry, which maps to mad.
Today, I am feeling inadequate, inferior, lonely, abandoned, ashamed, discouraged, disappointed, and hopeless, which pretty much is a perfect word score for all the grown-up words for sad. I feel sad. VERY sad.
My friend helped me sit with this for a bit and listened and supported me as I cried, and validated all of my feelings, and it helped. She’s really good at that. Then she said something interesting: on the version of the feelings wheel she was looking at, the biggest wedge of words was for those that mapped to happy.
Now, I am not a Pollyanna, and I am certainly not the kind of person who tries to drown uncomfortable feelings with positivity. I know that taking the time to meet your emotions where they are is very valuable and lifesaving skill, and one I try to practice. But, I have to tell you, in my moment of profound sadness, it comforted me to know that someone made a feelings wheel with an overabundance of words for happiness. That people out there are feeling respected, valued, courageous, loving, hopeful, and inspired. That somewhere, someone is having the best birthday party of their life, and that the sell-out crowd that saw their backflip is roaring with applause.
It reminds me that I get to have that, too. If we’re human and we’re lucky, we get to have all these feels eventually. Yeah, it can wipe you out, but it also makes me feel incredibly grateful.
Today I am sad.
But, the biggest wedge? The biggest wedge is happy, baby.
The biggest wedge is happy.
Hi. I'm Amanda Dobbs.