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Amanda Joy Friedman MSEd, SBL
Amanda Joy Friedman MSEd, SBL

Catharsis; Cleaning Out Our Emotional Closet

You dont have to wear your past, you can transform your life wardrobe!

Life can be full of emotional costumes. I am tired of donning what others have created and want to build my walk in closet anew. Of all the blog posts I've written, this has been the most challenging. Why? Because it is more Clark Kent then Superman (woman, as it happens to be!) and while I like to think I can save the day every day and for everyone, like a literary heroine; I realize I must now save myself. I am not a fictional character but a woman figuring things out and sharing observations along the way who is learning that wellness is not a luxury, it is part of the journey. It is the breath that sustains us and the food that feeds us so we have energy. Being charismatic and doing truly awesome things takes a lot of energy so we need to build a reserve and make sure we replenish on a regular basis. Not myth. Not fad. Just truth. So listen up my Breaking Barrier friends! Put your oxygen mask on first, such is life! It is time to reveal to ourselves our human identity and know that it is as valuable as our capes, boots, masks, and good deeds. Most people have known it was us all along and were just waiting for us to come out of the emotional closet and proudly announce... we too are just human.

But, but, but... (says our fear and sense of rationalization and self enabling) I can make people feel so good about themselves, help them to pace their desire for immediate success and gratification and wait for flowers to grow in the sun, how to accept control of their emotional ship and accept there is no controlling the mighty ocean of life only preparing with life vests, learning how to swim, and how to breathe! And yet still sometimes, we and the people we love will drown. Despite all our efforts. Then what's the point if there is no guarantee? Because there is hope! There is love, light, and hugs. Why do we need more? Because life is tangible and things are REAL! Why be just regular? Why not? Just be what makes you feel settled within yourself. Stop allowing others judgements to dictate. Open the door to YOUR house and do what makes you smile! (For starters, try walking around in mismatched socks, allow yourself some surrealism, accessorize)!

A young man with Aspergers Syndrome recently told me we need more than awareness, we need acceptance. He of course was referencing the advocacy community for Autism and what individuals with ASD want themselves as opposed to just their families, researchers, and therapists. He got me thinking about what those words mean and how they apply to my own life. I realize now that awareness is the clean sheet of wrapping paper tightly fit around the box with the gift neatly nested inside and acceptance is the shredded aftermath of ribbons and bows, tightly taped boxes, twist ties, batteries not included, and directions that do actually need reading... it is effort, function, and truth beyond projected images. They are both beautiful and play important roles in life.

Awareness: I have always wanted to (defined myself by being able to) work through every sickness, listen to everyone's problems, make world peace (without having to be a Miss America candidate to say it, smile, and wave prettily), and take away everyone's pain without ever taking time (or the mental/emotional bravery) to acknowledge my own. Im terrified of anger.... I want to be my hippie poetic ideal, special educator extroardinaire, counselor, friend with time and shoulder for all who come in need of a hug or willing ear, to process without judgement, and to meditate, be sexy, and be "like" worthy to all I meet balancing a reasonable schedule and not falling into too much debt or heartache along the way. Is that too much to be all of the time?

The answer I have dreaded for 36 years is simpe. YES!

Lets dance back for a moment... It may not seem like these are negative cobwebs to clear just avoiding overly idealistic views of what is realistic. But they are stuck by a thread to larger cluster, as you may have too, and they lurk in the corners of my closet. They are the ones you know the vaccuum cleaner can't reach and you simply don't want to touch. They're so small and yet they are so intimidating. You try to ignore them... supress. Its not enough. So, time to share the shadows of the Boogeyman. My memory and I are not a united force. I dont remember the first 8 years of my life, at all. I was born at 6 months, underwent open heart surgery, amputation due to hospital negligence which resulted in gangrene, collapsed lungs, and so on and so on. An intense start. Fell out of the car when I was 4. Got stuck in a hurricane when I was 6 or so. The not so crazy life chaos list is endless...or so it feels. Then there is my distrust of time because coming from an abusive childhood with not even a foggy image of carefreeness, there is a hole in the ozone layer. Do I want to remember? No. Honestly I have enough puzzle pieces to know that Pandora's box is best left closed. However, with that said, the good is lost with the bad. Thats a wept upon scarf that smells of fresh jam and birthday parties locked somewhere in my mind. My emotional closet was inundated through following years with family issues, financial issues, and general logistical issues. But I sprayed poetic febreeze to mask the scent and drama. Now the air is clearing and I want space. Its clarification of need Im looking for dear readers. You may relate. I want us to share our realities so we may begin truly breaking down the judgements we hold against ourselves, our histories, and each other. For me, beating the odds is simply a way of every day life. I don't differentiate the light spring showers from the house heaving hurricanes. To me they carry equal weight and respect. I tango and cry in them both. Maybe after today, we can dance together. Maybe you want to put down your umbrella and liberate your inner Self with a good rain. It is as fun as it seems in the movies, just make sure you have a change of clothes, a cup of coffee/tea/cocoa nearby so your fun doesnt give you a cold. We want to keep the positive experiences well... positive.

Acceptance: I have always thought that simply not being in the midst of the worst case scenario was in fact happiness. Everything has been a matter of comparison. I said to a friend of mine not long ago, "Ya know, if you keep yourself in a state of deprivation you can survive when the s*@t hits the fan. You can thrive on 'less than' and when others cry over a broken nail you can get hit by a bus and still go to class and be on time!" She was politely mortified in good friend form and wore on her face a kind sympathy like the first and best therapist I ever trusted. She spoke the greatest words "You most likely will never hear it from who should be saying it,and if you do, it will probably not feel like enough, but know, right now, that I am sorry and you deserve better" She hugged with empathy and my heart melted. Lets Pay It Forward... Whatever strife you are going through,have gone through, might go through in the future, I too am sorry. I know its hard and is unfair. But you will know happiness. You can work towards better. And you are allowed to quench your thirst. You don't really have to stay thirsty! When I asked my friend for a glass of water and said half a glass would be fine, she came back with a pitcher of ice water. It was a beautiful and simple gesture. I now start every day with a tall glass of water and say to myself " This is the least, not the most." We must take care of ourselves, not just so we can fulfill our obligations and take care of others, but also because we are, dare I say, entitled and precious and born to know fulfillment! All of us. Namaste!

When we are in painful situations we are allowed to say "this hurts" we do not have to be happy all the time... we can accept and feel our suffering so when it subsides we appreciate the difference. We must remember our identities - be whole - not defined by our circumstances - honor and enjoy our beliefs our resillience and our passion. Rocky said " The world ain't all sunshine and rainbows. It is a very mean and nasty place and it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain't how hard you hit; it's about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward. How much you can take, and keep moving forward. That's how winning is done. Now, if you know what you're worth, then go out and get what you're worth. But you gotta be willing to take the hit, and not pointing fingers saying you ain't where you are because of him, or her, or anybody. Cowards do that and that ain't you. You're better than that." Id like to add, if you can avoid getting hit, do. When you walk in the sunshine, bask in it and when there is a rainbow take a picture and look at it when skies are grey. Hold on to the beauty in the harder moments and remember when comfortable with beauty how fleeting it actually can be. Balance my dear grasshoppers...

So lets go to the "feelings" organizing store more regularly, prepare for stress purging, and clean out our emotional closets. Lets try and enjoy deciding what is important to keep and let go, find occasions to wear the feelings we want, and go forth open to explore and experience what else is out there to include in our ever evolving life wardrobe.

Stay well. One Love. Your humble life shopper!


About the Author
Amanda Joy Friedman MSEd, SBL

Amanda Friedman, MSEd, SBL, is the founder and executive director of the Atlas School/Atlas Foundation for Autism.

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