Let’s talk about shitty feelings, shall we?
Feeling uncomfortable is uncomfortable.
Feeling sad, angry, discouraged, depressed and down are shitty feelings and they don’t feel good when we’re in them. It’s natural to want to feel joyful and happy and excited and uplifted and hopeful, and we all want the heaviness to lift.
We live in a society that supports our desire to put an end to whatever suffering we’re going through the moment it pops up.
Systems, organizations, apps, careers and companies are built around making sure we feel good all day, every day. And as soon as we feel the slightest bit uncomfortable, or down or sad or angry, we look outwards and reach for the closest thing that will soothe, take away our pain and make us feel better.
And we have plenty of options to choose from to get the job done.
We can pop some pills, we can binge on food, we can stare at our phone, we can reach for alcohol, we can pour ourselves another cup of coffee, we can put in 10 hour workdays, we can scroll through Facebook again, we can eat all the sugar, we can play mindless games, we can try to control things that we have no control over, we can binge on Netflix.
There are countless ways to distract and numb ourselves from feeling yucky and sad. And because feeling yucky and sad is uncomfortable and painful, our knee jerk response is to run from the pain, straight into the arms of distraction and consumption.
But here’s the thing.
When we numb out, when we constantly distract ourselves, when we ignore that nagging feeling and push it down, when we paint on a smile and pretend that everything’s fine, when we look outward for comfort, when we run the fuck away from our pain, a welcomed breeze of solace and relief might momentarily wash over us, but it’s fleeting, and in return, we deny ourselves the only way we will ever truly feel better and solid and grounded and happy from within our core.
That’s the irony. The very feelings that we try to escape from because they’re uncomfortable, are the only thing capable of truly healing us and in turn, making us feel better. The thing is, we have to sit with them. We have to feel them. We have to turn inward. We must be present. We can’t run away. We can’t numb out. We can’t distract. I’m not telling you that it’s okay to be sad and feel uncomfortable.
I’m telling you that being sad and feeling uncomfortable is 100% necessary in order to feel better.
Imagine there are two tunnels in front of you.
- One tunnel is filled with obstacles and grief and sorrow and loss and heartbreak and pain. But you can see the end of this tunnel and it’s emanating a warm, soothing light.
- The other tunnel is easy. It’s filled with cakes and cookies and movies and Twitter and booze and pills and games. It’s not filled with intense feelings of pain and grief. But as you look at this tunnel, you notice that it has no end. It just goes on and on and on. No warm soothing light and no end in sight.
At first, choosing the fun tunnel is a no-brainer because it’s easy and it’s not uncomfortable. You pick the fun tunnel and you venture in, excited about your choice. Come on, who voluntarily chooses pain and sadness over cake and booze?? And wait – what’s that? Yup, there are strippers in the fun tunnel! A bonus you were not expecting.
You think about the poor suckers who choose the pain tunnel, because you’re sitting pretty, double fisting martinis, while being fed cheese by attractive naked people and watching the Sopranos back to back from episode one. There’s also an endless supply of chocolate ice cream, potato chips and pain killers, should you feel the slightest bit of discomfort at any point.
You’re rolling through the fun tunnel on high, but as time goes on, you start to feel funny. You feel tired, weak and groggy. Your mind isn’t sharp. You feel disconnected. You reach for another cup of coffee and a donut and this perks you up momentarily, but then you feel even worse. So you stop and watch more TV and then you take a nap. You wake up sluggish and you keep walking, but you’re walking much slower than when you first entered the tunnel.
Your original excitement is gone and you want the strippers to put on clothes. You also want to see an end to the tunnel because for all the fun things in the fun tunnel, you’re not feeling very fun or happy. But the fun tunnel has no end. There is no light waiting for you. It’s filled with plenty of instant gratification, but there’s no long term happiness in sight.
Fuck the fun tunnel. You turn around and head back.
You walk out of the fun tunnel and over to the pain tunnel. It’s dark. There is no Netflix. There is no sugar. There is no booze. There isn’t a stripper in sight. It’s quiet. It looks lonely. But you keep looking at the end of the tunnel, illuminated by welcoming, soft light. You take a deep breath and you step in. You start walking and oh shit it’s painful! You start to cry. You keep walking. You become flooded with anger. You keep walking. Sadness washes over you. You have to stop and curl up into a ball and sob because the act of standing is too much for your body to handle.
Eventually you get up and you keep going, blowing your nose and wiping your eyes as you get deeper into the belly of the tunnel. Your sadness is intense and sharp and you feel it in every crevice of your body and soul. You keep walking. As you get closer to the end of the tunnel, you start to feel lighter. More clear. More grounded. More energized. Your sadness is there, but it has transcended your fear and it’s now just part of who you are and it isn’t scary anymore.
You keep walking.
You reach the end of the tunnel and you feel the light welcome you as you exit your pain. The light is warm and peaceful and you feel totally content, bathing in its grace. You look back on the pain tunnel and you realize that just like your happiness and joy and love, your pain and suffering and sadness is part of who you are and the only way to feel better is to sink into those uncomfortable feelings and honor them and respect them and most importantly, allow them to be. Because they are there for a reason and only when you accept them, can you learn from them and allow the healing process begin.
So tell me, love, what tunnel are you currently in?
It’s hard to be uncomfortable, but it’s an integral part of being human and it will pass, just like everthing else. So the next time you feel sad or angry or down, go with it. Be fully present. Allow yourself to feel fully without reaching for something to stop it. Respect and honor the weight of whatever burden or hardship you’re going through because it will help you reach the other side of it.
Instead of reaching for booze, meditate. Instead of having a night of binge eating, take a bath and write in your journal. Instead of going to your doctor for more antidepressants, join a yoga studio. Instead of reaching for junk food, make a salad.
Choose whatever doesn’t mask your feelings or numb the pain and then sink into that shit and become aware.
It’s the difference between moving forward and staying stuck. You are hardwired to get through tough times my dear, but in order to get through them, you have to allow yourself to feel the sting and tell the fun tunnel to fuck off.
If you’ve been stuck in the Fun Tunnel, it’s time to join my weekly Plant Fueled Meal Plans and recalibrate.
Onwards to today’s recipe.
Basil Eggplant and Tofu
1 block of firm or extra firm tofu, water packed (14oz / 397g)
1 cup onion, thinly sliced (115g)
4 cups eggplant, cut into a little larger than bite-sized pieces, placed in a colander and sprinkled with salt (380g)
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves (12g / you can leave them whole)
White pepper to taste
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon peeled and minced ginger
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons Coconut Aminos
1/2 cup water
- Pre-heat the oven to 450°F (230°C).
- Take the tofu out of the package, rinse with water and extract as much liquid out of the tofu as possible by using the pie pan / plate method (place the block of tofu in a pie pan and stack some plates on top of it and let it sit for about 15 minutes). If you have a tofu press, feel free to use that instead. The goal here is to extract as much liquid out of the tofu as possible.
- Once the excess liquid has been extracted, cut the tofu into a little larger than bite-sized pieces and place them onto a parchment paper covered baking sheet. Lining your baking sheet with parchment paper is super important. Do not skip this step or the tofu will stick to your baking sheet like mad.
- Place the tofu in the oven and cook for 10 minutes, flip the tofu over and bake for an additional 10 minutes. Take out of the oven and set aside for now.
- Make the rest of the dish.
- Make the sauce by placing all of the sauce ingredients (garlic, ginger, sesame seeds, soy sauce, Coconut Aminos and water) into a medium-sized bowl and whisking with a fork.
- Heat a large skillet over medium heat for about a minute. Add the onion and sauté for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently and adding a tablespoon of water at a time when they start to stick to the pan or look dry. You want them to get nice and brown during this process because that will bring out their natural sweetness and flavor.
- Wipe the salt off from the eggplant with a damp paper towel and ddd the eggplant, baked tofu, basil and sauce to the pan and cook uncovered for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until all of the sauce is absorbed. Add white pepper to taste.
- Serve with brown rice or any other whole grain.
Wishing you a happy week. May it be filled with feeling all the feelings.