February 17, 2014

Are We Ever Just Content? ~ Kathryn Nulf


Have you ever been asked a question that hit you like a ton of bricks?

{Flashback to more than 10 years ago}

A good friend of mine asked me something that I’ll never forget; I was in college, moving through life the best I knew how—usually in the land of extremes. I was either really happy or down in the dumps—there wasn’t much of a healthy middle ground. I was pretty much all over the place; feeling emotions very intensely, even taking on other people’s stuff. It was a huge energy suck.

At the time, I had no idea of my HSP (highly sensitive person) trait or that I was an empath—I just thought I was a little crazy. Swaying from happy to sad without notice was pretty routine for me. I was affected by the people and the environment around me—to the point where it affected my mood and my energy level. I didn’t understand, so I blamed myself. I was always trying to figure out what was wrong with me.

I’d blame it on depression (which was alive and real, too) and felt there had to be more to the story but I didn’t know what to do to help myself. At the time, “boundaries” and “self care” were not in my vocabulary. I didn’t have the clear boundaries in my life so I bounced around a lot emotionally as I took on other people’s stuff. I also thought everything was happening to me—a thought pattern that only amplified what felt like a bumpy roller coaster ride of feelings I felt daily.

The thing was, I really thought nobody noticed. I did my best to appear “okay” and even “perfect” (always the ultimate goal). Although I lived in this land of extremes emotionally, I tried so hard to control my feelings and to put on my “I’m just fine” look around other people. After all, it appeared that everyone else was just fine—why couldn’t I be?

So when I was asked this question I was completely caught off guard—like somebody had found me out: “Are you ever just content?”

Excuse me? ..my first thought when I heard this was to scream out and defend myself, “Yes! Of course I am!” But I knew it wasn’t true. What was so eye-opening about hearing this question was that it brought me face to face with just how stressed I was. I was stressed to the core and had zero ways to deal with it. And somebody saw me and said something about it.

I felt exposed; I was simultaneously shocked and grateful—shocked that he had the guts to say something (because the likelihood of me lashing out in response was huge) and grateful because someone cared enough to see what I needed when I did not.

Shell-shocked, I remember feeling like a weight had been lifted.

Someone sees me! Someone isn’t scared of me! Someone is gutsy enough to stop walking on egg shells around my emotional roller coaster and get to the point, “I see you hurting. Are you okay?”

Now I want to check in with you.

Are you ever just content? Are you able to be with what is in your life, while still dreaming up whatever is next for you?

Being stressed can make us feel stuck because we are either reaching for the past or the future. Living on an emotional roller coaster can keep us playing the “up and down” game—happy when things are up and sad when things are down. But where does that leave us in all of this? Where is the constant in our life, the underlying sense of “I’m okay”? And how do we live in that place more often?

When we find ourselves easily swayed by other people’s emotions or whatever’s going on in our life, quiet time is a must. To help re-set and develop awareness, we need to schedule quiet time every day—even if it’s just 5 or 10 minutes.

Close the door; turn off the computer; silence the phone. Take these few precious minutes to do what feels good and recharge our battery. Cultivate awareness of how we feel when we are about to get into a “burn out” state, and give ourself a break before we get to that state. This will help us strengthen our energetic boundaries so other people’s stuff doesn’t come pouring in.

Give it a try and let me know how it goes! What else brings you back to center, to your healthy middle ground?
Let me know in the comments. Can’t wait to hear from you!

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Assistant editor: Jennifer Moore /Editor: Bryonie Wise

Photo: elephant archives

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Kathryn Nulf