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The Evolution of a Feeling


​For the last few weeks, we were struggling with a tough decision about one of our beloved dogs. Yeah, you know the decision I mean. The details aren’t important here, but the process is. When it all started, we were reluctant to even consider the worst. In the ensuing days, as his condition worsened, our feelings changed—expanded almost. It was as if we gradually found the strength we needed to do what we had to do. It’s been my most recent reminder that, like everything, our thoughts and feelings evolve. In most cases, we come to things when we’re ready. But the deepest, most frightened part of me, forgets that, almost on a daily basis.

I’m pretty sure that we as humans are not all that well equipped to be in charge of our emotions.

Instead, I try to push myself to what I think I’m supposed to feel. I make a quick assessment of the situation, figure out where I should stand, and start marching toward that position. I usually get somewhere close to there—or at least to a spot I can abide—but it’s a white-knuckled, clenched-teeth ride. I will survive this, no matter what.

I’m pretty sure that we as humans are not all that well equipped to be in charge of our emotions. It’s like being asked to manage a room full of rambunctious, yet dangerous kittens. But regardless of our inability to cope with all of this, we forge ahead, determined to be the masters of our universes. For many days, as I tried to squint at the condition of my increasingly ailing dog, nothing helped, nothing made sense, and nothing seemed like the right thing to do. Whatever I thought of or considered followed a murky path in my brain, with nothing clear in sight. Jodi and I would just look at each other and say, “Oh man, this is not looking good.”

Then, about two weeks into it, I felt differently. I knew what to do. I wasn’t happy about it or looking forward to it in any way, but there was clarity. I felt as if had I arrived at a place that made sense to me. In the weirdest of ways, it was a relief. But it was also a reminder that we are always evolving, even if we aren’t aware of it. If we let go of the constant push and the perpetual drive to “do it right,” we get there on our own, in the time we actually need to make the journey.

Ironically, of course, I think all of my machinations are a defense against having to feel all there is to feel. If I know I’m going to suffer, I just want to get there, feel it, and get over it. I dread the long slow path to it, met only with more sadness or fear or pain. But that’s all part of life. I can’t skip the hard parts just because they’re hard. I mean I can, and I have in countless situations in a number of different ways. But it never really works in the long run. Even if I vow to get over the hardness early on, if I don’t let the real feelings evolve, they come back to haunt me.

Sometimes I think that if I just will myself to trudge through a hard situation, then it will end quickly and I can live through it. But I truly don’t believe this is the way we adapt to the happenings in our lives. I’m much more certain that this developmental process is how we live a present, honest life and manage our feelings at the same time.

At this moment, when we have made a kind of peace about our sweet dog, I feel grateful for the evolutionary, incremental road we travel despite our constant efforts to try and hurry it up. This all makes me feel that letting go and trusting the process is worth the fear that it might not work. In the long run, I’m almost positive that it does. I may not be able to name what it feels like on the other side of the feelings that scare me, but I’d like to trust it enough to just wait and see.

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