Just Exactly How Am I Supposed to Feel?

In the two years that Magda and I been writing this blog, we have devoted multiple posts to conveying the message that it’s okay if you’re not feeling joyful during the holiday season. This blog was more or less founded to address the challenge of facing depression amid the pressure to feel happy at Christmas.

We remain firmly committed to the idea that there is no way you’re supposed to feel at Christmas. In fact, there is no way you’re supposed to feel at any given time of the year. To that end, I try to apply the following three guiding principles to my life:

  1. It’s okay to not be okay.
  2. It’s okay to be okay.
  3. However you feel is okay.

Denying your feelings is a dangerous activity. Any expert in mindfulness will tell you that you should just accept a feeling without opinion or judgment of that feeling. I felt sad just now. That’s a feeling, and it will pass. End of story. Any further thought will not only compound the feeling, it will invite a whole bunch of other negative feelings in.

However you feel is okay. And that goes for the holiday season and every day of the year. 

Except, this year with the country in a major upheaval, I’m feeling more pressure than ever to feel a certain way. Just exactly how I’m supposed to feel depends on context. I went to a meeting of my local Pantsuit Nation chapter, and the leader said it was time to move past feeling sad about the election and move on to feeling angry, specifically the kind of angry that spurs you to action. Many of the posts on various political action Facebook groups chide people who are stuck in the paralyzing state of sadness—it was time to get up and do something, dammit.

So then I attempt to take action when I can. That becomes overwhelming almost immediately, as everybody and their sister has an opinion about how we’re supposed to fight back in Trump’s America. Call this person. Write this person. Sign this petition. Recounts. Donations.

I do my best. I do a few things and then I get overwhelmed. I wonder, what good am I doing anyway? And then I feel helpless and ineffective, which bring me right back to feeling sad again.

No, say the politically active people of the world. You mustn’t give up. Complacency will be our downfall. 

Further complicating matters, there seems to be some new bit of devastating news about the Trump transition every single day. Every person appointed as a leader or cabinet member seems to have the worst possible opinion on whatever it is they’re in charge of. I see ideas and institutions I hold sacred under severe threat, to say nothing of the hatred and discrimination being encouraged by the upcoming administration.

Each piece of news is like a gut-punch, a reliving of that devastating moment when America as we knew it seemed to die. How can I move on from sadness when there’s something new to be sad about every single day?

Is the solution to ignore the news? NO, you imagine the activist people yell in your head. Ignore? Give up? That’s how [reference to very dark event in history] happened. PAY ATTENTION!

But I’m sad. I’m mourning, I argue.

There’s no time for your feelings, say the imaginary activists.

Then there’s the guilt at feeling so sad about political events, when I’m not actually even part of a population most vulnerable to the actions of Trump and his Team of Deplorables. I’m a financially comfortable, educated, heterosexual, white woman. I have no right to be so sad.

You can see how I’m not exactly following my own rules about accepting any feeling that comes along. The pressure to feel and do and act a certain way feels stronger than ever.

Which brings me back to Christmas. Am I supposed to feel joyful this holiday season? Am I supposed to give in to the magic of the lights and the songs and the smell of gingerbread? Is that betraying the cause if I stop for something as frivolous as holiday merriment? And what if I can’t enjoy this merriment because I’m still so upset—should I try harder this year to be merry because we could all use a morale boost?

Obviously I have more questions than answers. We’re all forging our paths in this unknown new world. We’re doing what we can do, when we can do it. We’re doing what we need to do to get through it, just as we always have.

I remain right alongside you as we forge our paths.

Love,

Shannon

With you

I have been thinking about my depression and sadness and loneliness of the past few Advent and Christmas seasons and what a luxury it was. It was so personal–I was sad, I was scared, I felt alone.

There was comfort in knowing that other people were happy and were enjoying the sparkle and the busyness and the satisfaction. Even if I didn’t see myself ever having that, knowing that other people did made me feel better.

But this year we’re all scared and worried and sad. Even people who aren’t depressed are scared and sad, and even people who haven’t been depressed before are depressed now (and scared and sad), and those of us who are usually depressed are extra-depressed (and extra scared and sad). There’s more happening every day. More bad news, more people and systems and machines trying to hurt us and other people. It’s like a nightmare in which we can watch the tornado coming but can’t move out of the way or yell out to warn anyone else.

I don’t have any answer. I think it’s really, really important to admit that we’re scared and sad, all together. And then we keep fighting, all together, for each other. Knowing that we might not win, and that things can get a whole lot worse. But there’s no answer, and there’s no other choice.

You are not alone. Even at 3 am. We’re all here, scared and sad and depressed. With you.

Love,

Magda

 

Double Whammy

I’m a person who firmly believes that the Christmas season doesn’t officially start until the day after Thanksgiving, so it was altogether fitting and proper that my holiday funk would start that day, too.

Truth be told, I have been pretty bummed out since the election. Let me be clear that I remain firmly committed to my goal not to give Donald Trump the power of ruining my mental health. But it’s hard not to get angry about the fresh hell that comes every day with news of appointments to Trump’s team, and of all the hate-based activity that seems to have been encouraged by Trump’s election victory.

I guess the preparations, cooking, cleaning, and eating that come with Thanksgiving provided a temporary distraction from my full-time anger. I was still focusing on recounts and postcards and calls to representatives, but part of the time I was thinking about the timeline of thawing, brining, and cooking a turkey.

And then Friday came. Holed up in my house with freshly-vacuumed carpets and plastic containers of carb-laden leftovers, I looked out the window at the dreary day and just felt defeated. It was time to start focusing on all the Christmas-related tasks, but I just couldn’t. I just wanted to take a nap.

Our nation’s pain was back at the forefront of my mind. And now my election-related woes were compounded by the holiday season.

It’s hard to know how to feel about Christmas this year. Maybe the songs and lights and cookies are a much-needed balm for our souls. On the other hand, will the myriad tasks of Christmas distract us from focusing on our fight? And as a person who felt ambivalent about all the trappings and traditions of Christmas before, I feel extra challenged to muster up the enthusiasm for Christmas activities this year.

I have no words of wisdom or advice for you today. I just want you to know that, if you feel like you’re fighting for your mental health on two fronts this year, you’re not alone.

And make no mistake, I’m fighting. I’m going to the gym, and I’ve made more frequent therapy appointments. I’m taking deep breaths. I’m giving myself a break.

Give yourself a break, too. We’ll get through this together.

All my love,
Shannon

There’s nothing wrong with waiting

One of the tortures of being depressed is that it feels like we’re always waiting. Waiting to feel better, waiting to feel worse, waiting for time to elapse so we can go to bed, waiting for anything to happen that changes things even a little.

It begins to feel like waiting is all we have and it’s not enough. Depression steals our agency. How can we ever change anything if we can’t even get it together to put on our shoes? And we watch the normals doing all kinds of things we’d be able to do if only we could, and feel even worse about not being able to move.

But here we are on the first day of Advent, and the entire purpose of Advent is waiting. We spend these four weeks waiting for Christmas to come, for Jesus to be born. It’s not a time of self-improvement to make ourselves worthy of Jesus. It’s not a challenge and if we do well enough Jesus comes and we get to open our presents. There’s nothing actionable about it. And that’s difficult. It’s especially difficult for a people who are used to feeling guilty about waiting and who long constantly to be different than we are.

But here’s the thing: Jesus, by his very existence, tells us that we’re enough exactly as we are. And that’s why we celebrate his birth (at the wrong time of year) so vigorously. His birth certainly isn’t the most important part of this story–his death and resurrection are–but it is the first sign that God is watching us and loves us and sends this person to bring justice to the whole world, even as flawed and compromised as we are.

Especially as flawed and compromised and depressed as we are.

It’s jarring and it’s hard to believe, that we could be actually enough. So we get this four-week period of Advent to do nothing but wait and get used to being worth it. And then Jesus is born to take away the pain of the world.

You are enough, even in pain and depressed.

You are enough, even when you don’t earn it.

You are enough, even while you’re waiting.

This is Advent again.

Love,

Magda

 

(You might also enjoy the Advent devotional #fuckthisshit. Day 1 is here.)

My Post-Election Manifesto

Given the early date, this post is obviously not for Advent. It is, however, for people with depression and/or anxiety. Right now in America, there are a lot of people with both. 

When I was in fifth grade, I was having one of my frequent arguments with a girl I’ll call Public Frenemy Number One. I was in my room on the night of this argument, fuming and stewing and just generally cursing Public Frenemy’s name. My dad came into my room and, through sobs and snorts, I managed to convey my anger toward Public Frenemy.

“So,” said my dad, “look how awful she’s making you feel. Don’t give her that kind of power over your emotions.”

That idea of not giving anyone power over my emotions has stuck with me to this day.

And on this day, we are dealing with a president-elect who is stirring up a lot of negative emotions for a lot of people.

We’re angry. We’re stunned. We cry. We worry.

I’ve been on this terrifying emotional rollercoaster since the election, and it’s likely you have, too. One minute you’re in shock, the next you start to feel a little hopeful about the idea that we’ll get through this with love and fighting and loving fighting … and then you read something on social media or hear some bit of breaking news, and you’re right back to angry and hopeless again.

So many of us, myself included, are extremely emotional right now. But throughout it all, I cling to one manifesto:

I will be angry. I will be sad. I will experience a wide variety of negative emotions. But, above all else, no matter what, I will not give Donald Trump the power of ruining my mental health. 

Notice I did not say that I wouldn’t feel any emotions about the election of Donald Trump. It is never a healthy practice to deny your emotions.

But I am going to fight like hell to keep my negative emotions from driving me to full-blown depression. Donald Trump doesn’t get the power to make me depressed.

This kind of mind-over-matter goal is challenging to achieve. If I sit around feeling sad long enough, I will become officially depressed. And, make no mistake, I am sad right now (and also angry, anxious, and insert-negative-emotion-here).

But, I understand, perhaps for the first time ever, the importance of self-care. It isn’t selfish, it’s necessary. What good are you to anybody if you’re incapacitated by depression and/or anxiety? What good are you to your family, to your community, to the cause at large?

I can’t tell you how to stave off depression. We all have our own coping mechanisms.

For most of us, those coping mechanisms differ day-by-day or minute-by-minute. Sometimes I need to escape: I go for a walk, I pet my cats, I watch mindless TV, or I play games on my phone. Sometimes my coping mechanisms are far less constructive, and usually involve eating a lot of sugar and carbohydrates. Sometimes I have to turn away from Facebook and news media. As I say, it is wrong to bury your head in the sand, but it is also wrong to stare directly at the sun.

Sometimes I feel like fighting. I fight the way we are told to—with phone calls and letters to my elected officials—and sometimes I fight by injecting just a little more kindness into the world. I give to charity. I pick up litter. I try to be nicer to everyone I encounter, even though recent events make me feel angry at the whole world.

And sometimes I let myself wallow in it. I cry. I get angry. And I tell myself it’s okay to feel everything I’m feeling.

Some of us will need to cope through those more conventional mental health care methods we’re all so familiar with—we’ll need to see doctors and therapists, to combat our emotions with exercise and adequate sleep. Those who recognize the need for these interventions are to be commended. However you fight mental illness, you FIGHT.

But my hope is that we will all keep fighting. Don’t give Donald Trump the power of ruining your mental health.

All my love,

Shannon

 

New

fuckingshitIt’s January 2, and I haven’t been to the gym at all in 2016. Half the Christmas decorations are still up. I haven’t finished unpacking the suitcases from our holiday travels. There’s a giant load of laundry waiting to be folded. I’ve already sent a text with an incorrect use of an apostrophe, effectively ruining 2016. And, for the love of God, do items have the ability to actually grow on my kitchen counters?

It all feels wrong. New years should begin perfect and unblemished and clean. That’s why New Year’s is represented by a baby, a blank slate that brings a sense of obligation to keep it perfect and uncorrupted.

It reminds me of when my son was a baby, when the “breast is best” people had gotten so into my anxiety-riddled head that I sobbed on the way home from a pediatrician’s appointment where I was directed to supplement with one bottle of formula each day. No, he must only have nature’s perfect food, I thought, even though it’s worth nothing that said food was seasoned with a light sprinkling of aspartame from all the Diet Coke I was drinking. I cannot ruin him. 

Now, 8+ years later, I let him order Sprite in restaurants and eat processed food and sometimes pretend not to notice when he sneaks a cookie before breakfast. I calculated that, given a 100-year lifespan, he’s just now entering the February of his life. Which seems about right, because by February most of us have long ago given up on the concept of unblemished perfection.

But here in the weak and infrequent light of early January, one feels the need to strive for absolute perfection and self discipline.

I will go to the gym every day. I will plan and actually make meals that achieve that nearly-impossible combination of healthy, inexpensive, easy, and delicious. I will only eat fruit as a snack. FRUIT, DAMMIT. All fruit will be locally-grown and organic, despite the fact that I live in a barren frozen wasteland that produces no crops this time of year. I should have bought that fruit in the summertime and canned it. This year I must learn canning.

I will get all my chargers organized in one place, on one power strip, arranged in an aesthetically-pleasing manner that does not at all resemble a ball of electrical wires one might find on an abandoned construction site. I will stick to a strict work schedule—with no interruptions from Facebook and other contents of the Internet. I will do a better job of accounting for my freelance business. I will spend less in general, because I don’t need any more belongings. In fact, I should get rid of most of the stuff I do have, because minimalism is the key to happiness.

I will always sit at the computer with straight posture and two feet on the floor. We will have a Fun Family Outing every weekend. And I will still take time for myself, because taking time for yourself is important. But I have to remember not to take too much time for myself—I mean, I have to get out and volunteer in my community. I need to appreciate that I’m very fortunate in life, and that it’s my responsibility to help those who are less fortunate. I really don’t sit and appreciate how fortunate I am. I need to add in time for gratitude in 2016. And while I’m at it, I should feel guiltier for all the privileges I’ve been given. Must add in more time for feeling guilty.

I will be a better wife, mother, daughter, friend, employee, cat owner, and global citizen. In short, I will become the absolute most perfect specimen of a human being … until I find some other way to become even more perfect. Then I will write up a multi-page, SMART-goal-ridden plan to assess each imperfection, which will also include an attached spreadsheet.

I don’t have to tell you that I’m exaggerating for comedic effect. In reality, I only made one resolution this year, and that was to get control of my sleep. With this resolution comes the sub-resolutions of weight loss and increased exercise, because I think it’s been weight gain that has caused my poor sleep and exhaustion. I’ve also made an appointment with my doctor to get the ball rolling on any sort of medical interventions I might need to take to improve my sleep.

I like to make one sort of unconventional resolution like this because I will otherwise fall into the trap of enumerating all of the above-mentioned media-promoted self-improvements I can make in the new year.

But the reality is, you don’t even have to make a single resolution this year. Maybe you’re in a place where just getting through each day is an awesome accomplishment. And if you are in this place, but still beating yourself up for not being perfect, I present to you a standard checklist I use when I feel like my life is spiraling out of control:

  1. Are you and all of your dependents fed? (And I don’t mean fed with perfectly nutritious, homemade, organic, locally-grown, free-of-everything-bad-for-you food. I mean Have you all had something to EAT recently? Taco Bell counts.)
  2. Are all of your necessary household utilities still on because you’ve paid the bills on time?
  3. Are you all able to go out in public wearing clothing that is in a state of socially-acceptable cleanliness?

If you answered “yes” to all of the above, you are doing great. And those very basic standards actually illustrate the inherent danger of New Year’s resolutions: While it’s always great to improve your life if you want to, you shouldn’t feel obligated to always be bettering yourself. There are times when it’s best to just accept life the way it is.

Which brings me to the concept of mindfulness. Now, I am not an expert on mindfulness. (Jon Kabat-Zinn is an expert on mindfulness. Read something from him if you want to know more about mindfulness. If you’re looking for something depression-specific, I recommend The Mindful Way Through Depression.)

And let me say that I’ve never personally found success with yoga, tai chi, pilates, meditation, or any of the other Eastern-based practices often touted for its relaxing benefits. If those practices have helped you, that’s great. I just can’t get into them.

But mindfulness just makes sense to me. It’s basically saying, I feel this way, and that’s okay. It’s accepting your feelings instead of fighting them. Because while you should fight depression, you should not fight your individual feelings. (REO Speedwagon is right on this one.) Let’s take the following hypothetical example of a misguided attempt to fight your feelings:

It’s 6:30 a.m. on a Monday, and you’ve been up for a total of 30 seconds. You begin to experience a negative emotion. Oh no, you thinkhere comes depression. Why? Why am I all the way back there again? I’m gonna have to go to the doctor. I’m gonna have to adjust my meds. I’ll go through a terrible adjustment period. How am I going to manage? And what if those meds don’t work? Then I’ll have to try different meds. Ugh, why is my life so difficult? I’m not allowed to feel this way; I’m waking up in a warm bed in a house with a loving family and a refrigerator full of food. I don’t deserve to feel sad when there are people who don’t even have access to clean water, for crying out loud. Maybe I would feel better if I actually went to the gym once in awhile. But no, instead I took a nap yesterday when I could have been exercising. Successful people don’t take naps. I bet So-and-So who has her life all together never takes naps. That’s why she’s more successful in her career than I am. I have nothing better to do than sleep in the middle of the day. I’m really not living up to my full potential.

Do you feel better? No, this exercise in attempting to fight your feelings made you feel about 100 times worse, turning a passing negative thought to a complete inventory of everything bad in your life.

What mindfulness tells you to do is accept the negative thought, breathe with it for a minute, and wait for it to pass. Sometimes I personally like to close my eyes and just imagine that Sadness from Inside Out has temporarily taken over the console in my brain.

Sadness

It’s a children’s movie, but it’s the most brilliant movie ever made. 

And then I know that all my other emotions are close at hand, and Sadness’s turn at the console will end. And no, that doesn’t mean that all sad feelings and situations will go away. Joy isn’t the absence of Sadness, it’s the acceptance of Sadness.

So, in these early days of this fledgling year, I do wish you joy, health, and happiness. But, more importantly, I wish you acceptance.

Storytelling 2015

One of my friends is, at this minute, having a miserable time on a family vacation. Maybe “miserable” isn’t even the right word. It’s the kind of horrible catastrophe that ends up being retold on Twitter over 100 different tweets, and it’s probable that my friend and at least one of her family members will never speak to each other again. But my friend keeps posting pictures on social media of her kids having fun on this vacation.

I don’t blame her for this one bit. I don’t think it makes her a liar, or that she’s deceiving anyone. I think she’s just understanding that two different stories can be true at the same time. Her kids ARE having fun. She’s ready to jump out of a moving car and take her chances in the ditch just to get away.

And I think that’s just like the rest of us, especially those of us with depression. I have one story, that’s true, of depression ruining everything I do. And then I have another story, that’s also true, of doing all kinds of amazing cool stuff and living a rich, full life despite/around/on top of depression.

I can look back at 2015 and think about how incredibly low and dulled I’ve been in some parts of it. How things happened that I just didn’t have the energy or alertness to prevent or deal with the way I wish I could have. The loneliness and guilt and self-recrimination. Failing my kids. But I can also look back at the business I’m building and the projects I’ve done for clients and the friendships I’ve maintained and made. Being the mom my kids really need and love. The really interesting and cool things I’ve done in 2015.

Both those stories are equally true. I am not enough of a Pollyanna to “live on the good parts” all the time. I guess I could try to ignore my depression story if I wanted to, and only look at the good stuff. But then when something knocked me back into the pit I wouldn’t have that depression story to tell me that I can climb out of the pit again. (I always have. So have you.) I wouldn’t be able to go back to the transcript and see what I did that worked and didn’t work.

As long as I have depression (and I think that’s going to be forever, even though I spend a lot more time in remission than I ever thought I could) I get to live two (at least) stories that are true at the same time. And you do, too.

If you are telling yourself your 2015 story right now, don’t forget to tell yourself both stories. You’ve lived both of them, so you deserve to tell both of them.

We’ll Take a Cup of Kindness Yet

I know we don’t have our own specific usernames for the “posted by” line on these posts, so let me clarify that this is Shannon. And this is my last post of 2015.

Naturally, one tends to become reflective as one year ends and another begins, which I guess is sort of strange given that these delineations of time are totally arbitrary. Nonetheless, here are my reflections on 2015.

It wasn’t a great year in the world. Mass shootings, terrorist attacks, and a general sense of fear pervaded 2015. Some really frightening people (in my opinion) are running for President in 2016. We saw that racism and intolerance are still very much alive in modern society, even if we’d like to think we’ve moved past all that. Climate change is frighteningly real. Sometimes it seems like we spend half our lives in anger and disbelief. And at least we had Jon Stewart to bring some much-needed humor to these tough situations … until he signed off, too.

But on the plus side, gay marriage became legal in all 50 states, and Trevor Noah is pretty funny.  We finally got some closure on Mad Men, and the show left behind a fun legacy of mid-century-modern fashion and household decor.

I guess the bottom line on world news is that we need to remember that there have always been scary times. There have always been a few bad people, although they make up an infinitesimally small percentage of the overall population. What’s changed now is that news about all the anger and fear and injustice is in our faces, all the time. It’s reported on 24-hour news channels, websites, and in social media. And then we argue about it online. We make the mistake of reading the Comments section. At the end of the day we’re weary from our battles with friends and strangers, and our general feeling that the whole terrifying world has invaded our homes.

Sometimes it’s best to just turn it all off. You need to get the perspective that 50 years ago there were still shootings, bomb threats, and idiotic opinions—you just didn’t hear about them ad nauseum like you do now. Nowadays it’s only natural to perceive that the world is horrible, and to worry that you’re going to be the next victim of the world’s horror. Just remember, you need to live your life and shape your thoughts based on probability, not possibility.

(Which isn’t to say I think all is peachy keen. I have very strong feelings what we are and aren’t doing to address some of the world’s serious problems. I just know that I can’t fixate on these feelings all day.)

Obviously nobody knows where the world is going in 2016. Much of it is outside our control. But you can control many aspects of your own life. You can choose to take a deep breath, to accept your feelings (whatever they are), and to block or hide or unfriend anybody who makes your life worse. You can be the good in the world that counteracts the bad, just by being a kind person. You can win at life in 2016 if you just put one foot in front of the other, keep fighting the good fight, and making it through each day the best you can. You can find peace, even if the rest of the world is fighting. Because as we heard during that positive, rainbow-splattered day when the Supreme Court made its historic decision, Love Wins. 

Permission

When I was a kid, I used to hear adults complain about how much they hated the holidays. Now, to a child, for whom Christmas was all cookies and Santa and presents, the expression of hatred for the holidays made about as much sense as the waahhh wahhhh of the adults in Peanuts holiday specials. Why would anybody hate the holidays? Only Scrooge and the Grinch hated the holidays, and even they came around. In fact, watch any holiday movie ever made about a person who’s lost the Christmas spirit, and you can pretty much guarantee by the end that they’ll find it.

But life is not a movie, and as an actual human I found myself liking the holidays less and less as I progressed into adulthood. It started in the days when you had to actually shop for gifts in actual brick-and-mortar stores, which were crowded and hot and just intensified the stress of obligatory gift-exchanging. Then there was the wrapping. The staggering costs. The overeating. The baking. Family issues. Holiday travel.

It got to the point where when that first holiday display came out in a store in October, my body physically tensed up. Here we go again, I’d lament.

But the weird thing is, instead of just allowing myself to dislike a time of year where you’re supposed to pile on eight times your normal responsibility, I fought my dislike of the holidays. This isn’t right, I’d think, this is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year. 

Last year was the low point for my conflicted holiday attitude. I need to love Christmas, I would think. I’m lucky to have all the necessary material blessings of this life, and a loving family, and my health, and I’m supposed to be loving this. I’m not allowed to complain about it. 

But this year, as typically happens after one hits one’s rock bottom, I decided things needed to change.

This year I gave myself permission to hate the holidays.

And a weird thing happened: I actually didn’t hate the holidays this year.

Sure, there have been parts I still hate, namely centered around the fact that everybody needs to be in the exact same places at the exact same time during the holidays. Some of these crowds can be avoided by shopping online, but everybody still goes to the big light displays and the airport. Everybody’s on the road, impatient and angry.

But mostly, I liked the holiday season this year. I accepted that it was temporary, and that I was allowed to feel however I wanted to feel about it. I found myself appreciating the pretty lights and the gingerbread. Instead of swimming upstream, I decided to go with the flow.

And the flow was pretty good.

Get Out of Town!

IMG_5142

This is the sign on the door of a local business near my house. The first time I saw it, I immediately thought, well, I guess I’ll never be going in there. 

Now, it’s not that I support negativity. We’ve all encountered that negative person, who just always seems to make your day a little worse. Those people are unpleasant. I don’t want to be one of those people.

It’s just that I don’t like a store forcing its customers to have a particular emotion. Because even if I don’t support negativity, I also don’t support forced positivity. This sign is everybody who’s  ever told me to smile or to get over it. This business—and all those people—don’t get to tell me how to feel.

And yes, I realize I am reading too much into a store sign that was just meant to be cute and fun. I’m guessing the business wouldn’t invoke the we reserve the right to refuse service to anyone rule just because a customer didn’t smile.

It’s just that something about this sign rubs me the wrong way. Not every day is a day for smiling. It’s okay to be sad. Did you see the movie Inside Out? One of the central messages of that movie is that it’s okay to feel and acknowledge any emotion. Or, as the Pretenders said, if you’re mad, get mad. 

Simply put, it’s stupid to fake positivity. While I’m sure plastering on a smile for the brief duration of your visit to this store isn’t going to kill you, in general it’s quite hurtful to deny negative emotions. And as we come to the home stretch of a season of forced-positivity events, a lot of us are growing weary. Denying your emotions is a recipe for disaster.

So don’t tell me how to feel.