Riding the Emotional Seesaw

I’m excited.  Okay, also a bit nervous. pretty tired too. Definitely overwhelmed now that I’m thinking about it.  But also grateful… Did I say nervous?

This is the second year that I am directing an adventure running camp for kids. It’s not really a Spartan thing.  Nor is it simply running carelessly through the woods. It’s a challenge camp. It isn’t about how fast you are, unless it is.  Just getting it done might end up being a thing, really. You don’t have to be an athlete to do it, though it may look like it from the outside.  It isn’t a social club, either. Or a place for kids to go while their parents work.  

Honestly? The camp is a lot of fun.  AND it’s hard. Mentally, physically, emotionally hard.  In fact, each day the kids vote how hard each challenge they face is.  And each challenge is new and unknown until the day of… This adds a great amount of excitement and uncertainty. I guess it’s how you look at it. 

Friday, the last day, parents, siblings, friends, and anyone looking to ask a bit of themselves (basically who doesn’t know any better) is invited to join the participants of the camp and run the Challenge course.  As someone who does ‘less than civil’ events, I can tell you this is not a walk in the woods. It’s no easy task. For those participants willing to put themselves on the line, it can be emotionally challenging. It is for me as well.

I have a lot of really great help putting this camp and the final Challenge event together.  From an incredible assistant coach, fantastic counselors, and a great many volunteers.  It has gone very well. But there will be ten challenges this year. Five more than last, which means every day I’m not just directing the camp, but I’m also thinking about and designing (and redesigning) the Challenge course, building challenge obstacles, gathering materials…basically setting up how it is all going to work together.  Oh! I also have to do my regular job every day, develop my mental-emotional coaching business further, and continue to be a husband and a father. It’s fair to say I have a wide variety of strong emotions pass through me each day of camp. And it’s completely worth it.

It’s true, not every emotion feels good to me.  But truth be told, I know that if I didn’t have all of these emotions, this would just be work.  I would look at what I had to do, and I would probably do it, but it wouldn’t carry much weight with me.  It wouldn’t make a lasting impression. In fact, it wouldn’t even be worth doing. These feelings of excitement, nervousness, gratitude, exhaustion, overwhelm, and joy all create the right emotional cocktail to keep my efforts exceptional and the camp worth doing.  

All of our emotions give us information that lets us know what we are doing matters, especially the uncomfortable ones.  Sometimes emotions trigger feelings that tell us: this thing I’m doing is fulfilling, awesome, and we just can’t wait to get back to it!  Other times, a feeling of nervousness or anxiety can let us know that we should pay attention to something and give our best effort because it matters – it has an impact in our life or the lives of others.

Yet, how many of us try to ignore the information our emotions are giving us because it’s uncomfortable?  Or our culture tells us acknowledging our emotions is synonymous with weakness. Or even more likely, we truly have been disconnected with our feelings for so long, our only way of identifying one from the other, is “good” or “bad.”  So, what do we do? We don’t acknowledge our feelings, which leaves us even more drained, isolated, lonely, or anxious. We box them up, numb them (see last week’s blog “Emotional Anesthesia”), or ‘stuff’ them down so far that when they ultimately return (and they will), they come back with a vengeance.

When we can share our feelings, we often can get empathy, or even just hear ourselves process what is going on for us out loud, which can help us to gain perspective.  When we acknowledge our emotions to ourselves (I keep a log, or journal, which helps me), we gain a vital perspective on what information our emotions are providing us.  All of that information drives us to excel at the task at hand

Most emotions have a counterbalance, which is the impetus for action.  The nervousness I am feeling about how the Challenge will go Friday, is balanced against my joy over what the kids will get out of the event.  These two emotions become an impetus for me to get my advertising out on social media, send emails, solicit volunteers, and finalize the course.  If I only felt nervous, I might be paralyzed into inaction. Whereas, if all I felt was excitement, I would be less likely to attend to all of the little details that are vital to making the event a success.

So, I am going to embrace my excitement for fuel, listen to my anxiety carefully to improve my craft, sit in my gratitude to stay open and flexible, and acknowledge my exhaustion to find my pace.  The “challenge” for all of us, is to create challenges in our lives that build physical, mental, and emotional resilience. Participants (myself included) will not only see these challenges on the courses they chose to enter, but in much of what they do in their lives.  Once we realize there is no finish line to finding our center, it becomes easier to sit across from ourselves compassionately, without judgement, while we rock and back and forth on our emotional seesaw.

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