I love to read, watch movies, documentaries, and series on television. Perhaps it stems from watching the ‘Edge of Night’ with my grandmother, and ‘As the World Turns’, ‘The Young and the Restless’ and ‘Days of our Lives’ with my mother. Our conversations around these soap operas were always stimulating and exciting. The tradition has continued even today with my daughter and son, who constantly introduce new shows to me. Part of the excitement is our conversation around the many issues that we see in these movies, soap operas and television dramas.
One television series I was intrigued by was Being Mary Jane. The writers delved into issues that often caused me to reflect on my own journey of turbulence, navigating “white water” family dysfunction and trying to understand who I was as a woman, mother, sister and wife. There were a lot of issues in season three which ended in the suicide of Mary Jane’s best friend, Lisa. When Mary Jane was asked how was she doing, her response was, “I am fine.” I saw myself in her response because embracing my emotions has been a problem for me. You see, fine is not a feeling, it is not an emotion.
In the book ‘Emotionally Healthy Spirituality,’ by Peter Scazzero, he talks about how our inability to express our real feelings and emotions, impedes our emotional and spiritual growth. Emotionally, I was an infant in the area of grief. It was difficult for me to embrace my feelings around grief and loss and I did not know how to grieve. I’d never given myself permission to feel sad. I could only express to people that I was “fine.” I saw myself at that point, like Mary Jane. “How are you doing, First Lady?” “I am blessed and highly favored”. “What is going on with you?” “Oh, the Lord has this, I am fine!” Really?
In 2014, I was a part of a small group called Restoring Your Heart. I learned that fine was not an emotion or a feeling, thus, I began my journey of what it meant to process pain and to ultimately grieve.
Mary Jane was not able to appropriately process the depth of her loss. So much so, that when asked to give remarks at her friend’s funeral, she dumped on everyone who had hurt her friend. When she finished, it was like a tornado had come through the room. When you’re not able to process your pain, you will “bleed” all over every one. You will hurt others and not be aware of the damage you have caused. I have been Mary Jane! My inability to feel and express my emotions has caused me to lack compassion and to be judgmental of others.
I am learning each day that pain will come. It can keep you from moving forward, if it is not processed appropriately. Mary Jane's friend saw no way out and unfortunately ended her life. That is another blog for another day, but Mary Jane had another opportunity to get it right.
I am learning if I am going to “love well”, I need to express how I feel and honor where I am on my journey. So, the next time you are in the context of your community and one of your friends, mentors or spiritual companions ask, “How are you doing?”, express the emotion that you are experiencing at the time of their inquiry. Friends ask because they care!