SPONSORED BY BUSINESS WOMEN’S NETWORK OF HOWARD COUNTY
By: Jessamine Duvall, Executive Director, Girls on the Run of Central Maryland
Do you remember having this everyday conversation?
“Hi, how are you?”
“Fine, how are you?
“Just fine, thanks.”
When was the last time you had that ubiquitous exchange with someone? I realized recently that I haven’t had this brief, courteous conversation in a while. Here’s how the conversation typically plays out now.
“How are you, Jess?”
“Eh, I’m hanging in there.” or…
“Not bad, all things considered.” or…
“I’m ok, I guess.” or…
“Well, I’m still here! Ha ha!”
I don’t know about you, but I am done saying that everything is fine when I know it’s not. We have all been traumatized by the events of the past twelve months. Nothing is the same as it was before COVID. It’s important for us to remember that. We recognize it and acknowledge it when talking to strangers and acquaintances, but are we really taking it to heart in our everyday lives?
I discovered something about myself shortly after the pandemic hit. I really enjoy being busy. I actually already knew this about myself, but the absence of busyness in my life over the past 9 months has really brought it home for me. I do NOT like being idle — at all. So I got curious about this – why do I like to stay so busy?
What I realized (after spending way too much time obsessing over it – because I’m not busy) is that I like to be busy because, when I’m juggling all the stuff I have to do and running around like a chicken with her head cut off, I don’t have to feel my feelings.
Why wouldn’t I want to feel my feelings? Because often, and especially during a pandemic, there are far fewer “good” feelings than “bad” feelings to process on a daily basis. And no one likes “bad” feelings – fear, sadness, loneliness, hopelessness, and the like are not fun or easy. They suck.
Instead, I choose to stay busy and ignore my feelings bubbling just under the surface… until I crack. I may yell at my kids or my spouse, or some poor customer service rep, or the dog. I may start sobbing in response to a commercial or a Hallmark movie (yes, I will admit that I love them). Does that sound familiar? The feelings are always there, whether we allow ourselves to experience them or not. They will always come out eventually, and sometimes they will manifest in an unhealthy way.
So while a lot of folks took up crochet, or learned to make their own sourdough, or launched DIY projects during quarantine, I decided that my pandemic project was making peace with my feelings.
I didn’t get there through psychotherapy, or a self-help book, or a podcast. I learned how to accept and honor my feelings by reading and teaching the Girls on the Run curriculum.
One of the lessons we teach girls in 3rd-5th grade through the Girls on the Run program is all about emotions. The key takeaway from this lesson is, “There are no good or bad emotions, just comfortable or uncomfortable emotions.” We take the girls through a list of emotions and ask them to identify these emotions as “comfortable” or “uncomfortable.” Then we may talk about how to nurture ourselves when we are experiencing uncomfortable emotions: pet your dog, or go for a run, or listen to your favorite song, for example.
The first time I observed a Girls on the Run team going through this lesson, it took all my willpower not to burst into tears. I was over 40 years old and I had never heard this said before. As a GenXer, I learned from my parents and peers that uncomfortable feelings were BAD.
“Don’t be the girl that cries in class. You’ll never live that down.”
“Don’t cry in front of your boyfriend and don’t yell, either. He’ll think you’re crazy.”
“Don’t EVER cry at work. That is so unprofessional.”
On that day, as I watched girls talk about their emotions in a safe space, I realized that these girls were learning at ages 8, 9, and 10 what I had never been taught. I looked back at my life – high school, college, career, marriage, parenting — and realized how much easier the journey could have been if I had just been taught that it is okay to have feelings – even the uncomfortable ones.
I have now taught this valuable lesson multiple times as a Girls on the Run coach. It is so rewarding to see the girls realizing and accepting what I didn’t learn until a few years ago. Now, during the pandemic, I have decided to do the hard work of practicing what I teach on a daily basis. I am sitting in the discomfort of all my feelings about the recent political unrest, the pandemic and the resulting isolation, and the challenges of living, working, and parenting during this time. I’m learning how to take care of myself and practice self-compassion on the days that are extra hard. Some days are easy and some days are tough. Some days I laugh a lot, and some days I cry a lot. But every morning I get up and put one foot in front of the other. As we tell our girls in Girls on the Run, “You don’t have to run, as long as you keep moving forward.”
I have a challenge for you, my fellow high-achieving women. During this weird, messed-up time that we are living in, honor your feelings – even the uncomfortable ones. Embrace the suck, as Brene Brown says. Be kind to yourself. Achieve less and feel more while you’re stuck in this Groundhog Day experience. And if you have kids at home, know that modeling this behavior will help them too.
Because none of this is easy. It’s uncomfortable. And that’s okay.
About Girls on the Run of Central Maryland
Girls on the Run is a national physical activity-based positive youth development program for 3rd-8th grade girls. Participants develop and improve competence, feel confidence in who they are, develop strength of character, respond to others and oneself with care, create positive connections with peers and adults and make a meaningful contribution to community and society. Each session is led by trained volunteer coaches that guide and mentor the girls. The ten-week program concludes with all participants completing a celebratory 5K event which gives them a tangible sense of achievement as well as a framework for setting and achieving life goals. Girls on the Run of Central Maryland is proud to serve Carroll County and Howard County, Maryland. Registration for our next 8-week season, which will include in-person and virtual teams with practices beginning March 21, 2021, is now open at www.gotrcentralmd.org.
Jessamine Duvall is the Executive Director of Girls on the Run of Central Maryland, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit youth development organization that inspires girls in Carroll & Howard counties to be joyful, healthy, and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum which creatively integrates running. Jessamine has worked in the nonprofit sector for more than 20 years at organizations around the country, including community associations, arts organizations, and human service providers. A Maryland resident since 2000, Jessamine has extensive experience advocating for members of the community and working with local government agencies. Over the years, she has volunteered as a Girl Scout leader, Leadership Howard County planning committee chair, and PTA committee chair, as well as elected positions on the Hickory Ridge Village Board and Columbia Association Board of Directors. She lives in Columbia, Maryland with her husband Brian, two teenage children, two spoiled cats, and one derpy dog.