Don't Let Emotions Drive the Bus

I felt remarkably alive last week.  I'm not entirely sure what to attribute this to.  Perhaps it was the extra hour of daylight after changing the clocks.  Perhaps it was the warmer-than-normal March temperature, as if spring was making an unexpectedly welcome appearance.  Perhaps it was because my house was organized, or my workload was strangely manageable, or my kids were in good moods.

Everything worked.  Like I was immersed in some sublime bubble of sunshine and good vibes, I found myself navigating each day with ease and stability.

Of course, this isn't always the case.  I also experience weeks when simple tasks feel like giant hurdles, everything is blah, and conversations with my best friend go like this:

BF: How are you?

Me: Fine.  I'm fine, except that I feel off and everything is weird.  Actually, it's possible that my whole life is wrong.  I don't know how to parent.  I'm pretty sure each of my kids is going to need therapy when they're adults.  Instead of being a productive human, I spent the last 45 minutes scrolling social media while eating Girl Scout cookies.  I have an alarming amount of wrinkles appearing on my forehead.

BF: Go on.

Me: I'm nursing the suspicion that all of my worst traits are becoming more pronounced.  I'm thinking about becoming a hermit.  I wore cute flats yesterday, but they gave me bad blisters and that's depressing because I don't even know how to wear shoes correctly.  I also tried to give up caffeine, but there was a sale at the grocery store and I came home with five six-packs of Dr Pepper.

BF: Anything else?

Me:  I'm seriously contemplating cutting bangs.

BF: You need an intervention.

Don't we all have days like this?  When we follow that rabbit hole of chaos and craziness as far as it can possibly go, when we cry at an episode of The Office because Jim looked at Pam in just the right way but our husband forgot to pick up milk, when we can't make any decisions, when we think we're not fulfilling our purpose, when we're sure that everything in our existence is, for lack of more precise critiques, just off and dull and wrong and meh.

These are days when it's especially important to not let our emotions guide us too powerfully.  These emotions are irrational; they'll steer us right into a brick wall. I've heard it explained this way:
Emotions are like toddlers. You can't put them in the trunk, but you can't let them drive the bus either.
Emotions are important -- and they're meant to be felt.  We can't ignore them, proverbially throwing them in the trunk.  (Ignored emotions don't go away.  They simply fester, then surface more potently and irrationally later.)  But we also can't put emotions in the driver's seat and let them lead us down every road.  That's merely an invitation to a life that's perpetually sidetracked and adrift.

Instead, there's a healthier balance: emotions can be in the backseat.  They can be companions that we consider and attend to, but they don't need to control us and chart our course.

I'm a firm believer that God wants us to be at peace -- not only with Him and others, but also with ourselves -- and that means that we can come to grips with our own emotions.  Irrational emotions aren't terminal, they're human.  And emotions aren't forever, they're transient.  And emotions, while certainly triggered by some circumstances, don't need to be beholden to those circumstances.

Last week my emotions looked like a well-cropped Instagram picture -- tidy, positive, aesthetically pleasing, and filtered with some happy glow.  It was awesome.  Who knows what will come next week?  My feelings might be pointing me toward the threshold of a really bad haircut, but this doesn't mean that I need to step over that threshold.

Let's find a healthy balance with our emotions.  Let's keep 'em in the backseat.  We can feel them out and give them some attention (this is healthy), but we don't need to hand over the keys to something so fickle.

Don't let emotions drive the bus.


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