Things are better, so why do I feel worse?

Things are better, so why do I feel worse? If you’ve found yourself thinking this lately, you’re not alone.  

With news of the vaccine, and the exit of the former administration, there’s a lot of reason to feel optimistic.

Yet, at the same time, we know many people who are experiencing mental health crises, marriage struggles, family stressors, and increased substance abuse – more than we’ve seen in a long while in our community. It’s a weird paradox, and one that can cause even more stress if you’re not aware of just how normal it is to feel worse as things are, in all sorts of ways, better.

Like I’ve said before, this past year has been an experience of collective trauma. We’ve all been in survival mode – sometimes quite explicitly trying to avoid a deadly virus. As we start to see the potential of moving back to “normal” life, our adrenaline starts to fade a bit. We have renewed emotional capacity to deal with feelings we may have compartmentalized in order to keep going.  

If this resonates for you, give yourself a little extra space and gentleness. Make extra time for physical movement, for laughter, for tears. Ignoring your feelings now or trying to keep them back in the tidy compartment won’t make them go away. It’ll actually do the opposite. They will grow and show up in ways you least expect. It’s a little like the “completing the feeling” idea I talked about in the December 6th service. When you leave feelings incomplete, they find other ways to make themselves known. 

We had a sense this might be the case, and so we’ve been working hard to build up our caring network and our capacity to care for and with each other. With Rev. Elaine’s leadership, we now have a robust team of Caring Listeners (what we’ve been calling Parish Visitors – same idea, new name). Also, our Caring Kits are a really beautiful new way to respond in challenging moments. You can find information on how to offer and receive support on our Caring page foothillsuu.org/caring. 

Don’t be shy. You are not alone in feeling this way. We are all feeling it, and we can help each other.  

I want to mention one other reason you might be struggling right now, which is what Brené Brown calls “foreboding joy.” This is the feeling that whenever we accept joy, we must simultaneously start “dress rehearsing tragedy.” After a long stretch of uncertainty, loss, and grief, we might have the sense that we cannot trust good news, that the other shoe is about to drop. So we put up a little extra armor and stay one step removed from the goodness. This is also normal! 

I want to invite you to let it go. Instead of putting up the armor, turn to gratitude. Of course, there’s still no guarantee that this joy will last or that there won’t be another loss. But none of that takes away from the gifts or the truth of this moment in its blessing. (Check out the video below in which our Program Coordinator Amy Gage offers a simple way to tap into the gift and blessing of today.) Turning to gratitude is the practice that will sustain you when life inevitably takes those turns again. As we remember that joy persists through it all.

Speaking of joy, I am beyond excited that a person I admire and respect deeply, the Rev. Bill Sinkford, former President of the UUA (twice!), said yes to my invitation to join us for worship this Sunday, February 7, 2021. Rev. Bill will guide us in exploring themes of religious experience that can sustain us through all of life’s joys and sorrows. Learn how to join us for this special worship service HERE.

In partnership, 

Rev. Gretchen 

Foothills Program Coordinator Amy Gage offers a tiny change you can make in your day that will help remind you how meaningful true connection feels.

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