I could've written that letter. Man, could I have written that letter. I was you. I still am you, but over the past four years I've had some intense swimming lessons while dealing with a divorce, and the deaths of multiple loved ones, and giving up custody of my dog and losing a close friendship that became a romantic relationship and then exploded into a fireball, and I've somehow come through all of this in a better place than where I started because one night I allowed myself hit that emotional "rock bottom" and from there I was able to let go. I let myself float. And it's amazing how much progress I've made since letting go. I love Heather's water metaphor because it's so on point. Just stop paddling. Let yourself float in the sea. Feel the water around you, supporting you. If you're feeling sad, feel sad. It's not bad to feel sad. You feel that way for a reason. Feel it. If you're feeling happy, feel happy. Feeling happy is not necessarily better than feeling sad. It just is what it is. Feel angry and be okay with the anger. Lately I've been coming to terms with loneliness. I'd been avoiding and avoiding it, until one night I realized I just needed to go home after work and be alone with my loneliness. To sit there with my cats and just relax into the feeling. When I woke up the next morning, it was still there, but it was so much less scary and consuming and I can feel that loneliness without all of that anxiety and fear wrapped around it. And as I've learned to float, I've instinctively started taking better care of myself, focusing on my needs and how I feel about other people instead of worrying all the time about how they feel about me and what I can do for them. It's only been about a year and a half and my life/outlook/etc. has already changed immeasurably.
I was never allowed to be my own person growing up. I was a reflection on my mother, an extension of her, an object to parade around and show off. I wasn't supposed to have feelings, especially sad ones, or ones that made people uncomfortable. So I learned to approach everything very logically/rationally/analytically, but our brains are not computers and emotions are just as important as logic. Nobody in your life now expects from you what your parents unfairly expected from you. The people in your life who are important and worthy will love you unconditionally because they love you, not what you do for them. And take a minute to grieve the fact that you weren't raised with unconditional love, and remind yourself, nicely, lovingly, that it was not your fault. You didn't do anything wrong. You didn't deserve that.
I've wanted to comment on so many of these columns - I revisit the Kanye one about twice a month. Thank you, Heather, for opening yourself up like this every week. Everything you write here is beautiful and meaningful and incredible.
In addition to the Eckart Tolle podcasts, check out the Interdependence Project on iTunes. It's a series of podcasts on Buddhist mindfulness meditation and thought. I'm not religious at all, but these have been fantastic for helping me better develop my emotional intelligence. Good luck.