I was recently asked to list some “happy” moments. I promise you, at the time, I could not think of any. Thoughts of love, acceptance, contentment, and fulfillment came to mind.
What I learned from this conversation is that people experience emotions differently. What is happy to one person, feels like love or acceptance to me. I learned that when I apply others’ definitions of emotions to my emotions, it doesn’t fit. Do you experience this?
I often think about the depths of some of my “intense” memories and the emotions that are attached to them. For example, I have a distinct memory of walking into one of the many Afghan villages, being the only woman in sight, facing four Afghan Elders, waiting to see if we were all going to start shooting or if they would offer their hand over their heart accepting us, the American Soldiers, into their village. That few seconds, could have went either way. My emotions attached to that memory are decisiveness, preparation, and peace.
Not what you would expect right? In that moment, I knew it could have been my last day and my last breaths. But my soul was content with that. I would venture to say that the souls of the Soldiers who stood next to me were content with that. We all knew what we were getting into. We all signed up to fight for our country and build our nation’s reputation as peacemakers and international partners. We knew exactly what to do if any one of those Elders had a weapon hidden under their draped clothing. Our reactions would have been automatic and we were extremely sure we would prevail.
Decisiveness, preparation, and peace; not fear, worry, and dread – the later emotions would have paralyzed me and prevented me from implementing the exact military training needed to counter the Taliban.
When I hold that image in my head – I feel nothing. I don’t feel anticipation such as when I am waiting in the grocery store line that is taking way too long. I don’t feel dread such as when I see a car accident about to happen. I don’t feel fear such as when I see the detrimental outcome of a negative interaction on the streets of DC.
When I step out of that image and evaluate how I made it through those situations in Iraq and Afghanistan, I feel pride. I feel pride for being emotionally intelligent enough to separate all of my feelings and then having re-assimilated my being, soul, and emotions to civilian experiences.
Life is tough! But when we allow ourselves to be human, be confused, be ... whatever emotion we feel even if you cannot name it; the grace you give yourselves and others in these less-clarified moments of existence is the key to co-existing on this Earth.
The point of this is that we all have a different barometer for where we hold, implement, and experience emotions. We should all be more accepting of others’ knowing that they might be experiencing these situations differently.
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