Inside Out and the Permission to Feel

Recently I saw the movie Inside Out, which features 11-year-old Riley (and her family) as they move across the country. Her personified emotions, Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust, and Anger navigate Riley through her days, but everything goes awry soon after the move–leaving Riley irritable and wishing to return to a time when life seemed to make sense.

For many reasons, it is a wonderful film–entertaining, clever, and more moving than I even anticipated. Weaved in among all the other positive qualities, I also found it strangely freeing. 

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Feelings and emotions are tricky things. It can be hard to show them at times, hard to know if it’s safe, if it’s wise, if it’s acceptable to be vulnerable enough with people to show them how we’re really feeling. At its core, one of the most important messages of Inside Out is that feelings are okay. Big feelings even, the startling kind that make us take a step back and try to figure out where they’re even coming from.

Riley moved across the country, and I moved a few mere miles, but having feelings about moving is not bad or something to be ashamed of. Moving is a change, and changes can make us feel happy or scared or excited or mad or any combination of any or all of those, plus about a bazillion other emotions–but we don’t need to be afraid of them.

Keeping feelings in indefinitely, trying to pretend they don’t exist, helps no one.

Admittedly, I probably have a few more feelings than the average person, but I’m beginning to be more okay with that. It’s part of how I interpret and process the world around me.

Granted, there are different ways of expressing feelings–some good and healthy, and others are destructive and unhelpful. Learning to express our emotions, in the right ways and in the right spaces and to the right people, is incredibly important. Inside Out was a poignant reminder of the necessity of acknowledging our feelings and working through them, instead of ignoring or running away from them. It’s not easy, simple work, because emotions are complex and shifty things–but it is good and needed work.

Maybe Inside Out will free others to feel their feelings too. 

Til next time…


p.s. What are healthy ways you’ve found to express your emotions?


Thoughts On Moving (Again)

I am packing books, taking down wall decorations, and loading boxes, for the third summer in a row. In a few weeks, I am moving again.

Some people are good at moving, enjoy it even—maybe not so much the physical act of getting all of their belongings from one place to another—but they relish the idea of a new place, whether it be the same general area they started in or a whole new city, state, or country.

These people are what I have come to think of as “Bird People.” Winged, easily moving from one place to another.

Photo Credit: Flickr User Broo_Am (Andy B), Creative Commons

Photo Credit: Flickr User Broo_Am (Andy B), Creative Commons

I think I am a tree.

Meant to be rooted, deeply, though with branches spreading wide.

We Tree People don’t do so well with the Moving. Every time, it’s not simply a matter of putting physical objects into boxes and vehicles and transporting them to a location; it’s disentangling my complicated feelings about this transient phase of life I’m in, why I’m in it, how I’m pretty sure I’d prefer to not be in it exactly as I am, but not really knowing how to solve it—or even if I’m supposed to solve it, because maybe I’m just supposed to live it.

Moving is a messy business for Tree People. Even if the roots haven’t had years and years to grow, they’ve started. And each move is a transplant.

Sometimes I wish I were a Bird Person. It would make this moving easier, even exciting, instead of so laborious and weighty. But I suppose there are complexities with that way of life that I cannot see from my view.

It takes me a while to settle in a new house, to hang my decorations on the wall and begin to make the mental shift to know what I mean when I tell someone “I’m going home.”

As many times as I’ve now tried, defining home is still tricky. I’m always trying to conjure up this feeling of home, one that’s not tied to the people I’m with because that is constantly changing as well, but to define it in a way that fits me and where I’m at. Home, for me, is a word I want to evoke feelings of warmth, comfort, and coziness, but I’m not quite there.

I’m still figuring out what to do with these roots of mine.

Til next time…


p.s. Are you a Bird Person, or a Tree Person?

When Home Isn’t Where the Heart Is

Last Saturday, I moved. If you’ve been around this space for a while, you probably know that change is not my favorite thing. But the lease was up, the roommate was getting married, and it was time to go. So nearly my entire family (including a five-year-old and two three-year-olds) descended on my house at 8:30 a.m., and by 11, we were done.

Done in the physical sense, at least.

Photo Credit: Flickr User z287marc, Creative Commons

Photo Credit: Flickr User z287marc, Creative Commons

But just because your stuff moves from one place to another doesn’t mean that all of you does.

It’s nothing against my new abode (it’s lovely, close to Target, has space for my hammock inside during the winter months, and comes with a rockin’ roommate), but, even after almost a week, I still feel like I haven’t fully detached from the other house and gotten comfortable in the new one. Which feels especially absurd, considering I only lived there a year.

At the root of it though, I think my issue is that I don’t know what home is for me, right now. I’ve been skimming through a book  full of beautiful pictures and inspiration for imperfect decorating in order to truly make a house (or apartment or condo) a home. But when she gets down to giving some sort of definition of home, she loses me.

I realized that no matter what happened or where we went, it would be okay because we would be together. Wherever we were, that was home. Home was us. 

And therein lies the disconnect. It’s a common refrain, to say that home is where the heart is and where your people are, but if true home is people, mine is only very partially in this dwelling I sit in right now.

If “Home is where the heart is,” then my home must be scattered in pieces across the city, state, country, and world, because my heart is scattered in all those places too.

As much as I want to make this new place a home by decorating it and throwing parties in it and spending lots of time in it (and I certainly will do all of those things), I think it will always feel a little like something is missing. Part of it is connected to being single, I’m sure, but it’s deeper, too. It’s a sense of being unmoored, slightly adrift. It’s a very twentysomething thing for me to feel, I suppose.

Last year around this time I wrote, “Maybe ‘home’ is about creating enough of a sense of it within me that I can carry it with me wherever I go.” I’ve had year to work on it, and I’m not sure I’m any closer to figuring out what that looks like.

Til next time…


p.s. How do you define home?

Creating Home

I’m writing this in the basement of my parents’ house, enjoying the Wi-fi that we don’t have yet at my new house (which also explains the lack of new posts lately).

Two weeks ago, before The Great Move of 2013, I wouldn’t have called this “my parents’ house.” I would have just called it “home.”

At some level, it still is. Every other time I moved out, it was for school. It usually only took a few weeks before I started referring to my dorm or apartment as “home.” If I told my friends I was going home, that’s what I meant; but if I was going to my parents’ house for the weekend, I was going “home home.” I’ll still be doing my laundry at my parents’ house, and it is the hub that I and my siblings and their spouses and their children descend upon for holidays and family meals, so at some level it will still be “home home.”

But unlike the other times I moved, this time everything came with me. Bookshelves, off-season clothes, all the little “life-y” bits I’ve accumulated over the years–they all came along. My room here, in this house where I sit right now, isn’t really mine anymore. Soon, my parents will redecorate and it will become the room my nieces and nephews play in and sleep in when they come to visit. When I visit, I will have no room to claim as mine.

This is what is supposed to happen. Kids grow up, move out.

And then, the kids have to find out for themselves what “home” means.

There is an element of it that is physical, of making the house I live in now comfortable and somewhere I want and like to be. I want it to be the type of place where I can invite people over and that they will enjoy being.

“Home” is much more than mere physical space, though. It is a concept, a feeling that is often attached to the physical, yet so much more. The people you’re with can add to, or even become a sense of home. This is, I know, one reason I don’t know what home means for me right now–because my circumstances of moving out at this stage in life are not what I expected.

But maybe my concept of home has become too rooted in the external, and not nearly enough in the internal.

Perhaps feeling at home is a choice of making peace with my circumstances. Maybe it’s about learning to appreciate this season of life God has me in right now, even though it’s not where I would have placed myself.

Maybe “home” is about creating enough of a sense of it within me that I can carry it with me wherever I go.

Til next time…


p.s. What does “home” mean to you?

The Great Move of 2013

I’m moving. As in, as I’m typing this, I’m actively in the process of moving–the vast majority of my stuff is already at the new house, and I am waiting for the dishwasher to finish so I can pack a few dishes from it. Then I’ll cram the rest of the odds and ends in my car and head to the house my cousin and I will share for the next year.

Photo Credit: Flickr User  emmajanehw, Creative Commons

Photo Credit: Flickr User emmajanehw, Creative Commons

Recently I took an assessment quiz that measured various aspects of the way I’m “wired.” It was for work, so my boss and I met with an advisor to talk about how we’ll be able to best work together. At one point, the advisor said something about how for me, the external world and my internal world are very closely related. Most people have somewhat of a “barrier” between what is happening around them and what is happening in their thoughts and feelings, and my barrier is very thin. External circumstances have a profound impact on what I’m thinking and feeling. Her explanation is the best I’ve ever heard for it. It’s not an all bad or all good thing, it’s just the way I am.

I think it explains why, for me, moving feels like a big deal. When I cleaned my room and packed my boxes, it wasn’t just moving objects from one place to another; it was categorizing memories and moments, saying goodbye to the way things were and greeting the way things will be. The act of moving is as much thought work as it is physical work for me.

Maybe I’ll get better at it with time. Our lease is for a year, so in 12 months I’ll be moving again. Maybe it will make a difference that I’ll have been there for a much shorter time than I’ve been in my parents’ house. It will have fewer memories attached to it, and it will be less of a physical representation of truly leaving my childhood behind than this move is.

Or maybe, for me, moving will always be rather bittersweet, sort of hard and sort of happy.

And maybe that’s okay too.

Til next time…


p.s. How does moving affect you?

Packing Memories

In a few weeks, I will be moving out of my parents’ house. The cleaning process has begun, of digging through years’ worth of pictures, ticket stubs, notes, knickknacks…and memories. I’m sorting things into piles, recognizing that not everything will be able to come along to my new, smaller bedroom, and that not everything needs to.

Allison Vesterfelt is one of my favorite bloggers. She has the tagline “Learning To Live with Less” on the main page of her blog, and it’s a topic she writes about often. It is both a physical and a metaphorical process, of learning to live with less stuff, but also with less emotional baggage. As I’m cleaning my room, I’m rediscovering that part of my problem is letting the two–the physical and emotional–get so intertwined. This is not unexpected, as I have long known about my pack rat tendencies. But as I prepare to move to a smaller space and attempt to embrace the idea of living with less things, it is not easy to suddenly untangle the two.

These items seem inconsequential. A pair of flip-flop shaped candles, a Spam Museum tour guide, a faded postcard of London, and a children’s camera, all sitting on a spiral bound notebook. If someone were helping me clean my room, they’d probably throw away each of them without a second thought.

So let me tell you their stories.

The flip-flop shaped candles were a gift from my sister from a trip she took, and they’ve sat on my dresser for years. They are dusty and old, but, even though I see my sister usually at least once a week, they still remind me of her.

I visited the Spam Museum on the way home from my second mission trip and picked up this tour guide while there. While the visit to the museum is a fond memory, the memories of the mission trip are not entirely so–but I learned much about unmet expectations, change, and seeing God in spite of things not going the way I thought they should.

One of my friends has lived in Scotland for several years, and she picked up this postcard of London for me from a thrift store or marketplace. Not only is it a reminder of my friend, it now brings back memories of my own trip to London last May and all that I experienced and learned from it. The message on the back from the original sender fascinates me, a tiny glimpse into the long-ago life of people an ocean away.

The spiral bound notebook is one of those big ones with five sections. It had a purple cover, which fell off from overuse years ago. While it is nowhere near all the way full, it is a fascinating look at my childhood. Flipping through it now, I can see the way it began to shape my love of words, with dozens of one-page stories, drawings of characters with short biographies, and random thoughts from the day or week.

Some of these items I’ve decided to keep, and some I’m getting rid of. My fear in getting rid of them though, and other things like them, is that once the physical reminder of the memories is gone, maybe the memories will be too. I know it doesn’t work quite like that, but I wonder if there are parts of my life I will never remember to remember without a physical representation. And if so, how bad is that really?

What if I forget what it felt like when I got that notebook, the anticipation of being able to fill up all those pages with whatever I wanted? What if I forget the way that people have showed they care for me with little gifts that meant so much more? What if I forget what it was like to learn important life lessons for the first time?

What if instead of throwing away an object, it’s like throwing away little pieces that have made me who I am?


So then there’s the Crayola camera. Though I have few specific memories attached to it, there’s still film in it. I don’t know when I stopped using the camera, or if the pictures would even turn out if I tried to get it developed. More than that though, I don’t know if it would be wise for me to do so. It seems a shame to let those photos go to waste, but do I really need a few more? Would it simply be more clutter to store in boxes?

I don’t know. While I know it’s not intrinsically bad to have things or attach some level of sentimental value to them, I’m figuring out what the line of “too much” is. Too much stuff, too much emotional attachment, too much worry that I’m throwing away memories and little bits of me instead of a notebook or postcard or tour guide. I don’t know where that line is, and I don’t know that I’ll find it even by the time the last box is packed. But at least I’m looking for it.

Til next time…


p.s. Should I get the film in my camera developed, or just let it go?