About a decade ago, when my oldest brother was living in Iowa and my mother and I had taken a train across the midwest to visit, I found myself staring at blotchy skin in the mirror. Hours before we had returned from a day at the water park and there I was, freshly showered, and running my hands along the bumps that had developed across my arms, neck, and face.
I left the bathroom for a second opinion and we concluded that the hives must be a result of the sunscreen I was using, a fact later confirmed when, a few weeks later, I tested sunscreen on clean patches of my forearm and was met with a definitive answer...and an itchy arm.
On a video call the other day discussing a topic I’ve already forgotten, when my counterpart—explaining their feelings about a particular thing—pauses mid-sentence, looks off screen, and says, “Why am I having this reaction?”
It immediately struck me as meaningful.
As someone who speaks a mile a minute and types even faster, I recognize that I sometimes spill words before my brain can catch up. My emotions get the best of me on a more regular basis than I would perhaps like to admit.
What if I could pause, look off for a moment’s reflection, and actually identify what caused those feelings?
I was thinking about this for a few days before I remembered discovering my sunscreen allergy in Iowa. With such a tangible physical reaction, it was obvious and natural that I would defer to my mom, brother, and anyone else who would listen about what could have caused the discomfort.
But when I was upset about an emotional response and uncertain how to quantify the feeling, it didn’t seem like something that, societally, would be acceptable to troubleshoot on a whim.
Normalize talking about your heart reactions.
Normalize stopping to reevaluate your emotions.
Normalize being open to the hard work.
Seek out people that allow you to do all three.