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Why Am I Having This Reaction?

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.

Love always,

Liz

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