Unfollow Feelings: The First Lesson in My 34th Year

Recently I celebrated my 34th birthday. 34 is not a major milestone year to most people but for me it is a milestone. It is the year when I will finally wipe the slate clean and move on with my life after a rough 33rd year. Most of my birthday went well and was rather low-key. I received the obligatory birthday Facebook posts, phone calls, and text messages early in the day. Early in the evening I enjoyed a slice of rum cake and well wishes at home with my parents and then I headed out for the evening with a close friend and her family. All was well that evening until the clock inched toward midnight and I realized something was missing.

I didn’t know whether it was the two Kir Royales I had or if it was really me, but every minute the clock inched closer to midnight I started to get sad. Actually I was sad and slightly mad. I was waiting for him to send the obligatory “Happy Birthday” text even though we aren’t really on speaking terms. I received a Merry Christmas text so I assumed I’d receive a birthday text–my birthday is the day after and we have enough mutual friends that the day couldn’t go by him unnoticed. But alas the text never came. As I drove home that evening I became bitter wondering if he was repaying a deed for a deed since I didn’t call him on his birthday earlier in the year. (I didn’t contact him on his birthday because I was bitter and still hurt about our breakup and I didn’t feel like doing anything obligatorily–if that’s not a word it is today.) Nevertheless, I thought about texting him to say that  not hearing from him on my birthday hurts. I went as far as to open the text message thread we shared and started to type my grievances but I stopped.

I spent the rest of the ride home gripping my steering wheel hard with both hands and fighting back tears. I told myself that I didn’t want to shed another tear over him especially not on my birthday. I spent the better half of the year in tears over him. I told myself that I could not, under any circumstance, reach out to him because he cannot know he has any power left over me. I fought myself all the way home warning myself that if I bowed to the temptation of texting him my grievances I’d be taking a step back and undoing a lot of hard work I’d done over the last few months. I also admitted that the attention of the one person I had always hoped would give me his undivided attention may be what I wanted but it wasn’t what I needed. Finally I told myself that I would wake up in the morning and feel much better about myself if I didn’t reach out to him. I had to unfollow my feelings and believe that the consequence of not following them would be better than the consequence of following them. This is hard for someone who toes the line of being a hopeless romantic and a slight romantic fatalist.

I spent roughly four years following my feelings and while in the moment it felt good, it didn’t end good well. I was constantly forcing myself into something and onto someone who wasn’t all the way there for it. “Follow your heart,” I told myself time after time. But my heart and my feelings were so tied up in the relationship that I saw no other way until it was too late. Yet some lessons are better learned late than never.

The moment I decided to unfollow my feelings was the right moment for me. I’ve learned that we do ourselves a great disservice when we are always following the lead of our feelings and our heart because neither is rational and they won’t guarantee you a safe and secure space in someone’s arms. Reality is, at least for me, that sometimes feelings need to be unfollowed in favor of delaying gratification? Whose gratification? Your own of course. Hopefully in unfollowing some of those feelings it will free you up to wait for what you need instead of just getting what you want.

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