“How do you feel?”

Fine. I don’t know how to answer that question otherwise. The question is intended to diagnose if I’m stressed or upset or actually fine. It’s the empathetic cousin to “How are you?” but with more feel-ing. The problem is that I can’t recognize the answer. Am I stressed? Or upset, or just feeling less, and treating those feelings as unproductive, therefore unacknowledged?

“What do you notice?”

My jaw aches from the clenching and grinding at night while I sleep, well, when I can sleep. Sometimes, I wake up in a panic with a surge of adrenaline at 3 a.m. That will usually keep me up until 5 a.m., then alarm at 6:15 a.m. Oh, but I feel fine, just a little tired. Now, I have to dig. What am I so worried about that I can’t rest? When I ignore these things, they have a way of erupting in other ways. Denied, until I can do nothing else but confront it. Ironically, the physical stress often comes after the actual crisis is over. Adrenaline got me through it, but my physical response lags and now it is okay for me to feel it, so I feel all of it.

“Today, how do I feel and what do I notice?”

I’m upset. I’m frustrated, but I’m recovering. The moment has passed, but I still feel how wretched that knot in my stomach was this morning. I hear the click of my shoulder when I pull it back and feel the stretch of the knot just under the shoulder blade. I look down and my hand had formed a fist — unclench. It’s okay. I hear the birds, singing. I feel the sun, warm, and the breeze, cool. The dog has just brought her toy and laid down at my feet. She’ll get bored and bark for me to throw it again. It’s the mockingbird I can hear best among the birds. She’s our companion in the spring, patrolling our yard as part of her turf. Now, I hear the train in the distance, the whistle, and then the steady hum of the cars passing. I notice that my breathing has slowed, I am calmer now. I feel… better.

Writer, researcher, observer