Thanksgiving day I had the chance to participate in a Turkey Trot, a 3.5 mile walk/run sponsored by friends of ours, the Sully’s. It was a small event, but I was so glad for the chance to do it. That morning I was fully awake early, after writing and prayer time, took the Turkey out of its brine, dried it off, put on the poultry rub, and got it into the smoker by 8. I did some yoga and other food prep and soon it was time to head over to their place for the 930 am start time.
We have different beliefs, the Sullys and I, about this whole world season. As I have previously written, this difference in belief brings out my worst characteristics. As I drove over there I prepared myself: They will be wearing masks outside. They will keep the six foot distance. It is ok. I need to just honor them where they are.
I arrived. They had a table set up for “registration,” a registration packet, a bib “photocopy of an outline of a Turkey” that we colored before race time, picture time prior to race, and protein bars, etc. They are wonderfully creative people. As I expected, we all wore masks outside as we gathered. Grace and Gabri were there, laughing, talking, hugging those comfortable with hugs, etc. Dave was not outside yet. Jamie, Dave and Sal’s son-in-law, told me he and Dave were riding bikes instead of walking or running.
I stepped inside to use the bathroom and when I exited, saw Dave outside giving Grace a hug. After Sally took my race picture, I went up to Dave and said “So, Dave, where’s my hug?” And he put me off. “Now, we need to be careful, that was kind of a side hug.” He gave me a small side hug then backed off. Anger came out of hiding within me.
“Dave, I have nothing you could get.” I blustered.
“You don’t know that!” He retorted.
“Yes, I do.” I announced. He backed away. That interchange ended abruptly. Then, Dave looked at me, joining his hands at his heart with a slight bow toward me, said, “Now, Brian, I love you unconditionally. Let’s agree to disagree around this. We don’t even hug our kids.”
I knew this was true. I said, “Dave, I love you too. I’m sorry. We are ok.”
The ten of us circled up for a before race gathering and Sally directed us share our answer to “What’s going well in life?” It was a moment of thanksgiving. After we all shared, we walked up to the trailhead and Sally gave us a grand “READY! SET! GO!”
I jogged up the first hill, but don’t run. I ran out of breath, realized I hadn’t brought water, and to continue jogging, I’d need some. I began a fast walk. Walking is no difficulty for me. Soon Gabri came up next to me and we walked on together. She asked how I was doing, and I was still smarting from the interaction with Dave. I shared a bit about how many times I’ve been over to their place and honored his chosen protocols. We talked on about the pandemic responses.
Gabri tentatively shared how she views this season as an opportunity to honor others by adapting to whatever they are doing. If they mask, she masks, if not, she doesn’t. The difference between us is this. Whereas, I basically do the same as she does, however, feel all kinds of emotions. Mostly, I feel angry about what I perceived as the lies being told and believed. Gabri, instead, does not feel the emotions.
As we walked, I still felt frustrated with myself over the interchange with Dave. But more than that, I felt sad.
As we hiked up the long hill to the turnaround point, I began to feel like I needed to apologize to Dave for insisting he break his chosen guidelines in order to get a hug. It was manipulative of me to seek to force him. Not long after, far ahead I saw that he and Jamie waited on their bikes at the turnaround point. I realized for my own heart’s sake, I needed to speak.
As we arrived I said, “Dave, can I say something?”
“Sure,” he said, from his bike more than six feet away.
“I wanted to apologize,” I began to say. But without warning my words came with sobs, and tears coursed from my eyes. My voice ragged I told him of the hurt I felt to see him hug Grace, but I felt small minded even saying it. I told him I didn’t want to force him to change his pandemic responses; I asked him to forgive me.
So much emotion, as I sobbed, buckling in half. “Oh, Brian,” Dave said gently, still on his bike.
Within me, I was astounded at all this emotion releasing from my body. Jamie sat there on his bike, next to Dave. He just watched me with deep compassion etched into his face. Dave again bowed toward me with an accepting smile said “Brian, everyone has so many emotions in these times. I love you. All is forgiven.”
Gabri had her arm around me, holding me as I shared and was wracked with pain.
Dave said, “Gabri, give your dad a hug from me, would you?” She did.
I said, “Dave, I love you. Thank you.”
As we walked back, I told Gabri “I don’t even get what that all was about.”
She responded, “Dad, you just had emotions. Everyone has them and you need to get the feels out.”
Shame jumped on me and began whispering to my heart: What was that? What a manipulative trick to pull. You are selfish. You behaved like a little baby. And in front of Jamie and Gabri too. You’re stupid.
But, over against these words, Gabri was super present. As I returned to Dave’s and Jamie’s faces in my memory and knew I need not feel shame. Still, I felt ashamed of the shame I felt, but didn’t confess this to Gabri.
We were cheered in by all those finishing ahead of us. As I drove home, it came to me. I have felt only anger about the whole pandemic protocol for all the reasons I’ve previously shared. My anger has felt intense. But on Thanksgiving Day, circumstances were orchestrated so that the cap of anger removed, I stepped into the actual emotions beneath the surface. Anger is a cap on emotions. It often masks fear and for me sadness and grief.
The next morning, I was again at the Sully’s door to pickup borrowed snow gear. They’d left a box for which to grab something. As I was leaving, Jamie came out with his mug of coffee for a morning stroll.
“Jamie, I want to thank you. You held me with your gaze yesterday when I had emotions I had not expected. I just really appreciated your solid acceptance of me in my dismal state.”
He looked at me, smiled, stretched out his hand, grasping mine and said, “Brian, I love you!”
We hugged around his mug.
“Feel all the feels,” Gabri has said. Feel. Get the feelings out of the body. I hope you have the opportunity to do so as well. There are so many emotions in this season. Express them.