Wallow. It’s a word that gets a bad wrap. But let’s look at it a little closer. Shall we?
According to Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary, wallow means, “To spend time experiencing or enjoying something without making any effort to change your situation, feelings, etc.” This is not a definition I’d ever read, but it fits with what I naturally feel about wallowing.
I’ve always known it to refer to what a pig does in mud, which is another definition, but it need not be looked down upon, like it sometimes is. I’ve actually been told that I shouldn’t wallow in my feelings. And I’ve always felt like that isn’t right. Not only because it’s not nice to “should” people, but…why not? Why shouldn’t I feel the full extent of my emotions? Why shouldn’t I explore why I’m feeling them and consider what I want to do about them?
So, confession time…I do. Regardless of what some may think, I wallow, and I think it’s a fairly healthy practice.
I have a few unwritten rules to my wallowing (except I’m writing them now, so I guess that makes them written…but I’m not going to post them on my fridge or anything).
- Wallowing doesn’t get to take the place of parenting. I often want it to, but alas, I have to suck it up every now and then and tend to my children.
- Wallowing doesn’t get to take the place of other adult responsibilities if others are depending on their completion. To me that means that if I have a job to do, I gotta do it. Now that doesn’t mean we can’t eat PB&J’s for dinner. But I do have to provide at least an idea to get the ball rolling.
- And, lastly, I cannot wallow forever. Experiencing the full extent of emotions is important, in my opinion, but as a tool to move on and grow. If you stay stuck in any one emotion, you’re likely breaking all the unwritten rules. Don’t want to do that, now do we?
That’s pretty much it. Other than those three things, I’m free to “spend time experiencing” my emotions. Here’s how I do that…
A long, hot shower is a great place to take emotional inventory. Better yet – a long, hot bath. (That reminds me that I need to put bubble bath on my grocery list again.) Whether with an adult beverage or a smuggled chocolate treat or nothing at all, there’s something about being surrounded by hot water that lets those feelings boil to the top. Tears often flow freely – out of frustration with the kids being kids, out of annoyance with myself that I reacted to their age-appropriate nonsense like anything other than an adult, out of feelings I haven’t clearly figured out yet. I, for one, find releasing my emotions nothing less than therapeutic.
Working out is another way I get feelings out, sometimes intentionally, sometimes without any forethought. What I mean is that sometimes I’m angry about something and slapping my hands through the water while swimming laps feels good and leaves me breathing hard and ready to let some of that anger go. Or shaking my tush in a good Mixxed Fit class helps me laugh off stress. But occasionally during a particularly sweaty set of crunches, my mind will start processing some hurt and I’ll find that tears start flowing unexpectedly. As the toxins get booted from my body, they do from my mind too.
Sometimes I sit by myself and think, color, or write. There’s something great about sitting with disappointment, fear, love – any emotions. I really do enjoy sifting through them and figuring out how they’re going to help form my next steps. I want to live my life fully, not just react to misunderstood emotions. I try to help my children with this too.
I also make it a point to process my emotions, my life, with others. I often ask my husband to pause the DVR during a commercial break so that I can have him listen to me. If it’s a biggie, we might discuss it at length and leave the show for another time. If it’s something I just want quick thoughts on, one or two commercials might give just the time we need for me to be able to breathe easier. I also make it a point to have lunch with friends or plan or go to social gatherings. I like being alone with my thoughts and feelings, but I’ve found that an outside look at things is quite helpful in putting everything into perspective.
So, if you’ve always thought that wallowing in your emotions was a selfish or unhealthy thing to do. I’m here to tell you I think the exact opposite about it. I believe we need to take care of ourselves, not just physically, but emotionally too. And I think that self-care is part of what makes us our best selves, most able to care for others.
For the record, even when we are talking about pigs wallowing in mud…that’s healthy too. Since they can’t sweat on their own, the mud keeps them cool. In fact, that seems about right – taking time to wallow in the mud helps me keep cool too.