On the proper preposition

My friend went to therapy, and since we have all the same problems, I made her tell me about it. One week, her homework was to identify her feelings – like, if she felt an emotion, she had to stop and put a name to it. It sounded like the hardest homework she’d get all semester.

I am uncomfortable with emotions. No, I am uncomfortable with my own emotions. I can do empathy, but my own feelings (ewww)  get stuffed into a small box and shoved under the bed. If they really refuse to go in the box, I assess the situation, take notes from a distance, and then go get a bigger box to stuff them in. Problem solved.

It’s been a few years since I discovered that emotions are not problems but essential to true humanity (who knew?). Since then, I’ve taken off the HazMat suit and cut through the caution tape between me and my feelings, but I still have to coax myself to disobey the sign: Do Not Touch. I’m comfortable having emotions, staying in the same room with them, even… But I never know what to do with them. (If you, like 60% of Americans, are a “feeler”, it’s quite possible you can’t imagine what I am trying to describe with regards to emotion. Just… it’s OK.)

You know how sometimes a season of your life has a very clear theme? This experience hasn’t been so strong for me in a very long time, but now, everything seems to come down to the phrase: go through.

There’s all this crappy construction on the street where I work. For several days I, being a well-conditioned citizen, walked in the street, in the narrow lane with the cars I mean, whenever I had to go anywhere. The thing is there were orange cones. Those mean go around. I had to see someone else walking through the construction mess (blatantly striding between cones!) before I realized that it wouldn’t hurt me to go across the asphalt and gravel there. But it’s human nature. Things that are uncomfortable, bad, weird, inconvenient – I go around; we all do.

But then we miss out. We get addicted or waste a bunch of time (hello, internet) or make things worse for ourselves or get hit by cars when we try to get around something that’s not going to go away. On the other hand, our emotions and experiences are incredibly valuable even when they’re not good – even when they’re incredibly painful. They are the landscapes and the plot points for the stories of our lives.

The opposite of around, though, is in. In is why we go around in the first place; it’s what we’re afraid of. If you only go into an experience, good or bad, and then you just dwell there, you can get lost. You forget you ever knew anything else. From that skewed viewpoint, you make skewed decisions. You adapt to that landscape, and then other people have to come pull you out.

Through, I think, is as close as it gets to a balance between around” and in”You do have to walk in, but you keep going. You be where you are, but you continue forward. Through the mud without getting stuck, keeping your wits about you and plowing ahead without ignoring your senses, your self. You listen to yourself, but you keep telling yourself there will be the other side. 

I think this is my homework for the year. To go through everything (both bad and good). Not stuck in. But not around. Through: not only touching but being positively enveloped in this life. Now. All of it.


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  1. Lyndsey, beautifully written! Love the opener…”since we have all the same problems, I made her tell me about it.”

    Counseling (and more recently, spiritual directing) has been incredibly helpful for me to begin accepting and even embracing all my surprising feelings. Actually, I highly recommend spiritual directing – don’t know if there’s something like that where you live, but over the past 6 months, meeting with my director has been the basis for learning to interact with Jesus on an emotional level (ie, believing that he leads/directs me through my emotions, and learning what to “do” with all the things that surface on any given day). I’m moving to a place where being “in” and moving “through” my emotions no longer brings about a sense of panic or puts me into survival mode…

    • I have just recently been learning about spiritual direction! Thanks for sharing some practical experience with the abstract idea.


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