How to follow your gutJanuary 3, 2013
When it rains, it pours. That’s sort of what life has been like around here. I’m sure you’ve had times like this, when upsets in your world sort of collide and multiply, leaving you exhausted and feeling like there’s nowhere to go but down.
I’m here to tell you that following your gut is your way out. Your way up.
Want to feel faith pour into your heart? Here it is:
My husband and I have been…rocky. Since my son was born. Heck, since I was pregnant. For those of you with kids, you know that caring for a little one can rock mom and dad’s world in inexplicably intense ways. It’s not just the lack of sleep. It’s suddenly seeing yourself in a new role, coming to terms with a life change, reliving your own childhood, etc, etc. New mamas, I feel ya.
It’s not worth trying to explain all the fights and tears of these past 2 years. Just believe me. There was a lot of straw on the camel’s back.
Three days before Christmas, we cancelled our weekend getaway plans (insert serious drama here) and went our separate ways. We spent the holiday apart. It was the lowest feeling I’ve ever had about this man I love so much – a feeling like everything was just awful, that I was awful for sending him away, that we were awful for being at this terrible place.
He seemed to concur. Especially the part about me being awful.
But somewhere in my gut, I felt expansion. A yeah-this-is-right type feeling.
So, the first rule to following your gut is this:
1. Stop and listen.
Your body talks to you. Ever had to take a test or face someone you really didn’t want to see? Know that icky feeling you get? Kinda squirmy? That’s an example of your gut instinct. It doesn’t always make sense but it’s there. So stop. Get quiet. Pay attention. What message is your body sending you?
Your gut is actually full of the same stuff your brain is made out of. I’ve heard it called a second brain. It’s smart. So we listen.
And when I did, my body was sending me signals that I made the right decision. Even though I was so upset I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t eat, couldn’t do much but cry, there was a lightness inside. This feels…ok. This feels good. To get some space. Live on our own terms, for a day. A week? A month? I didn’t know.
And that leads me to the next rule:
2. You may not know the answer. Just focus on the feeling.
The feeling here was relief. Like I was finally home from war. That felt good. Despite everything, I could not deny the voice inside that knew this was for the best. How can you think when you are constantly in the middle of a fight? How can you make decisions for yourself when you are wrapped up with someone else’s stuff?
We had some time.
We thought. We felt. We teetered out of our coupledom and into being ourselves, standing on our own two feet.
We finally came together, with our guards down, with honest talk and openness. A whole new level of relief. No more boxing gloves. We had had a breather and it made a huge difference. We agreed, it had been the right thing. Hard hard hard. But right. This is obviously a much abbreviated version!
The end? Not quite.
The next day our cat yowled fiercely.
He held one paw totally limp. Broken wrist? No idea. I love this cat. This is a cat that gives his whole heart, all the time. And you’ve never heard a better purr. He belongs to my husband but it was love at first sight – this kitty has been on or near my lap for 8 years. Heart aching still from our marriage upheaval, we whisked our kitty to the emergency vet clinic.
It felt really strange – not only for one crisis to end and another begin – but because our cat showed symptoms very specific and similar to my husband’s mother before she died. A limp arm. A circulation problem. Uncanny to see another loved one hold a useless limb.
After some very expensive testing we learned that the problem with our kitty was quite severe. Not a broken wrist at all – more like advanced cancer sending a blood clot down his leg. Unable to come home in his current condition. Thousands more to do a biopsy and possibly treat cancer in a 14 year old cat? Or was it time to send my best little furry friend off? If you’ve ever had a terminally ill pet you know what it feels like. The worst part, the decision hanging over your head.
It all felt like too much. Too much emotion, too little sleep, too many decisions. My gut said to wait another day. Give another day to absorb it all. Maybe another day would let us see him off with clear vision. I wanted to be there, to hold him as he went on his next journey. Maybe I just wanted to stall. But still.
The next rule of following your gut is this:
3. Say “What If?”
What if we waited. What if we paid for a night of hospital boarding. He wasn’t in pain, so what if?
He stayed another night and my hurricane of tears turned to intermittent rain.
And on the way to the vet the next day, they called. Can you believe this? His condition had improved (!) and while the outlook is still quite grim, we could come take him home. Love him up for a few more days. Say our goodbyes and let him sit on his favorite couch. I’m so grateful we waited a day!
We never got to say goodbye to my husband’s mother, we didn’t get that last chance to love her up. I say that from a heart heavy with regret. But I feel really strongly that this is another chance to do right. And so we will. Even though I’ll be damned if I can get a pill down this cat’s throat. I’ll keep trying. I love this kitty.
The last rule of following your gut is this:
Take it one step at a time.
You will never have all the answers up front. Your body only responds to the present moment. So stop. Listen. Feel for what’s there, under the logic and anger and confusion. Take a small step responding to what you feel. It may not make sense, but ask “What if.” Maybe if you listen carefully, the next step will appear.
And it will be divine. And this time, you will have no regrets.