It is okay not to feel okay

Published July 14, 2021, 7:00 AM

by Milwida Guevara

These are days when we do not feel okay.  I never thought that I would miss going to work.  Now, our calendars are filled with zoom meetings that we have to attend and email to answer and compose.  Talking to our friends and partners over the phone, facetime or messenger will never be the same.  There will be no hugs and no handshakes. Wasn’t it told that we need four hugs a day for survival, eight hugs for maintenance and 12 hugs for growth?

This is also the time for falling revenues and thinning grants.  Synergeia has just completed its 7-year cooperative agreement with USAID.   Our challenge now is to find new financing to continue our programs especially in poor communities.  Four years ago, this would not be a major difficulty.  Our esteemed patron, Mr. Washington SyCip always lent a generous hand.  But those days are long gone.  And we must move forward.

There was an uncomfortable silence in our meeting when I announced the “new normal” to our staff. Now, we must stand on our own.  Like a small business firm, we must be concerned on how to finance our operations.  All our activities must be strategic and not a peso must be wasted. 

With great sadness and guilt, we had to say goodbye to our project staff.  Carrie, one of our Program Officers announced that she would work without a salary.  I answered with a smile because we cannot keep an organization working well purely on voluntary spirit.  Rents, utilities, transportation have to be paid.  It was a great challenge to keep their spirits up and think positive.  This is a time to be daunting and creative and to see limitless possibilities.

But I could not sustain being a cheerleader.  I am equally  afraid of what the future holds.  There are workshops to finance, teachers to train and studies to conduct.  We see the need to create simple learning materials that will motivate our students to see the stars.    Our projects on the construction of toilet and hand washing facilities have yet to be completed.  Certainly, these are not the days to fake braveness.  It is normal to feel sad, anxious, and scared about a future.  It is normal to have an emotional response to a difficult situation.  We must accept sadness and fear instead of denying them and running away.  From experience, we have learned that we can only find our deepest source of strength when we accept pain and deal with it

 It is not healthy to “laugh on the outside and cry on the inside.”   J. Zuckerman explains the dangers from “toxic positivity,” i.e. a person should have a positive mindset despite his/her emotional pain.  Denying feelings of weakness and fear can lead to secondary emotions like shame, guilt and embarassment.     These emotions can end up being buried deeper in our subconscious and may find their expression through more destructive ways. We may be nurturing a sleeping volcano that may unavoidably erupt when we least expect it.   

Our emotions are part of us.  They are part of being human.  But they are not who we are.  Feelings will come and go. 

So today, it is okay to allow ourselves to be sad and afraid.  Let us not “wait for the rain to hide away our tears” nor “avoid the sun to catch us crying.”

My mother taught me a poem by E. Farjeon which is helpful to remember:

The night will never stay,

The night will still go by.

Though with a million stars,

You pin it to the sky.

Though you bind it with the blowing wind,

Or buckle it with the moon.

The night will slip away

Like sorrow or passing tune.

Sadness is not forever.

The dawn awaits but only after we experience darkness.

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