Twice in the past week I’ve been confronted with a feelings wheel.
“Please share your name, your pronouns, and how you are feeling today,” the Zoom meeting facilitators instructed. “This feelings wheel is here to help.” Both times, I scanned the words in the wheel, tilting my head to read around the dial. I looked inward. I took deep breaths. I sifted through mental snapshots of recent events. I felt the floor beneath my toes and recalled my first moments after waking up that morning.
But I couldn’t identify my emotions.
The feelings wheel didn’t help; it only overwhelmed. I stared at the candle on my dining room table before me, willing the flickering flame to offer clarity.
Yesterday, when it was my turn to share, I blabbered about feeling anxious in the moment and feeling envious of those who said their feeling words were “grounded” and “creative.”
Because how do you sum up in a word—or a few short sentences—how it feels in any given moment to be alive?
How it feels to be alive in a world where more mass shootings have occurred in this country than days so far in 2021 and where 64 people died at the hands of law enforcement during 19 days of testimony in Minneapolis? A world where our politicians thank a man for, um, being murdered?
What word in the feelings wheel captures the experience of knowing I contribute to an economic system in which billionaires not only exist, but got $4 trillion richer because 3 million people died in a global tragedy wrought and exacerbated by our greed, consumption, and unwillingness to touch the earth lightly?
Even a simple acknowledgment by legislators of the ongoing existence of anti-Asian racism—racism that has been around since the advent of white supremacy in this country but only recently recognized by woke white people—is weaponized as another wedge to pit minority groups against each other and uphold anti-Blackness in our education systems. And I am expected to describe that feeling.
How do I explain how it feels to work for a religious community that co-sponsors a Stop Asian Hate rally, but whose members state matter-of-factly that Chinese people eat dogs, call me by the name of the other woman of Asian descent they’ve seen in worship services, and make assumptions about my parents’ education? When a congregant says to me, “I don’t see you as a person of color, and I’m surprised you see yourself that way,” what word do I point to on the feelings wheel?
This week, in between Zoom meetings and procrastinating this In Between Sundays post, I have compulsively completed logic grid puzzles. In a logic grid puzzle, I am presented with a scenario (all these people adopted new puppies!), an objective (match each new puppy owner with their puppy’s breed, name, and the month in which it was adopted), and a series of clues.
The scenarios of logic grid puzzles are inconsequential and light. All I need to solve a logic grid puzzle is a handful of clues, a matrix, and a bit of time and thought.
Of the puppy adopted in March and Elena’s pet, one is named Patrick and the other is the boxer.
When solving a logic grid puzzle, I never have to guess. A logic grid puzzle exists in absolute statements.
Terrance isn’t the schnauzer.
A logic grid puzzle has one solution. When I place green dots in all the correct places in a matrix, a notification pops up to congratulate me. Sometimes, it tells me I completed a puzzle in “expert” time.
As a child, I despised logic puzzles, and I didn’t care for math. I didn’t like that there was one solution we were “supposed” to arrive at by following a standardized set of procedures in order.
These days, I find myself yearning for a set of procedures that can help me make sense of how I feel. I wish, instead of a feelings wheel, I had a matrix and a set of clues:
- The verdict is the result of a man’s murder.
- The World As It Is is not the World As It Should Be.
- Of the World As It Should Be and the World As It Is, one considered this verdict a predictable outcome and the other was on edge because it anticipated a different outcome.
- The verdict is just, but the verdict is not Justice.
To solve this scenario, I would read the clues to find where they intersect and fill out the feelings matrix with red X’s and green dots. Afterward, I would sit back and review where the green dots sit.
Those green dots would reveal my feelings. No looking inward, no fumbling for words, no deep breaths needed. Maybe the matrix would congratulate me as expert of my own feelings.
Alas, there isn’t a logic grid puzzle of my feelings. And so I will continue procrastinating my work by indulging in picayune puzzles as I wallow in this morass of tension that is called being alive in the World As It Is.