I remember this one time I was sitting in front of the TV in the dark crying with a glass of water in my hand. I laughed as I cried because I realized that the light of the TV made the clear water in the amber glass look a lot like scotch.

I really don’t drink.

I especially don’t drink scotch.

So I sipped my water and sat with what I felt. Anger. Loss. Sadness. I wept and I understood it was uncomfortable and temporary.

Sometimes stuff happens. Stuff you don’t want. Stuff that makes your heart throb and your soul ache. Stuff that makes you shake your head and clench a fist and sit in front of the TV in the dark crying with a glass of water.

And this is the sort of stuff that makes you feel a lot of things. Things like anger and loss and sadness. Things that are uncomfortable and temporary.

But the thing about these things is that they are necessary.

They are two kinds of necessary.

First, they are inevitable. If you have a heart that beats, you will feel them at some point.

Second, if you never feel them again, you will never feel their opposites again. You can’t avoid anger, loss and sadness and not avoid things like joy and hope and affection. You can’t numb anger, loss and sadness and not numb things like joy and hope and affection.

You feel them all or you avoid them all.

You feel them all or you numb them all.

And I think that night while I cried and other nights there was part of me that wished what I felt wasn’t so. But I also think there is a part of me that thanks God I feel those things when I feel them. Because that I feel them means I have felt their opposites.

And I think that’s worth it.

Permission to feel.

I love Intervention.

It might be sort of sketchy for a TV network to allure an audience with an hour-long docu-drama that mildy exploits people while they hit rock bottom.

It might be sort of sketchy to be that audience.

But I find the show really moving. Last night, I watched an episode about a girl named Jennifer in Arizona. In her childhood, her parents divorced. She stayed with her mom. Her little brother moved in with their dad. In her early teens, she fell in with the wrong kind of crowd. She was all about sex, drugs and alcohol by the time she got to college.

Then, she had an accident. On the way back from an alcohol binge in Mexico with friends, the vehicle rolled. She was ejected. That she lived might be a miracle.

She spent a month in the hospital. The day she got home — or shortly thereafter — she got the shock of her life when her little brother rolled up on a moped. She hadn’t seen him in awhile. They never really got along. The probably 14-year-old boy sat by his sister and hugged her. Their mother almost got the camera.

The siblings hadn’t hugged in years.

The family believed the short visit would be a breakthrough.

Things would change, they thought.

Then, they got a call.

On his way home from visiting Jennifer, a car struck and killed her brother. Two days later, Jennifer started drinking again. She hasn’t stopped since.

Her story is sad and unpleasant but not uncommon.

Bad things happen. To everyone.

We get dumped and fired and terminal illnesses. Friends abandon us. People and pets die. We’re let down and shut out and screwed over.

How does it make us feel?


It’s uncomfortable. Let’s be blunt: it frickin’ blows. Most of the time, while you live it, it is the worst thing that could happen. None of us want to feel the way the worst thing that could happen makes us feel. Jennifer certainly didn’t.

Toward the end of last night’s episode, she walked into the conference room where her family waited to start the intervention. She stopped short when she saw them, went to the bathroom and chugged a bottle of vodka. Drunk but stable enough, she sat down to hear her family.

I can’t remember who said what when it happened, but when Jennifer found it hard to keep composed, she looked straight at her father.

“Please,” she said. “Don’t make me cry.”

Jennifer didn’t want to feel bad.

None of us do.

So we shop or eat. Others of us don’t eat. Sometimes, it’s sex or drugs or alcohol. We feel bad so we do something that distracts us from that. When the distraction wears off, we still feel bad, so we distract ourselves again.

Maybe we hope if we ignore how the worst thing that could happen has made us feel, it’ll go away. But it doesn’t. We have to cry. Pray. Hug it out. Journal. See a counselor.

We need to get it off our chests and on the table. We need to acknowledge and express it so it isn’t inside us all our lives.

We need permission to feel.