Is My Gut Really Something More Than What Holds Up My Waistband?
Originally published September 2018
I'll tell you right now that I feel ridiculous writing about this topic, which is "listening to my gut" by the way — I got a little cutesy with the title and it's no longer entirely obvious. Anyway, back to why I feel ridiculous: well, it's mostly because I spend more time questioning what I've done because of "my gut" and whether the feelings I'm feeling are "my gut", than I do trusting and relying on "my gut". I mean come on, if I'm going to take the time to write words about this subject shouldn't I have the topic on lock?
To illustrate my point, which is that I absolutely do not have this "follow my gut" thing down to a science, I pulled two unrelated posts from Daily Words as examples of my struggle. Both muse about the efficacy and function of said gut but were born out of completely different circumstances. The June post came from a glimmer of recognition that sometimes my gut whispers to me and sometimes it blows my eardrum; the volume of which may or may not be related to the potential progress of a very big step. The August post came from the unease and general discomfort I felt after being approached by a former colleague to work on a web-based business idea. In each case, my gut raised more questions than answers thus demonstrating a few ways in which I circle the drain on this topic.
From Daily Words
DEEP IN MY GUT, JUNE 10, 2018
There are nuanced levels to the feelings of my gut — this was not apparent to me prior to the last few months. I've had 'gut feelings' my whole life; as a kid it was a sensation I felt most deeply in my molars which I've never quite understood. I used to ask myself questions and then very thoughtfully take stock of the ensuing reaction, or lack thereof. It's difficult to describe, it was basically just a very mild feeling, an awareness of the roots of my molar teeth, indicating one direction or another. Over the years this method has become somewhat ineffective and I have switched to full-body checkins. Most recently I have come to discover that I seem to be feeling the distance of things in addition to whether I think something is right or wrong. This is also difficult to explain, but it's as if I see the thing I'm trying to determine my true feelings about, and sometimes it appears close and other times as if it's behind translucent layers, sometimes so obscured I can barely see it. There's generally a secondary sensation on the other side of my consciousness, giving context to whatever distance I'm sensing. I suspect that I'm able to see things more clearly once another decision or action has happened to allow for the response. It's been happening a lot lately, probably because I have very big ideas, wishes, concerns and goals, and there are so many intermediary steps and events between here and there, that the "right answer" changes depending on the actions I've taken, or become willing to take. At least, that's my gut feeling...
GUTS, AUGUST 17, 2018
I like to think my gut is pretty good. Not in terms of my physical gut, that's pretty fucked by my wackadoo eating habits, but my psychic gut, which I believe knows more than my head and heart combined. You would think, given the far-reaching wisdom of said gut, that I would listen to and follow it without reservation, but you would be wrong. It never ceases to amaze me how I'm able to find new and crazy ways to justify and explain away all those strong feelings and hunches and clues, but I do, again and again and again.
You may be wondering how those two situations turned out, well so am I! Seriously. The June thing either completely dissolved amidst more pressing concerns or I'm going in the right direction and thus no longer in need of "guidance" from any universal or instinctual tuning fork, because I am not currently experiencing any of the stuff described above. As for the August thing, I finally decided that yes, my feelings were a sense that the project wasn't the right thing and I declared myself unavailable, though admittedly I did acquiesce the possibility of things changing at some point in the near future after being asked to reconsider. Ultimately I have zero clue how these and other events not mentioned will resolve themselves but I'm going with the "no news is good news" philosophy and continuing to trudge on with the blind faith that should I be headed down the wrong path, something will come along to knock me back in line.
Another philosophy I've been subscribing to is the "if it's not a HELL YES, it's a NO". This was particularly useful in the August situation referenced above; faced with so much confusion about whether my feelings were fear or self sabotage or laziness or an indication of something I should stay away from, I pulled back a bit and remembered that my confusion was evidence enough. I was clearly not in the HELL YES camp which means means I was squarely in the NO camp, boom! Decision made! But was it the right decision?
While my gut has been useful in offering the occasional firm indication that something is absolutely "right", it is more frequently handy in demonstrating negative potential. The dead-endness of my former job, danger of certain men, unworthiness of a romantic suitor, etc. Unfortunately, the manner in which said gut demonstrates negative potential is often extremely ambiguous. Sure, sometimes I hear a loud voice inside my head, "NO" or "uh uh" — but mostly it comes like a gentle tug on my coat, something so subtle and brief I wonder if it even happened at all.
Given the years and years of both listening to and ignoring my gut, it continues to baffle me why I still question the experience, however nebulous it may be. Even before deciding to adhere to the hell yes/no approach, I've had multiple realizations that my confusion or questioning is the indication. And yet, it took me 12 years to leave a job I knew was wrong for me, I've dated oodles of men WAY past the time I should have, agreed to numerous outings I was loath to attend all because I just wanted to be sure. Well I can 'want to be sure' till I'm blue in the face and it wouldn't change a damn thing. Nothing is ever sure, even when a feeling comes like a lightning bolt there's always the other voice suggesting it's in my imagination, or that it means something other than what it does. What is that other voice anyway? Is it free will? Fear?
In the end it doesn't even matter because following my gut, believing in myself, trusting my instincts, having faith — it's all a choice. I can choose to believe and listen or I can choose to question and flounder. And sadly, it's a choice that has to be made repeatedly, over and over and over again, well after I think I've got something figured out. It's both daunting and exhausting and no wonder at all that I still struggle.
My biggest takeaway from all of this speculating and pontificating, from the years of following and turning away from my internal compass, is this: more will ALWAYS be revealed. To paraphrase Oprah: sometimes God talks to you and if you don't listen, he's eventually going to smack you over the head. I've certainly known this to be true; I can only hope I'll have the memory and knowledge at the ready the next time I'm challenged with indecision.