If At First You Don’t Feel a Punch in the Gut, Try, Try Again.

I often hear the phrase, “Go with your gut instinct.” What if I don’t have a gut instinct? I mean, I’m sure I have one because I have felt it before, but a lot of the times I can’t recognize the gut instinct until it’s at its boiling point. Why? Simple: I think too much.

Throughout my Drama degree, I have been bombarded with the act of recognizing one’s impulses and listening to them. It is so hard! Honestly, I don’t think I grasped the concept until my third year and still I find myself grappling with it. Let me try and explain how this works:

We all have impulses going through our system all the time.  They are the feelings we get that tell us we’re hungry or that someone is standing too close to us, so we go to the fridge or we move back to create more space (impulses do much more than that, but there are two examples). Now, I don’t know the scientific evidence that explains how this happens (probably something to do with synapses and neurons; I did Drama for a reason), but I know that is does happen. I know because after my years of study I have seen this happen. Actually, what I see more often is when people don’t listen to their impulses and try to ignore them.

Wow… this really doesn’t make any sense. Hmm. Let me try to illustrate how impulses work with a story (this is where that flashback music starts and the screen gets all pixelated and refocuses on something new):

I was in my first year and I was sitting at a table reading a book for one of my upcoming exams. I had just finished my Spanish final and was basically resting until I had to go do whatever it was I was supposed to be doing next. All of a sudden, one of the guys from my Spanish class stopped by and we started chatting about the final exam, how we thought it went, how long it took, etc, etc. Now, here is the example of impulses at work. I said that he had just stopped by, so I was sitting at the table and he was standing and this is how we were talking. But I noticed this tiny, little, movement in his body that kind of made him sway towards the seat across from me, and then he was standing still again. That was an impulse. That teeny, tiny movement in his body that basically said, “I feel like sitting down.” And I picked up on it! (Honestly, it was the coolest thing, being able to actually see something that I had been taught about in class, and see it in normal life.) So, what did I do? I asked him if he would like to sit down, since, you know, we’d been chatting for about five minutes or so and that seemed like a perfectly logical thing to do. He declined, saying he really had to go and do some work. But he stood there for probably another five minutes, just talking away, and guess what happened… I saw that tiny impulse again! Well, of course I said, “Are you sure you don’t want to sit down?” And he said, no, he really did need to go. And off he went.

It’s a pretty long story for something that happened so quickly and really wasn’t that significant. But the fact that I still remember this story and do tell it on occasion proves that something happened that day worth mentioning.

I’d never been good at reading the signs, but I feel like it was obvious he wanted to sit and take a load off. And it’s a shame he didn’t follow through with what he wanted. And I know I do exactly the same thing. We all do. In this day and age we grow up with so many expectations: we’re supposed to be sleek, polished, professional, well-mannered, perfect. But what if I just want to jump in a puddle or feel like dancing in the street, or sit down and have a good conversation with a perfect stranger? We’re all so focused on doing our job and getting that degree and getting that raise and finding that perfect person that we don’t know how to have fun anymore. And when I say fun, I mean like a kid has fun: making up stories and games, using our imaginations to make that refrigerator box a house or a spaceship or a castle.

Wow, this post took a turn I didn’t expect. I thought I was talking about gut instincts and here I am talking about using our imagination. But, you know what? I don’t care. All that stuff I learned in school about staying on topic and making your point as succinctly as possible… well, I won’t say it isn’t useful, because it is. But sometimes we need to get off track to say what we really want to say, whether we know it or not, it seems.

I guess I’m just tired of seeing people lose their ability to create and imagine and play. I look at some of my friends, even, and it makes me sad to see them lose that creativity. Worse, that that creativity is somehow childish and we shouldn’t employ it. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I am so proud of them for going to school and learning, and finding somewhere in the workplace to call home, but I wish they could see how useful it is to play like a child does.

There are so many times when I wish I could go back to being a kid. It sounds totally cliché, but it’s true. Some of the best times I’ve had in my life were not when I got an A on a paper or got hired for a job I really wanted (although those are great things too); they were playing hide-and-go-seek-homefree-in-the-dark with the kids in my neighbourhood; they were playing library or laboratory or carriage or house or Sailor Moon or dogs; they were writing the beginnings to countless stories that I never finished writing.

And that brings me back full circle, because here I sit and once again I’m writing, not because I have to, but for fun. Except, now, instead of writing about toys coming to life, or fairies, or princesses, I’m writing about experience and observation and thoughts and feelings. And that makes me think: what if this is what I’m meant to do? And the tears in my eyes and runny nose prove that maybe this is true.

Once again, I didn’t feel the gut until it boiled over. Well, at least I’m listening (and I’ll try not to think about how in the hell is that going to work).

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1 Comment

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One response to “If At First You Don’t Feel a Punch in the Gut, Try, Try Again.

  1. Alan

    I never really understood the ‘go with your gut’ decision making process. I have done it and sometimes it works and some times it doesn’t. There have been a few times it really did not work! That is all I can say about that 🙂

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