Isolation Journals Day 51: The To-Feel List

Read more about Suleika Jaouad’s Isolation Journals.


We’re all in search of purpose. For me, the form that took was filling up my CV, my schedule and my to-do lists. I was striving for achievements—and yet I never felt deeply fulfilled.

Three years ago, I started illustrating as a fun way to make sense of things. Over time, it became much more. With reflection, vulnerability and the nourishing possibilities of pen and paper as my tools, I embarked on an essential search for meaning. It’s been a deep explorative dive, and what I discovered in the depths of every plunge was feelings. Even in everyday responsibilities such as work and family, I realized that the upstream of every “to-do” was actually a “to-feel”: useful, financially secure, loving, loved.

Now, I consciously first focus on my feelings—instead of my doings—and allow them to guide my path. It has challenged the foundation upon which I’m building my life. The experience has been transformative.

Your prompt for today:
Write a “to-feel” list. Start by naming your deepest yearnings and aspirations. Then take a moment to reflect on each—to study your own feeling compass, teasing out the nuances of what each contains with more depth and specificity. You can make your list as a row or column, or lay them out in a fluffy brainstorming cloud. Feel free to use colors and to get creative.

Now, take a look at your list. Are your priorities, habits, and rituals serving these feelings? What steps can you take to honor the items on your “to-feel” list?

My To Do Feel List, 5.21.2020

I miss going to cafes and stuffing my face with pastries
and talking to good friends in real life so much :((

Fulfilled: sure of who I am. Being a person means being a lot of things. For me, it involves being Christian, Filipino-American, a woman, a millennial – and there’s so much nuance within these labels. It’s all so complicated and mushy and subjective, and I’ve never really put much thought into it. I used to laugh at the “who am I?” cliché. It’s easy to laugh at stuff you can’t understand. But now I’m really thinking: what makes me me? I guess I have a lot of things to ponder.

Creative: free to make things that help me connect with others. Beyond actually creating, I find real joy in talking to others about being creative – after I get over the fear of sharing. Asking for someone’s opinon on my work feels like asking, “hey, check out this piece of my soul! Also could you please tear it apart!!” But I know that after the soul-tearing, being vulnerable about what I make comes with its rewards. I’m trying to lean into it. Isn’t that why I’m posting these isolation journals?

Open: giving myself permission to feel. If you couldn’t already tell, I prefer to process what I feel through words. But I’ve always had a hard time talking about emotions because it’s so silly! I don’t want to bother people! I started going to therapy summer of 2019, and having a space to just talk without restraints has been such a privilege. I’ve spoken with my counselor about feeling sad, proud, angry, excited, and scared without feeling guilty. Now I’m trying to bring that expressiveness into every part of my life. So if I ever start going off about my feelings, don’t worry. It’s just me, learning.

Peaceful: honest with God. I used to ask God for forgiveness every time I felt a negative emotion. “Sorry I’m so mad,” | “I’m sorry for crying so much,” | “You’re God, you probably don’t want to hear this.” But as you can see in the entry above, I’ve been learning how to give myself permission to feel. And if God is a God who promises love, and is near the brokenhearted, and came to save, not condemn, then wouldn’t he want to know how I’m really feeling? So I’ve been praying unapologetically about how I feel. “Here I am, here’s how I’m feeling. There it is.” It’s not easy talking about emotions, but that’s really where I’m finding the most peace right now.

Writing your name on the list…
Yay! You're on the list.

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