As with my beauty routine, I stepped away from writing months ago. Everything felt so hard. Now I’ve got a dead blog and a bunch of grey hair, but at least I’m feeling the urge to create again! Truthfully, I’m feeling the urge to eat again, but my jeans are no longer accommodating second breakfast.
In a moment of clarity, I also stepped away from regular consumption of media–both “informative” and social–because I realized it was a huge reason why things felt so hard. People are mean, yo! The hiatus helped. But then we cautiously re-entered the world of youth sports and I was immediately reminded not all assholes hide behind a screen.
Being home felt hard,
being online felt hard,
and being somewhat back to normal felt hard.
Piling onto pandemic and political stressors were personal issues that made life feel like a hurricane, and I the only umbrella. Useless. Hopeless. Blah. Instead of handling things the healthy way, I did what my kids do when they clean their rooms: I shoved everything underneath a neatly made bed and went about my day. Mess hidden, smile on face, all better!
But as a rug-sweeping usually is, my internalization was fleeting and failing. Unintentionally, everything I said and did was colored with that unhealthy hurt. My humor was misinterpreted. I became incredibly defensive. My already short fuse got shorter. I felt broken.
I recognize now that I was just waiting for someone to say, “I see through all the anger to your hurt. I’ve got you.” When that didn’t happen, I had no choice but to examine the root of my frustration:
Were these real feelings directed toward real issues or misplaced rage directed toward anyone who got caught in the cross-fire?
Everything I had shoved under the bed came spilling out. What a mess.
As one who always blathers on about extending kindness, I sure wasn’t walking the walk. It’s just that it’s very, very hard to lead with kindness when you’re feeling the exact opposite. It’s even harder to find it in a world that appears to have erased it.
This is the part where Jesus says, “Duuuuuh.”
I needed to understand these ugly, unresolved feelings if I hoped to learn anything from them. When I finally admitted I couldn’t control the vast majority of what was happening around me, I tried focusing on the one thing I could control: myself.
Rather than my typical must react with alllll the words responses, I shut my face hole long enough to observe: Instead of teaching, I tried learning. I talked less, listened more. I prayed some, read a lot. Basically, I spent waaaay too much time with myself and really got on my own nerves.
Turns out, there was a reason for it all. I learned a few things when I crawled up my own ass…
I can’t expect reciprocity.
Most of us have a passion. Our career, cooking, running–whatever. My passion is my people. When I care about someone, I am loyal to a fault, almost smothering. I love big, like a toddler hug that strangles. As a result, I’m often disappointed when that level of intensity isn’t returned. Does that mean my people care less than I do, that they aren’t as committed to me? Nope. And it’s unfair of me to think so, and that is something I’m working on.
Permission to feel: granted.
When I finally showed myself some of the grace I’m always worried about giving to others, the tightness in my chest loosened immediately. Instead of telling myself it was wrong to feel the ugliness, I worked through it from beginning to end. (I love that journey for me –Alexis Rose). Anyway, giving myself permission to unapologetically feel whatever I needed to feel was surprisingly freeing.
People who love each other will still hurt each other.
Disappointment is a realistic part of any relationship. It’s in how we handle the disappointment that speaks to the strength of our connection.
I am someone’s bad guy.
Every story has an antagonist. Inevitably, I will be cast in that role. If it is not a story worth the revision, I will close that chapter and move on.
Silence is not apathy.
Because 2020 loves turning everything into a soul-sucking experience that makes me question humanity, there has been a lot of anger. Somewhere along the way, though, I realized I don’t need to respond to it all. Mind-blowing, eh? Instead of voicing frustration, I learned to use it as a catalyst for something positive. Like, why argue over insert-any-incendiary-topic-
I have no right to believe you should feel differently just because I do.
Just because we don’t agree doesn’t mean we get to dismiss one another. If we value the relationship, it’s important to have the integrity to talk about whatever it is, not about each other. Feelings don’t have to be either/or; they can be also/in addition to. We need to allow space for it all.
The world will spiral out of control into a dumpster fire of global proportions and the only thing I can control is how I react to it.
Trying to manage everything going on in the world today is like a kindergarten teacher handing her students Pride and Prejudice and telling them, “Learn to read now. K bye.” There is absolutely no way any person can handle all the things right now; trust me, I tried! I just kept coming back to Mother Teresa’s bite-size approach to changing the world: “…go home and love your family.” I can only control me and mine so it makes sense to invest in my loved ones and the things that keep us grounded. All the extremism doesn’t feel so extreme with the right perspective, good friends, and less Facebook.
Intentions are everything.
I think it’s important to accept people at face-value. Me and my Jesus believe a person is a person is a person, and all persons deserve love and a strangling hug as soon as this effing pandemic is over. I’m pretty open, pretty tolerant…until I’m not. For me, it all comes down to intentions.
A person with good intentions gone awry has made a mistake, but is not malicious. We are all this person. We are why second and 70th chances exist.
A person who intends to divide, humiliate, or deceive has not made a mistake; they have made a decision.
It has taken me almost 40 years to recognize the difference. I’d like to believe it’s not because I’m an unobservant moron, but hopefully because I try to find the good in most. Whatever the case, I now know it is not unreasonable to hold a person accountable for the way they make me feel. When someone repeatedly makes me feel insignificant, the only unreasonable thing to do is allow it to keep happening.
There’s nothing wrong with me.
For a long, long time, I thought I was doing life wrong. I’d be shocked when those around me weren’t aching over bad news or writhing in fits of giggles like I was. I’d wonder: Why am I the only person feeling everything on such a visceral level! AM I BROKEN?!?
Not until I read Glennon Doyle’s Untamed did I learn what’s wrong with me: not a damn thing.
Not only am I A-OK, thankyouverymuch, but there are others like me! Others who are paying attention, holding not only our people, but your people close. Holding it all so close that it hurts sometimes, so we need to sit in our feelings, maybe even retreat for a bit to make sense of them, only to return better versions of ourselves. I guess it’s kind of like a metamorphosis except I don’t look butterfly-ish when I break out of my cocoon; I’ve got more of a homely moth vibe going on. But me and my moth self will keep loving big because I don’t know how else to do it. I’ll set boundaries and close chapters and find whatever makes me happy and hold it close, too. I turn 40 in a month and I can’t think of a better gift to give myself than the permission to feel.