I love watching the oldest girl. She is so gentle, thoughtful, kind and genuine. I love watching the kindness and love flow from her so abundantly.
She is consistently the best big sister to the little one. She prays for people’s needs at dinner and befriends the “weird” kid at school.
Just this morning, she turned to me while outside waiting for the bus and put something in my freezing, gloved hand.
“Because it’s your favorite….”
I opened my hand and it was a mini Three Muskateers. They are my favorite.
I have no idea where she got it from. Was she stashing it for later? Did she get it as a prize at school? Did someone else give it her?
No matter the way she gained control of this candy, her mind went directly to how happy that would make me. She gave up candy. To give to me. To me!
I can’t believe the honest to God goodness in her sometimes. She really was created in His image.
J and I have worked really hard at letting her be who she is. It isn’t easy to have a “soft” or “emotional” child. They can be very complicated at times. Especially for me.
It got me to thinking, was I ever this way? Was there ever a time that I was so open with my kindness? So free to offer it up, uncaring of the outcome? Was I ever so soft that I just wanted to make everyone around me happy?
I can’t remember a time when I felt safe enough to express my emotions at that age. That’s not to say I wasn’t, I just don’t recall it. I can’t recall a lot of it. There are very large chunks of my memory missing from my adolescence. I don’t know if it’s a coping mechanism or if I partied too hard.
For those of you that do not know me, I could be described as “manly” when it comes to my emotions. I wouldn’t dare cry openly at a romantic comedy (mostly because they are the worst). I will clam up when people start getting emotional. I will crack a joke when tears brim my eyes so fast, because then people would know. They would know!
Being emotional always felt like a weakness, like it created a divide. It made people uncomfortable. It always felt like it would be a burden to others. If I am weak and someone needs to hold me up, then how can I possibly be strong enough to hold them up as well?
I have always had a feeling like it was my job to hold people up. I have always felt like I had to pick up everyone else’s pieces, to help them glue themselves back together. I have always been the peace-maker. I have always put everyone else’s emotional needs above my own.
These days I have those emotions. (I mean, I always HAD them, I would just never admit it to you unless I was drunk). They have come closer to the surface. They have become harder to suppress into submission.
I feel them start to seep out during moments in life where people might notice, and the anxiety of weakness abruptly clutches my shoulders. “Get it together! They might see!”
I don’t even like to show my husband…..I mean, he watched me give birth, twice. I don’t think there’s a whole lot I could do to make him see me as weak. But, I still clam up when it happens.
There wasn’t any one moment that defines my fear of emotions. There isn’t some compelling story I can tell you that will make all this click. There was just simply no one healthy enough to help me explore my feelings safely. I was too busy trying to help everyone else pick up their pieces.
I found myself, at a young age, having to grow up quicker than I would ever wish on my kids. As I entered puberty, my parents started the process of divorce. I was packed up and my mother and I moved to Louisiana.
I was going through what most teenagers having a massive life change were going through. I was angry and acting out. I wanted rules, structure and love. I craved for someone to show me how to feel these things I was feeling without fear.
But they had their own things they were dealing with. They were not in any way ready to deal with my emotions. I would have to figure this one out on my own.
So I pretended that everything was fine. I pretended that I didn’t have feelings, that I wasn’t affected. I pretended that I was strong enough on my own to get through this.
News flash, I was not. Not even a little.
And when I started to feel things, because I was a hormonal teenager; I drank and did drugs until they were gone again. You don’t have to learn how to handle your emotions if they are drowned out by narcotics and Boone’s Farm.
So I numbed my feelings and continued to grow the only thing I had to cope, sarcasm and a sense of humor.
It’s not as bad if you can find the funny in it. It’s not as awkward and uncomfortable if you crack a joke to keep from breaking down. It’s not weird to be the funny kid.
Until you become an adult and it totally is.
I also desperately searched and assembled my tribe of long term ride or die friends (what I considered my family) until I felt safe again. I found my very own pit-bulls, my very own knights of the me table. Team CYN! Some of them don’t even know how much they saved me.
I can remember being so sad the year after high school that I just couldn’t get out of bed. My friends showed up to my house to cheer me up with a nice card and laughter. I don’t know how that could have spiraled had they not loved me so.
They saw the worst of me, they saw the realness of anger and abandonment. They saw the self destruction and self inflicted drama. And they stayed. They have stayed until this day.
They are still here, lifting me up. They live all the across the country, but they are still saving me everyday.
I mean, even my husband is a walking billboard for a well adjusted, emotionally open man. I could not have picked a better person to help me nurture my cold black heart into emotional submission.
For years I have been praying that God would soften my heart. I have prayed to feel emotions without that stabbing pain of being found out, to feel without feeling like a fraud.
I would love to be the mom at Pre-School graduation who proudly tears up and shares those tears with loved ones (I mean, I wouldn’t currently love it, but I would like to not tense up at the idea), grasping her quivering mouth, barley able to breath from the emotion.
Do you see how even thinking about that situation prompted me to make a joke so you would know that I am stronger than that?? That I’m not that person? Messed up right?
The cracks in my cold, black heart have begun to show……bits of red love-shine peaking through.
I have started to tear up at sad parts of movies (not Rom-Coms, cause those are awful). I got misty when half of the cast of (SPOILER ALERT) Infinity War started to disintegrate. When I was watching Peppermint, and her family was slaughtered in front of her, I almost passed out from trying to hold that in.
Harry Potter, the last movie…… I hate watching that with people around. I mean Dumbledore manipulated that kid’s emotional state until the final moment. Not once was Harry allowed to not be brave or strong. Nor once was he allowed to walk through what was happening to him in a healthy and safe way. Flipping ridiculous, and he was only like 17!
I think movies are an easy place for me to start because it’s not public. I can have feelings without having to tell anyone about it (except that I am telling all of you now so….cats out of the bag).
Funny, that feeling things other than anger and humor are so alien to me. It’s so strange to think that I believe you knowing all this about me will send you into some sort of attack mode, arms of manipulation punching at my soft spot, twisting my emotions into something you can use against me….
Clearly, I haven’t learned how to really let it out. I am working on it.
I get better every day. Every day my heart softens. Everyday I work harder, pray harder and try harder.
Because I have to. I don’t want to deter my gentle angel away from her soft heart. I don’t want my cold, black heart to dampen her glow. I want her to feel safe being soft. I want her to cry when she wants to (I mean, within reason). I want her to feel sad if she wants to.
How can she learn that its okay if I don’t demonstrate it for her? I want her to be strong like me, but better than me. If I can show her how to be strong, while being soft, she will be stronger than I have ever thought I was. If she can be sympathetic while having a back bone to stand up for herself and what is right…well, she’ll be unstoppable.
So, here I am, laying it all out there, very uncomfortably. Only slightly hoping no one reads this.
But, somehow, I have to close the chapters on the things that shaped my cold, black heart. They didn’t kill me then, so why do I continue to let them regulate my behavior now??
At some point I have to sever the hold I have allowed them to have on me for so long. At some point I need to “let it all out.” If I don’t they will lock me in an anxiety ridden emotional distance from the ones I want to share them with.
Maybe tomorrow they will let go a little more. And little more the next day. And a little more the next day…..and a little more the next day….