When I first began this journey of personal growth and well-being, I always had this idea that the people I looked up to must never have shitty days like me.
I never imagined my incredibly Zen yoga teacher getting angry, or my warm hearted counselor having a bad day. As I understood it, being ‘evolved’ like they were meant they didn’t experience ‘negative’ emotions like us lowly hot messes who needed to learn how to meditate, eat organic, and become ‘better’ human beings.
Today, ten years later, I realize that sometimes I’m that Healer others look up to. And just like the mentors I still admire and turn to, I’m human. I too have bad days. Despite all the tools and techniques I have in my toolbox, when a really bad day strikes me by surprise, I’m reminded that personal growth and healing is a lifelong process.
While it’s easy to say, “life’s challenges are opportunities for growth,” which they totally are, experiencing that growth is one of the hardest parts of life.
So when I found out my father had a heart attack yesterday morning, life had smacked me with an “opportunity for growth” that I was not ready for. How can you ever be ready for something like that…?
My knee-jerk reaction concerning any issue around my dad = avoid the feelings of pain, and insert feelings of anger, aka “bitch mode.” I’m ashamed to admit that my first thought was feeling annoyed. I had a busy day, and dealing with my “daddy issues” was the last thing I wanted to do. I noticed how emotionally numb I felt.
My man walks into the kitchen. I ask him nonchalantly, “is it strange that I’m not freaked out at all that my dad’s in the hospital? I mean, people have heart attacks all the time and it’s no big deal anymore, right?”
He was stunned and gave me a hug, “are you ok?”
I shrug him off, “yeah I’m fine. I’m just wondering if my reaction is too odd… but he’s in Brazil, what can I do?” He reminds me that heart attacks are indeed serious, and confirms my suspicion.
Thankfully, I’ve done enough inner work to know that my reaction was oddly familiar, even comforting… This was my autopilot response to pain for most of my childhood and adolescence. Feel nothing, and if some feelings manage to make it to the surface, get angry. Sadness is too painful and non-productive. Anger is empowering, and gets shit done. Don’t get sad, get mad.
My eyes swell up a bit, and I take a deep breath. Jon rubs my back.
“I’ll be fine” I assure him. I keep the tears from fully forming. ”Let’s get you to work and I’ll deal with this later.”
Yet even when I got to my counselor’s office, whom I was cosmically already scheduled to see, I avoided the topic until the very end. Once I did, the tears came rolling, but I wasn’t ready to dive into the whirlwind of emotions that surround my dad. Even with her, the most qualified person to help me through this.
The reason - it hurts too much. I’ve suppressed that pain for too long, and in the shadows of our unconscious mind, that kind of pain becomes much more intense. Anytime I do open myself up to it, I’m overwhelmed with conflicting feelings of grief, anger, forgiveness, resentment, and many more I can’t even name. I get mad at myself for being so mad. Then beat myself up for still not being over this, and the stress of it all becomes overwhelming. It’s just too much, and I feel it all so deeply.
All I wanted to do was drown my sorrows in a bottle of wine and veg out on the couch. Not deal with this.
By the time I got in my car, I was sobbing. I did some journaling when I got home, which allowed me to get through my last appointment of the day without thinking about it.
As soon as my man got home, the flood gates opened again. He held me as I cried. Comforted me as I shared what felt like unbearable pain, and confessed feeling the same way when his parents had surgery - which he had never shared with me until then.
That’s the beauty of vulnerability. When we allow ourselves to fully experience the pain, and share it with someone close, they can share some of their pain too, and you both feel better. Knowing you’re not the only one who wants to crawl into a cave and just wait for it all to blow over is comforting.
And that’s why I’m sharing this with you. Because I know that all too often, we only get the pretty & polished version of growth. Pretending everything is picture perfect when I feel like I’m falling apart inside is something I’m way too good at… and I know you are too.
Years of conditioning, social pressure, and believing that ‘being strong’ means bottling up our emotions have made most of us damn good at hiding our vulnerable selves. It has also allowed us to become so disconnected from ourselves, and each other.
Today, I know the importance of going through these emotions, even though they hurt like hell. I know running away from this pain will not make it go away, and that sharing it wisely will only further my growth. I know that crying is not a sign of weakness - it’s a sign of being human.
I can’t give you a neatly summed up ending, only that my dad is stable, and he’ll be having surgery soon. What I can tell you is that this work may have been triggered by him, but it’s mine to do, no matter what happens. Hopefully, it all works out for the best, and your loving thoughts and prayers would be greatly appreciated.
This weekend, I invite you to share some vulnerability with those you love. Allow the uncomfortable experiences we mutually share bring you closer, and let go of the shame that may be preventing you from doing so. Shame cannot survive being shared. Be sure to share with those who can hold that sacred space for you. Not everyone can, and respecting that is important too. Oversharing with the bartender at happy hour will not bring you as much healing and connection as crying on your best friend’s shoulder.
Sharing in the comments below or in an email to me is perfectly fine, and even encouraged. What’s your autopilot response to pain? How do you feel about crying in front of your partner? Who in your circle of friends can hold that sacred space for you to be vulnerable?
Thank you for being brave enough to read all the way through. May it have provided you with some insight, and the courage to feel your way through the next curve ball life throws your way.
Lots of Love,