Every Last Tear

Yesterday morning was a good morning . . . that is, until I shit myself.

Most people don’t know what to say to a statement like that.

And that’s okay. I am going to tell you that sometimes there truly is nothing to say that will make anything better. And that often, in situations like that, the absolute best thing we can do is simply bear witness to or acknowledge one another’s suffering. More on this later.

 

Back to crapping yourself . . . doing so, particularly involuntarily, basically never becomes less disturbing. As a nurse, I have taken care of many patients who are 84 or 94 years old and who still get incredibly upset over this experience: let me tell you, it isn’t any easier to handle when you’re only 34. This phenomenon is just one of a constellation of symptoms – recently increasing in severity & frequency – that are leading my team of physicians to believe the systemic effects of my autonomic nervous system dysfunction might be even more severe than previously thought or that perhaps I am suffering with an additional, equally-serious disease. Crapping myself without even feeling it has happened 5 times (including yesterday) in the past month alone.

 

But yesterday morning was completely different from my usual oh-look-you-crapped-yourself-and-didn’t-even-know-it-yay-experience in that I didn’t cry. I didn’t feel scared. Or depressed over it. At all. In fact, I felt seriously ANGRY. Like beside yourself angry. Seriously, super duper angry. The emotional equivalent of siracha.

 

I hated my body in that moment. Hated it for not working properly whenever I least expect it. Hated it for betraying me. Humiliating me. For acting like my selfish, embarrassing drunk uncle – the one who ruined literally every Christmas I can remember. Sorry if this is over the top, but boy was I mad. And I really didn’t know what to do with all this anger.

 

So I chose to walk to the pharmacy, as man-flu (ugh) has hit the homestead. Boyfriend is down for the count & I was in need of supplies anyway. As I walked, hot angry tears streaked my face. I was breathing in hard angry huffs. And I am sure my sticky, wet cheeks were at least a few shades of red. But I was completely blindsided by what happened next. What struck me next was something Boyfriend’s been saying lately – that god sees our every tear.

 

And while I vehemently dislike most organized religion (because of how people so often can use religious words to alienate or divide people, or even hurt others), I love and trust Boyfriend. And I do connect deeply to spirituality. So the prospect that my every tear – no matter how hateful, angry, lonely, frightened, happy, or pained – is observed and valid was the only comforting thought I found myself being able to cling to in that moment.

 

My burning, angry tears – the ones where each drop is filled with fresh, hot resentment and deep disappointment – were okay. They weren’t morally less just because they felt like they wanted to jump off my face and punch a wall. They were valid to the situation. And every tear was seen . . . by at least me, by perhaps others (oh hey, everyone shopping at the pharmacy! just another public meltdown for yours truly.), and perhaps even by something greater than any of this. The observance of my tears simply in and of themselves was enough validation that they and the pain behind them were real. And it felt oddly comforting.

Being present. Seeing it all. Every last tear. Not judging, just observing. Witnessing. Acknowledging. Such simple, wordless acts. And my comfort in a space of anger where I doubt even the best-intentioned words would have penetrated.

The next time you encounter a person in a situation – illness, death, crisis, loss, trauma – that is just so incredibly devastating you don’t even know what to begin to say, take comfort that – in order to comfort – you don’t have to say anything at all. Just see and know that what you are seeing is real. Acknowledge. Observe . . . every last, hot tear. A moment that is as full of love as it is also empty enough to be whatever we need it to be. Offer that moment. Be one of the ones to witness the pain. That is enough. That is actually even more than enough.

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Life (and stuff): Holding on, Letting go


I have a confession. Sometimes, I hold a grudge.

I’m learning a grudge is kind of like Tylenol: you think it will somehow protect you from pain, but it really doesn’t. At best, it’s thoroughly ineffective. And in large enough amounts, it can actually even poison you.

 

Rewind to last week, when Boyfriend said, “you really respond to people with empathy.” It was literally the best compliment I’d ever received from him. We also talked about how I’m a canary – the proverbial, sensitive bird in the coal mine – and how not everyone I bump into in life may feel as sensitive as I do, but how I tend to treat them that way anyhow. I digress. It was a very good talk.

This week, another close friend called me an innocent bystander in life. And while I really am a canary, I’m far from innocent. And I’m not always empathetic or all rainbows and sparkles or any of that either (gasp!). And especially not when I’ve been deeply hurt.

 

The act of forgiving & moving on is something I really need to learn to do for myself, to heal myself. The truth is: this takes a whole hella lot of work and is much easier said than done. Because as much as I strive toward kindness & empathy – practicing it as much for myself as I do with others – and as hard as I try to let go of the pain & be vulnerable, I also find myself fiercely holding tight to the still-vivid memories of past hurts. As if my life depends on this very action. As if it will protect me somehow.

 

I guess I still hold on, because I cannot understand the parts of life that seem to involve just repeatedly lining-up to get slapped in the face again & again (metaphorically, emotionally – to my knowledge, nobody is actually slapping me).

 

I don’t understand why some of the nicest people I know have also been hurt the most deeply.

 

I don’t understand how easy it is for some people to repeatedly, knowingly cause someone else harm.

 

I don’t understand how sometimes the easiest people to hurt are actually the ones closest to us.

 

I don’t understand how or why the world seems increasingly more frustrated & angry.

 

I don’t understand … A lot.

 

And I don’t understand why sometimes I just can’t seem to let go and move forward in a space of love. Why I would choose to hold on to pain. Why holding on feels easier than letting go.

 

I’m not going to make a lofty moral argument for forgiveness here. I can’t. Not when it’s hard enough for me to follow that same advice. But there is something valuable to be learned in letting go. And I guess I’ll just have to let you know what that is when I get there.

 

Some of us think holding on makes us strong but sometimes it is letting go

Hermann Hesse

Unapologetically Real


Some people might think living unapologetically translates into a direct license to act like an asshole. That their brash or selfish actions (& their consequences) can all be instantly negated under a veil of self-proclaimed authenticity or self-empowerment. The “it’s just who I am, love it or leave it” crowd that seems paradoxically oblivious to their potential to hurt others. Have you ever met one of these and just felt, well … a bit stumped?

I have. It’s all so perplexing. I love raw, honest people, but in all honestly, the scenario described above just doesn’t feel 100% right to me when I experience it either. And this is an area where I know I get really confused & then immediately start worrying if I’m just totally wrong about it (uh huh) or a real coward (yes) or something. Because it’s so hard to be (and stay) real when you leave the safety of the illusion that everyone liking you for YOU is even remotely possible and instead enter realness: for me this means the challenge to say what’s on my mind when I also just really want everyone – but including me – to be happy. Or at the very least not offended.

As someone who considers & analyzes almost compulsively — and certainly wholeheartly, neurotically, & co-dependently — pretty much how their every action will affect others, I can tell you I have not found authenticity (living & loving unabashedly) & conscientiousness (considering it’s effect) toward others to be mutually exclusive.

You can do both & still feel good about yourself at the end of the day … You can … can’t you?

Recently, I have been writing more. Really putting myself out there just as I am & my fragile, tender heart into my words. Guys, it is scary as fuck. I am putting my soul out there to be rejected. Yes, my soul. I am choosing to greet the world on a soul level and it is often just as painful as it is frightening. Interacting this way – in a world that I question whether was truly made for souls or that it knows how to value and treat them – is hella hard. This all probably sounds really odd, but hopefully you get me on this one: it just feels like the world interacts with souls most often by crushing them. And I absolutely know I will be crushed and rejected, by at least a few people, if
not more. So, I find myself stuck between truly needing to be unapologetically me & the temptation to spin my life into something more palatable & easily understood: something it’s really not.

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Yep, pretty much.

Perhaps the most scary part about blogging from a vulnerable place (I should think of a catchy name to capture this, like “rawgging” … umm okay, that one might need some more work.) is that there are some people out there who will read what I pour out of my heart, and then possibly use the information to make inaccurate or hurtful assumptions about me:

  • She talks about her illnesses only because she wants attention.
  • She wants to be/stay sick, that’s why she is.
  • Gosh what a negative person.
  • Man, this chick sounds depressed.
  • Doesn’t she have Boyfriend to talk to about all of this? (Yes, and he’s a freaking saint.)

And I struggle in exposing the real me through writing for fear of any rejection or assumptions, whether real (ouch) or imagined (even worse), and for fear of causing harm. Because, while I definitely want to be the person who is unapologetically open & authentic, another part of me knows that every decision has a consequence, and I am opening the door to misunderstanding of the REAL me.

You see, it’s very ideal to greet the world with something that is not you. The not-real. Kind of like in the movie Zoolander, when they need to go to fashion week in disguise, needing to look like “not-us” – and if you need to better understand this movie reference, please watch it ten more times until you have the entire movie memorized. Like I do.

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Guys, it’s this scene.

Just kidding, back to serious-ish-ness.

My point is, and I promise I have one: It’s very safe to stay inside the neat little boxes we’ve grown to expect in everyday life:

“How are you today?”

“Fine*, and you?”     *actually not really fine but smiles anyway.

To hide the real you behind a mask or in another body. I am guilty of this.

Your emotional stunt-double handles rejection far better than the authentic you, so you keep putting her/him out there instead. We walk around life interacting with bodies & facades instead of souls, because it’s easy & comfortable. But guys, it just doesn’t seem really REAL. At least not to me.

As someone who spent more than two decades of their life living one long apology for basically existing & having only the most basic human needs, I find it extremely challenging to remain real & unapologetic. Perhaps some of the most valuable relationships in my life, therefore, are those in which I can feel brave enough to talk freely about the things that aren’t always easy, fine, or comfortable. Because while I truly want (and love when) things to be good, it’s the friend who knows how to just be still with you & who accepts the bad moments as freely as the great ones that usually wins my heart.

I guess what I’m saying is that all of this seems so important. Because it’s important to grow in life to a spot where you can not only be your true, REAL self in life but also have a precious tribe of people there who cheer you forward & honor the authentic you. And that you honor & respect them too. Not everyone is going to like you – but not everyone needs to understand the real you in order for it still to be okay for you to live openly. Rejection and pain sting, but they sting an open, bleeding, living heart. They only sting because you are alive & REAL & unabashedly embracing your you-ness.

You know, the real you that says awkward shit & has rough edges? With all the fragile, messy, human parts? The part of you that relates to (me) sobbing in public places every once in a while? Yes, that one. That’s the real you I really love. And I’m learning to love mine too.

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” ‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time …. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.’ ”

Margery WilliamsThe Velveteen Rabbit