I had been doing self awareness – ahem self help – for about 1.5 years when I had a massive breakthrough that all of my problems were ME! I had just come from Tony Robbins Business Mastery, where I learned a lot about business and more about why I am and why my business wasn’t working than I had in all the self help I had done before. I like to do things backwards apparently. In all of the personal development courses I attended, including UPW and other local programs, I worked on my business, and at Business Mastery I figured out all the issues were, well, me. Why I was doing what I was, why I was repeating the same cycles over and over again.
That realization started things started spinning out of control.
And there was no going back, as much as I tried. I pulled the lid off and everything popped out of the can and no matter how many times or ways I tried to stuff it back in, it just wouldn’t fit. I had seen things I couldn’t unsee.
I had no choice but to go through it. It seemed at times the pain would never stop. It was constant, I’d process one thing and another would be on it’s heels. I spent days in my pyjama’s, caught in the middle of a storm struggling to stay afloat.
I had pulled one brick out to look behind but the whole wall came crashing down. And I was left to climb out through the rubble, brick by brick.
It wasn’t until I was out that I realized it wasn’t one wall, I had torn the whole house down. I had been in jail. It wasn’t a house, it was fortress. And I lived in there, alone. When I started building it as a child, I’m sure I wanted someone to notice and like the fairy tales “rescue me”, but no one came.
And that gave me more fuel to build more walls.
With each passing hurt, let down, disappointment, failure, more walls, rooms, doors, windows and blinds. And then furniture… If I’m going to be in this place, I might as well be comfortable. Then art work, books, and stuff until the whole place was full.
I wasn’t living behind a wall, I was living in a fortress in the woods protected on all sides. Nothing gets in and nothing gets out.
It’s safer that way.
Until something didn’t fit. One day, there was no more room in the house. A door was stuck open and things weren’t fitting like they had. I had to move things around to make space for this new big thing that needed to be stuffed in the closet.
I made a bigger mess. I was taking things out and moving them around but they didn’t fit in the same way again. They were on the floor for me to see, to feel. As I looked at the stuff I was avoiding, a light came on and the house came down. It was dark under the rubble. In order to get out, I had to feel everything I didn’t want to feel as I had built that house.
Every failure, every hurt, every trauma, all of it. None of it had been felt. I was good at hiding behind things, busying myself with my fortress, venting and hiding as I’d layer on another coat of cement and angrily stick another brick in there. Each room, curtain, wall, door, window and nail, had a story to tell. Some of them easy to move through, others tooks months to get out from under.
There was no easy way through it.
I had to feel what I didn’t feel when I put it up. I might have been angry when I was building it, but the anger masked hurt, disappointment, not being enough, failing. And those aren’t feelings we’re taught to have… my fortress was a safe place but it wasn’t a happy place. It was a place where I spent my time alone, afraid to have connections with people, afraid I be hurt, afraid I would be not enough.
There’s no easy way through it.
When the house comes down, it hurts. It hurts so badly you remember why you built the damn house in the first place. Feeling it all was tearing off the very identity I had created for myself – someone who did not give a fuck.
And that’s really what we are doing, aren’t we? The armour we wear to protect ourselves inside the fortress. To hide who we really are. So we won’t get hurt.
When did we decide that being hurt wasn’t ok? That feeling wasn’t ok? Was it when your parent divorced and you were told to be “big girl or boy?” Was it when your boyfriend punched you in the face the first time? Was it when your neighbour put his hands down your pants? Or when your boyfriend raped you? Or your father beat you? Was it when your husband left you? Or the miscarriage? Or was it long before any of those things? Was it in kindergarten when you got left at school and cried until you were sick and everyone told you to grow up? Was it in grade 1 when the teacher told you you didn’t get a sticker because you were a bad girl? Was it when your mom or dad died?
Feeling is not something we do well. We are taught to shut down, don’t dwell, move on. We are given cookies and ice cream when we feel down to “cheer us up”, we are taken to dances and parties and shopping and events. We are taught at a young age to stuff it down and distract.
Our collective discomfort with emotions is the cause of this. We are trying to not feel and not be in the presence of feeling.
We are taught to use our head, don’t let the heart rule; toughen up, be strong. I’ve learned that most people are carrying luggage you cannot imagine. I am so fortunate to be in the position of hearing people’s stories. The real stories. Not the bandaged fucking version to make people feel comfortable with uncomfortable shit.
Life is hard. Life is unfair. Life can be brutal. And why can’t we feel all of it? I’ve learned that not feeling the pain and being “strong” was the exact opposite of it. I was afraid I would be seen as weak. I was afraid to feel it for fear I’d never get off the floor. But the reality was that it took more strength to go through it than it ever did hiding under it.
Tearing the house down hurt. Getting out from under the rubble hurt. I won’t lie. Today, as things come up, I want so badly to hide sometimes. But the funny is, hiding hurts now, more than feeling does. Once I’ve felt it, I move on and the process gets shorter and faster. I look for the lesson. There’s always a lesson.
Once it’s done, processed it, addressed with those involved (don’t talk to me that way, this is how this made me feel, I’m sorry, I was scared, I’m afraid, this is how I feel), I move on. The load is lighter. There’s no pretending to be ok with something you aren’t. No pretending you don’t give a fuck when you give all the fucks. No pretending things didn’t hurt or scar you the way they have.
There’s nothing to be found in pretending not to care when you do care.
It hides who you are. You get lost under the weight of the stuff you carry. There’s no need to carry it. Lay it down for a while. Look at it for what it is and was. Feel it and heal it. And I promise you, when the worst is over, you’ll learn to lean into the pain and not away from it. And maybe you’ll be sad and stay on the couch all day or for a week, but then it will be over and you’ll move through it and on from it.
Stronger than you ever realized. Lighter than you ever realized you could be. No baggage weighing you down.
Feel your way to freedom.
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