A few years ago as my life crumbled down around me, I became increasingly aware of just how much I silenced myself – in work, life, etc.
Now don’t get me wrong – quiet, no. Saying what mattered, asking the questions, sitting in the uncomfortable space – no. See, I pretended, a lot. About who I was, what I wanted and didn’t want. I could never seem to ask the right questions or if I did, I felt I shouldn’t have asked the question.
I spent a lot of time pretending to be “fine”. But I wasn’t “fine”. I was stuffing it away, how I really felt, what I really wanted, what I wanted to say or ask about. But I didn’t. Ever. It was all stuffed down somewhere that I never thought about it.
But it was showing up in my actions. My coldness towards people, withdrawing, pushing people away showed how I was really feeling, but it was beyond that, it showed up in my actions and behaviours towards myself, what I thought and felt about myself and my life.
I “checked out” regularly – painting the picture in my mind the way I wanted it to be. But I never dealt with anything and it stayed between me and others like a pink elephant in the room… everyone just pretending everything was fine until enough time passed, that it was fine really.
It faded into the spot that I put it, with so many other things, not to be woken again until something else triggered it.
I’ve learned on this journey that the demons only lay so far under the surface. They’re not really gone, they’re just not visible in the day to day, but that fatigue, exhaustion, overwhelm, frustration, apathy, workaholic, don’t stop, won’t stop – it’s all in there, in that place where it’s comfortable, where the poison isn’t readily available and we’re living a life condoned by society anyway, looking good on the outside.
But all it takes is one ore dart, one comment, one wrong thing and the balance tips – pouring it all out, pulling back things that have been stuffed down for decades. Things that matter, big things but also small things, millions of them, that didn’t matter but mattered because they were stored. They feel “silly” that they’re still there.
And it becomes a jumble of stuff – all stored to do one thing – choose comfort in the moment, to give someone else power, to sit down and shut up like we always do, to pretend we’re fine, to not “push” or talk about things we’re not supposed to.
And the only way through is in the discomfort of unpacking it.
But what you’re holding onto that you may not even realize is the key to creating the life you really desire – a life where you’re going after what you want, where you’ve got energy and vitality, where you are able to deal with and face what’s happening in life, ask for what you want and leave what you don’t, to be you.
Because all that garbage that’s stored inside of you might have made sense at one time, you might have needed to push it away, but now it’s become the prison in which you live… the gilded cage that’s kept you safe but also kept you not really living at all.
When we hold onto things long past their expiry date, they change who we are, they hold us back, keep us stuck in old stories until resentment and bitterness become our friends. Maybe you didn’t feel seen. Maybe you didn’t feel supported or heard. Maybe you didn’t feel loved. Maybe someone hurt you.
I get it. Do I ever get it. I’ve done it. More times than I care to admit that I’ve found myself back in that cage because it’s safer. It doesn’t hurt of rejection and heart break there. It’s a different kind of hurt. A kind of hurt I got used to; a chosen hurt.
But what I was missing out on, living, loving and openness, passion, power, sexuality, vitality, came at a cost of my “safety”. And it was no longer worth it. I had to break the chains, unlock the cage in which I had been living, a place that felt like home but was in fact, prison.
The truth was where it started, by allowing myself to express myself, to sift through the contents of my box of darkness and deal with it all.
I had, though, become a little too good at voicing myself in someways – in ways that didn’t really matter. The truth was the balm to my pain. It was time to say what I needed, what I felt, and ask for something different.
The more I healed, the more I spoke. The more truth that came out in my journal, writing and coaching sessions the more I was able to speak the truth that mattered to those I needed to talk with.
They were difficult conversations. It’s not easy to tell someone you’ve been bothered by or holding onto things as a way to create space between you for years, decades, even. But it was those conversations that made it possible to step out of the cage and into living.
The courage and strength didn’t come over night. But it did come over time.
Enough time has passed now that I can usually tell when I’m holding onto something, my fatigue increases, my complaining increases, my tolerance lowers, I become emotional, unable to focus…
When I notice these signs, I now follow my processes to check in with what’s up and sure enough I’ll find something that I had going on, connected to something else that needs to be dealt with.
Emotions are heavy. I never realized just heavy emotional baggage was until I began to let it go. We’re humans. We operate on cycles and patterns and habits so it’s easy to go along with, stuff down, silence ourselves from time to time. We’re not always going to realize in the moment that we didn’t say what we thought, or that feeling we had was a sign… we’ll miss things… we’re human… we’ll repeat patterns and habits and we’ll find ourselves choosing the easy road at times.
I knew I was holding onto some “extra” stuff recently when I made a comment about something from our early days of our relationship. “I’m not that girl anymore who’d put up with that”.
As he quickly replied “I’m not that guy anymore, either“.
How truthfully and clearly he spoke. I found I was hanging onto things that were no longer relevant. We were both no longer those people and here I was, justified, in my right to be mad about something stupid that happened 15 years before.
So I looked at that and realized, it was still a safety net, still a safe place to be, to hold onto things, to store them, because it still keeps me back that 2 mm. It gives me breadth, distance and standoffishness. It gives me not touchable.
And in that not touchable we get what we want but we don’t. We become the one hurting others by our distance. We become the ones hurting ourselves by poisoning ourselves with things from the past.
And no one wins.
All that happens is life passes by without the passion, the integrity, the love, the living we really want.
So maybe a lot of things did happen. Maybe you silenced yourself, like me. Or maybe you didn’t silence yourself enough, also like me. Maybe you withdrew, lost time, hurt yourself, and others and maybe they hurt you.
But today you get to decide if you’re gonna keep dragging it around with you or if you’re gonna let it go.
Letting go is freedom, safety, courage. It’s scary. But it’s also what living fearlessly is about – the courage to have a brave heart in a world that gives us all reasons to hide, to cope, to wear armour.
Living fully is the ability to take off the armour when you realize how much it’s imprisoning you instead of keeping you safe.
What do you choose?
PS… if you need help with letting go of what you’re holding onto – books discovery call here. Let’s talk about how we can work together to get you back to finding your fire.