Feelings. Compassion. Vulnerability. I think they just mean weak.
While this representation of my prior worldview wasn't one hundred percent accurate, it was only slightly outside the dartboard's bull’s-eye.
About 3 years ago, at age 31, I decided to see a therapist. As an adult this was a first. It was like deciding to lose my emotional virginity way, way, way after prom night. I wasn't exactly sure what I was going to get out of it but I did believe that there was something wrong within me.
At that time, and for as far back as I could remember, I was unattached. I was disconnected from others outside of my immediate family. I wasn't feeling. Ever had coffee that looked dark enough, brewed long enough, smelled good enough but was missing the oomph? That was me. It all seemed fine, better than fine actually. But I lacked oomph... compassion, empathy, vulnerability and connection...soul. Like that coffee, I existed but without real depth and without a powerful purpose. At some point between spending money trying to buy good feelings, or trying to drink and drown out the bad ones, I realized something wasn’t right. I saw accidents, horror, inhumanity, and tragedies and felt nothing. Not just nothing but an absence of feelings. I didn't even care. As long as it didn't happen to my family or me, I rationalized and told myself, I couldn’t worry or care about everyone.
While therapy only lasted eight months (it wasn't for me), things have dramatically shifted.
It's not that things just shifted; I forced them to change and transform. I became mindful. I practiced daily looking for feelings, searching for compassion, trying to find and notice love, joy, and happiness. I used meditation to become more present. I practiced opening up my heart. I shared feelings and thoughts with others forcing myself to be vulnerable. I took hours, days, and weeks just learning how to stop doing and start being.
It wasn't easy. It still isn't. And although something magnificent and life changing was happening, I couldn’t yet define it and wasn’t fully present to it.
And then today happened.
You aren’t prepared. You can’t be prepared. You have no idea what is going to happen when you crack open that platinum diamond encrusted casing that incarcerates your heart.
I should have been more careful searching for feelings, because it's kind of like pouring a draft beer. As it bubbles and fizzes you think it won't overflow but suddenly, to your surprise, it's everywhere. There is no putting it back in the keg. I stood in the gym, the last place I expected to have a feeling, and just watched the helplessness, hatred, fear, pain, terror, and sadness that glowed from the screens displaying the terrorist attack in Brussels. I don't know anyone in Brussels. I don't know if I've ever known anyone in Brussels and yet I found myself trying desperately to hold in a blitzkrieg of emotions. Standing in the gym I felt weak, broken, and mangled, like the broken plastic wrap sealing a jar after it's been snapped off.
WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH ME?
My towel is for sweat not tears!
In a place where strength, power and grunts dominate; where sweat, and overly sugared sports drinks are the featured liquids; where pain is positive, and inspiration and pop music vibrate, I felt hollow, weak and helpless. In that moment it all landed harder than a Kanye publicity stunt.
I could feel…
Most astonishing is that I could feel for others and feel so deeply and with so much compassion, connection, respect and love that it felt like I had been there, been hurt, and been stripped of the freedom to live!
Writing this I actually realize this wasn't the first time. There were little moments. That while my heart was barricaded behind a castle of stone, drawbridges, archers, a mote and soldiers, there was a small crack... and like the tiniest crack in a pane of glass it slowly and eventually continued to crack until its shattered.
This journey to find humanity, to connect with love, with compassion, and be strong and powerful enough to be vulnerable, had arrived and it came in heavy without mercy.
In the moments after all I wanted was to go back. To ditch the feelings, to kidnap the emotions, to seal back up, to never ever let another's pain leave fingerprints on my heart.
Then my life coach returned my text in which I had complained about having these new-found feelings.
"Your heart has grown three sizes..." She said.
I think that might be an understatement, I thought.
And then she said, "I know what you mean, though. Humanity - we are all connected. One person’s pain is all our pain. Remember your love and joy also have a ripple effect."
And then I knew.
My power, my purpose, my strength, my love, my compassion, my vulnerability exist to serve others. I'm still learning how to anchor, control, expand and share this gift with others, these horrible moments breathe life, existence, a gratefulness, a thankfulness and an awareness that there is always the divine dichotomy. With all the hurt, there is healing. With the tears there is laughter. With the disappointment there is excitement. With the hopelessness there is inspiration. We appreciate the darkness because we know of the light. And with the fear there is courage…the courage to feel and so to LOVE...and there will always be love.
Share your smile, your joy, your inspiration, your happiness, your gratefulness, your excitement, your love and even your pain with someone today. We are all connected, whether we want to be or not. When we act out in violence or hurt someone else, we create the belief that the world is not safe in our own minds. When we act with greed, we remind ourselves to view the world from the standpoint of scarcity. When we don’t support others, we strengthen the belief that we have to go at it alone. When we lack compassion and vulnerability, we can’t connect with others. When we shut our hearts down and refuse or deny feelings, we also can’t receive love. And when even just one of us loves unconditionally, it beats in all of our hearts.