Listen to Your Body

As you all may well recall, last year I learned that emotions occur in the body as well as the brain. I don’t mean bodily reactions to emotion, like crying at a movie, or gagging when people talk about the inauguration this weekend. I mean heartache that feels like Heart-Ache. Sadness that manifests like your chest feeling as though it’s caving in on itself. Or anger that makes your eyes burn. I always thought songs and movies were exaggerating but it turns out our bodies hold a wealth of knowledge that a lot of us never even think to access.

I feel our bodies often sense things way before our brains do, like how animals can tell when there’s a natural disaster coming before humans even see the clouds forming. Our bodies can tell us when a person is unsafe, when a situation isn’t working, when we need to take a step back, when we need to avoid a certain social event, when we need to break up with someone, when we need to find a new job, or when we need to slow down and give space to our thoughts/feelings. We may have a persisting headache or something and then get home, turn on Netflix, and start crying “for no reason”. (Hint: There’s always a reason). (Bonus Hint: You’re sad). Listening to our bodies allows us to process and release that emotion long before it turns into an outburst at the grocery store cashier, or snapping at a roommate over the trash.

Nevertheless, instead of paying attention to our physical feelings, most of us rather try to override or explain them away. You leave work feeling completely drained every day and you’re like “Well that’s just how work is! Everyone hates their job.” No dude, you need to leave your fucking job! Or you’re talking to a new person at a bar and your stomach turns and you either don’t notice at all or blame it on eating something weird earlier, when really, you should probably get away from that person! But we don’t want to be judgmental, we don’t want to make snap decisions, or quit our jobs on a whim, which are all valid concerns. However as my therapist pointed out, having a negative gut reaction to something isn’t always necessarily a judgment call about the something. It could just be that the something isn’t right for you.  Maybe your workplace does great things for the community and gives to charity and other people love working there, but for whatever reason it’s not gelling with you. That’s okay, give yourself permission to leave. Maybe that girl you’re talking to at the bar isn’t like, Jezebel incarnate, but for whatever reason it’s just not a good match. That’s okay too, your body might be trynna tell you to bail before you get caught up.

Listening to your body though, first requires making space for your body to speak. Which is probably another reason why we never do it. It’s like meditation, you can’t rush it. You have to sit still and pay attention, which is a most fundamentally un-American practice. Taking time out of your day to focus inward and take a body scan can be reallllll awkward and uncomfortable at first. And sometimes, I’m not gonna lie, the things you start to sense make you feel crazy, or like you’re being overdramatic. One time my body told me I couldn’t go to a party. I know right? #Annoying. I was like “it’s a fucking PARTY just let me go and have fun!” Long story short, I shouldn’t have gone and I did not have fun. It’s confusing in the beginning, and unnerving to feel like you sense something is wrong, but you can’t readily see why. I’m here telling you, trust that instinct. Trust your gut. It’s probably trying to help you out, and it’s probably right.

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God Will Break Your Heart

I’ve been locked in a titanic struggle with God for the past few weeks— maybe months, I don’t know I’ve lost count. In reading Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, I learned that God brings us to walls – that is, to dark nights of the soul, or painful circumstances/situations – to rid us of our false perceptions of Him as well as false perceptions of ourselves. So after the bitch of a wall I went through this year, I found myself looking for another God. I thought perhaps the god I thought was God was actually like, God-lite: happy, safe, loving, nice. And whatever asshole who sent me through this hellish year was the real God. So I had thoughts like, is God actually good? Is He supportive of me? Does He love me? Is He indifferent? Is He personal? Can I trust Him? And I went through this really crazy upside down period where I felt like I had absolutely NO grasp on who God is; it was a little scary, and very unnerving for someone who has spent her whole life in the Church. But after some searching and meditation, I was like… I think they might be the same guy? Which honestly felt scarier. My “God-lite”, who I felt so connected to two years ago— who felt safe and supportive and loving and cool— might be the same God who allowed and perhaps even nudged me to walk into a position to have my heart broken. And that feels scarier because I’m like, now what do I do? How do I fit this new information into what I had previously understood to be the character of God? How does God allowing me to be leveled— to be “sifted like wheat” as we discussed a few weeks ago—align with the characterization of being a “Good Father”? Why the fuck would He break me like this? That’s what I’ve found myself asking God the most in the few times I’ve tried talking to Him recently: “What the fuck did you do?!”

For a while I was reading Searching for God Knows What by Donald Miller and in it, he talked about how Christianity is relational, as opposed to formulaic. And how that throws us all for a loop because it makes it so that we cannot even begin to predict how God will move. We’re all looking for an A + B = C type situation and God’s like “Hey but do you want to sit down and talk?” I mean sure we all, like God, have core character traits that make our behaviors more or less consistent, but if you’ve ever been in any sort of a relationship with any other living being, you know the last thing we are is predictable. We have free minds and free wills, the way God does. And sometimes He does something where we’re like WHOA HOLD ON GOD THAT WASN’T IN THE SCRIPT, and it’s like, right, yeah, because God isn’t a robot. Which is like fine I guess (read: super annoying), but it makes it veryyyyy difficult when you feel like God has hung you out to dry. If there are things about Him that are true and unchanging, for example that He is fundamentally good, how do we hold that in the moments when it feels like He has opened the floodgates of hell on us? How does God breaking my heart reflect the actions of someone who loves me?

And I mean, okay, I guess that is answered in the idea that God uses walls to free us of falsehoods. It’s true that there are a myriad of lessons and traits about myself that I would not have learned had I not been through the specific events of this year. But like what happens when you’re still mad about it? I feel like that’s my problem. I’m like yeah I learned some cool new shit about my latent trauma thanks God but also I’M STILL REALLY FUCKING PISSED YOU BROUGHT ME HERE. Yikes. And it’s worrying because I’m like, honestly I don’t know how I will make it back to Him. I have been mad for what feels like a longgggggg time. God and I have been on the rocks for what feels like a very long time. And I truly don’t know how to return to a place where He feels safe. I will also say that I understand and accept that my perspective is wildly limited and that that could change, but I want to be honest about where I am in the present moment. I mean truthfully, I think this might be part of being a Christian. We go through periods where we feel like we’ve lost God, and we don’t know how or if we’ll find Him again. So fun.

On the other side of it, one of the things that gets me about this process is the last half of that verse in Luke, where Jesus, after implying that He’s allowing the devil to wreck him, tells Simon Peter “I pray that your faith would not fail.” Sooo God allows us to be absolutely shattered, brought to the gaping doors of hell in some cases, but at the same time He cheers for us to pull through? It seems to be a very big risk to take on His part. If it’s true that He loves us, and that He desires to hold us and have us close to Him, what a chance to take, throwing us to the wolves and hoping that we’ll return to Him afterwards. You got some nerve, God. You got someeeeee nerve.  But also maybe that speaks to what we are worth. That God is willing to risk losing us because He believes our growth is that important.

I feel like I don’t know what to do with that. I don’t know what to do with any of this, really. This is just where I am, and these are the truths I’m wrestling with. God will break your heart but He loves you and He’s trying to grow you so it’s supposed to be good. And you’ll probably get really mad about it and you won’t know when you’ll stop being mad about it and it’ll put a huge strain on your relationship with Him. And that’s….. I mean that’s really all of it.

…I feel like I need a drink, anybody else feel like they need a drink? Let’s all go get a drink. Cheers.

The Problem of Unrequited Love

A few months ago my friend shared with me an interesting thought from an article about unrequited love offering a hypothesis as to why we all fall victim to it eventually. The article said that perhaps it’s because it helps us identify with the Cross (Oh, did I mention it was a Christian article? 🙂 ) Loving someone who can’t or won’t love us back breeds familiarity with an act of love so deep and incomprehensible shown to an audience who at worst, couldn’t care less and at best, fails regularly at offering it in return. I thought about that and God’s inconceivable capacity for nursing a broken heart. Not yours, don’t be selfish. I mean His own. How exhausting it must be to continue offering love to people who can’t help but hurt themselves, each other, and Himself.

So we love without being loved in return, and it hurts. Maybe because it mirrors the way God loves us, maybe because we’re just flat out insane. In either case, the difference between us and God is that at some point, we have to stop. I’ve been thinking about this too because I have a lot of trouble stopping. Countless long ass crushes over the last two decades have really driven that point home for me. And I’ve watched a lot of people have trouble stopping as well. Maybe it’s not a chronic condition as it seems to be in my case, but most people have had that oneeeeee person they just could not shake. And if you haven’t, honestly you can go fuck yourself.

If anyone’s been watching Bachelor in Paradise at all for the last couple years, you’ve at least seen this at work between Jared and Ashley I. I mean there are obviously a whole host of other issues going on there that would fill an entirely separate blog post, but we can all identify on some level with homegirl’s struggle. Wanting someone so badly who, for whatever reason, just does not want you back. And feeling like despite reason, despite being painfully aware of their position, maybe even despite them being an obviously bad fit, you cannot stop hoping. “Maybe they’ll change their mind! Maybe they’ll come around! It only takes one thought to give this a different ending!”

I’m a pretty big believer in the idea that “we were all made in God’s image and in His likeness” (The Bible). Not necessarily with regards to our specific bodies — although maybe, who knows — but I think the way He operates is reflected imperfectly in the way we operate. How we seek connection, how we’re curious and creative, how we are angered by injustice and also show tremendous capacity for mercy and forgiveness, and yes maybe how we continue to love and go after people who are telling us “no”.

Have you guys ever heard of StrengthsFinder? It’s a personality test that gives you a list of your top 5 natural abilities, things that come easily to you. There are strengths like “Activator”, people who are really good at starting projects. Or “Relator”, people who are good at making others feel comfortable and known around them. When I think about the ways God is reflected in us, I think about this list of strengths because I feel like God has all of them. One of my top strengths is called “Restorative”. It’s the problem-solving one, I loveeee a good problem. Big problem, small problem, theoretical problem, emotional problem, give it to me and I will try my damndest to help you solve it.

Recently I watched a video going into more depth on this strength and the speaker noted that the thing about people with Restorative is that they firmly believe no problem is unsolvable. No situation is too complicated, no person is too damaged or too far gone, everyone and everything can find healing and restoration if we work at it enough. Sounds like God right? It’s a beautiful picture of redemption – my problem though, is that I am not God. So I have this desire to endlessly offer myself to these people and problems when I don’t possess the capacity to do so. God can do it. God can chase forever after toxic people (which is all of us to some extent btw), even as they wound Him time and time again. I on the other, much more mortal, hand have to set a boundary. Which is hard, I battle against it constantly. Caught in this tension between pursuing a natural passion to help and fix, but having to respect my own limitations if and when the situation becomes unhealthy. And I think that’s the hard thing about deciding to end an unrequited love, we have boundless hope again that maybe something will change. Maybe they will change and grow. It’s beautiful, but at the end of it, we just don’t possess the capacity for that kind of pain. God does. Let Him chase those people. We have to learn to call it quits and throw in the towel when loving someone comes at our own detriment.

Fury.

Generally, I don’t much care for anger – I think it is a base emotion. I, as any other pseudo-intellectual won’t tell you, have this high-minded obsession with trying to replace real human emotion with intellectual theorizing and philosophical discussion. I think it was C.S. Lewis who once called humans “spiritual animals”, and I’ve found that I try very hard to distance myself from identifying with the latter. Yelling, sobbing, and other emotional outbursts are unproductive in my opinion; everything can be settled in a calm and rational conversation. When people talk about getting so mad that they see red or feel physically heated, I think to myself that they’ve simply allowed themselves to be bested.

Until this week. In a particularly rough therapy session, I experienced anger like I can safely say I’ve never experienced in my life. Not just anger, rage. Fury (get it? Like the title). I sat in my therapist’s office and felt so much violent wrath that I felt physically ill. Nauseous and hot all at the same time.  Several times I thought “this must be how a tiger feels when they’ve fucking had enough”.  This animalistic, unadulterated, consuming fire. 

The fun (read: definitely not fun) thing I’m learning about emotions is that you feel them in your body as well. I woke up Wednesday (after my Tuesday session) feeling like I had gotten hit by a train. I felt hungover. And for a second I was like “did I drink last night?” Nope, just shifted from the grieving stage of Denial to Anger.

I looked up “fury” on the interwebs and Google reminded me of the Furies in Greek Mythology – three little fairy bitches who come from the underworld to Earth every once in a while to fuck with the wicked. Tisiphone (“Avenger of Murder”), Megaera (“Jealous”), and my personal favorite Allecto (“Unceasing in Anger”). In related news, I also learned that Fury is generally an emotion associated with women. You know, “hell hath no fury” and all that jazz. It’s probably because there are so many fuckboys acting like assholes running the streets. *sips tea*

Listen, I don’t know what to tell you. I feel like this post is disjointed and helter skelter, but it’s the most coherent thing I’ve been able to put together in the last few days. I almost skipped writing this week because I was too fucking mad but then I was like, nah, I’m gonna write about how mad I am! So here we are, that’s all I got, this was my week: I got fucking mad. I’ll be sure to write about the resolution or the softening, if and when it comes. Until then, if anyone knows where I can buy a cheap punching bag or have one of those Groupons for destroying an old house, I’d gladly take it. 

Change

At the beginning of yoga on Monday, the teacher announced that she wanted the day’s class to be about Change. She shared a little bit about the difficult relationship she has with change and encouraged us to think about what we do when we are confronted with it – do we resist it or do we allow it to move through us?

I didn’t and don’t need much time to contemplate my answer to that question— I’m 100% not good with change. I like plans. I like knowing what’s coming. And if something is going to change, I like to know in as far advance as possible so by the time it happens, it doesn’t really feel like change anymore, but rather “part of the plan”.

So of course when this year began with a large part of my social life being upended in one night, I handled it with grace and aplomb— except for I didn’t. I still am not. The simple use of the word “aplomb” in that sentence should have been a dead giveaway. Full disclosure: I’m wrestling with how much to share here because while on the one hand I want to be vulnerable, on the other hand I think it’s important to protect one’s own confidentiality. I’m also very aware of how easy it would be for this to turn into an indulgent, melodramatic transcript of my life, which nobody wants, so I’ll try to avoid that. But here we go.

Okay so yeah, the start of the year brought with it a lot of change, and it wasn’t great. I ended up losing my life group and what felt like several important relationships to me in one fell swoop. I felt powerless— I feel powerless—and this whole year has been a clumsy and sometimes painful dance of reorientation. Often I find myself wanting to go “back”, wishing it was last August, or wishing it was last summer—some time before all the shit hit the fan. Which makes sense right? When the present is hard and the future is inscrutable, of course we desire to go back. To revert to the way things were before whatever change we perceive to have ruined everything transpired (“#MakeAmericaGreatAgain”).

But the first important thing to understand about life and change is that there is no going back. Whatever happened has happened and the past is gone (are you listening, Donald Trump?) Even if you were able to recreate it somehow in the present, it is literally impossible to make it the same. Forward is the only way through anything and there is still progression in “regression”. When you’re dealing with a difficult or painful change, that can be a really harsh reality. But its harshness makes it no less real.

Second thing I’m learning about Change is that it is extremely humbling. A reminder that Life is not under your control, maybe you don’t actually know what’s best for yourself or anyone else, and you are very much in over your head. But in letting change happen rather than resisting it, we can experience freedom alongside that humility. Recognizing our limitations and constraints gives us permission to relax and, for lack of a better phrase, let it ride. Every day as I walk into work, I pass by a car with a bumper sticker that says “Love more, fear less. Float more, steer less”, and every day I am convicted. Being “good with change” requires a tremendous capacity to trust in the present and relinquish control of the future, both of which I am naturally terrible at. But it sounds nice right? Allowing ourselves to be swayed, flexible, and open. Allowing change to move through us like a river through a valley, taking some old things with it, leaving some new things behind. You’d think because I came up with such a peaceful metaphor I’d be better at handling the real thing. Nah.

Of course there are those people who seem to naturally bode with change— feathers consistently unruffled, always wearing shirts that say shit like “chill vibes” or have peace signs on them or something. For the rest of us, being good with change is like everything else: a practice. And it’s hard. I think when we do learn to accept change, it makes us better people. We become softer, less reactive, more contemplative, less presumptuous, less self-important. But the road there can get pretty rough, at least I know I’ve had a rough fucking year. And I don’t know when it’s going to be less rough. Adapting is a skill that takes real concerted effort. If you’re in the middle of a comprehensive change process right now too, I mean, the best I can offer is encouragement. Or condolences. Either way man, you’re doing it and you should go get a drink and cheers to yourself.

It Is Well With My Soul

This past Sunday at Flood we concluded a series called “Happy Hunting”, about learning what it means to live a Joy-Filled Life. Please don’t stop reading— I know how it sounds. It sounds like a bunch of hysterical, perennially “happy” Christians trying to teach you how to never frown again. “This is how to keep a smile plastered on your face 24 hours a day, seven days a week for the rest of your life!” I swear that’s not what I’m talking about.

Honestly the phrase “joy-filled life” usually reflexively evokes an eye-roll from me. I have seen too many books and heard too many sermons by that title, most of them proving to be extremely trivializing and reductive. As if even though your heart is broken, or you can’t pay your bills, or you have an incurable disease, you’re just supposed to be happy. Just BE happy, what’s the problem?

But I believe we need to reconstruct the definition of “joy”, because I don’t think this manically cheerful, borderline insanity is what joy actually is. Like I said in my post about grief and loss, if we’re to understand spirituality, or just living, we have to first acknowledge and embrace reality. Reality, as some of you may already know, is often times an actual piece of shit. Just the worst. From like, shitty upbringings, to shitty jobs, to shitty relationships… Life is really hard and sometimes really shitty. But the joy we aspire to goes deeper than that. It’s deeper than happiness and deeper than the sometimes-shittiness of reality. I think of it more like a deep well of steadiness, restfulness, and rootedness. Real, actual joy is grounding and stable.

In yoga, the teachers regularly talk about how part of the practice is learning to maintain an even state of being, or contentment, regardless of the circumstances. Regardless of the uncomfortable position your body has been twisted into, or how long you’ve been asked to hold yourself up. We use our breath to return to equilibrium, to become healthily detached from the present. That is not to say that we ignore negative emotions as they surface—again the first step is facing the reality of our situations. But it helps in gaining perspective, and I think the peace, stillness, and contentment that comes from that practice in yoga is the same as the joy I talked about earlier. Living a joy-filled life isn’t a “Christian” thing, it’s a human thing. And you can call it whatever you want: peace, contentment, steadiness, satisfaction. I am on a personal journey to reclaim the word “joy” but please feel free to use whatever nomenclature feels good to you.

I can personally appreciate and attest to the fact that achieving joy is hard, and achieving joy in the midst of a difficult circumstance sometimes feels impossible. But I also believe that joy and unhappiness can exist in the same space, at the same time. We are big enough to hold both. Can’t tell you how yet, still figuring that one out for myself, but I’m sure it’s possible. I’m also sure that if we ever learn to live lives marked by joy, it will have taken our entire lives to get there, so I hope no one’s in a hurry. Just add it to the list of lifelong processes to work through, and be kind to yourself as you learn.

Grief and Loss

Until very recently, I’d always associated grief with death. Mourning the loss of a family member, or a friend who’d passed away. As I started getting more involved in Flood, I’d heard the term used more frequently, as people described their processes of getting over a breakup or a loss of friendship. But I think it’s only been in, really the last week, that I’ve started to realize how integral grieving is to the human experience, and how frequently it’s required.

Grieving is the healthy way of processing a loss we’ve suffered. But in order to process, we first have to acknowledge that we’ve suffered a loss. I’ve found that in happy transitions, like starting a new job, going from high school to college, or getting married, the grieving process tends to be shortchanged because “we’re celebrating!” We completely ignore the fact that there may be parts of our old job, or our hometown, or our singleness that we’ll miss. Then in harder transitions, like a divorce, the aging process, or an ending friendship, though the losses are clearer, we want to skip the grieving process because the pain is too difficult to look at. And it’s true that depending on where you are in your life, and what you’re grieving, the process can look different. Sometimes you skip right through to Acceptance, other times it feels like you will only ever feel Sadness and Anger for the rest of your life. It can get really overwhelming.

Chapter 7 of Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero (aka EHS, the book I’ve been reading as recommended by my therapist) is about grieving and what it looks like to grieve properly. The first step noted in the book is to pay attention to your emotions. Allow yourself to feel the weight of your anger, sadness, frustration, confusion, heartbreak, fatigue, disappointment, etc. Not only is this counterintuitive because we are choosing to move towards pain, it’s also extremely counter-culture. Suuuuuuuuper un-American. We’re not taught to sit and feel, we’re taught to get up and go. Pick yourself up! Dust yourself off! “If you don’t like your circumstances, change them”—basically the foundation of the American Dream. And hey, if you can’t change it, go grab a drink! Pick up a new hobby, buy a car, go shopping! Distract yourself, because sitting and feeling sad is “wallowing”, it’s pathetic. “Why cry over something you can’t change?” I 100% agree that wallowing and self-pity are not healthy avenues to venture down, but grieving is not either of those things. It’s not getting selfishly absorbed into your own emotions, but rather giving them their due space as you continue to live your life. Because when we don’t— when we ignore, bury, or stuff our feelings— we get numb. We become caricatures of ourselves with painted smiles on our faces (EHS). And to be honest, I think Christians are the worst at this. The WORST. Because for whatever gaps in our counterfeit façade we find, we can plug them right up with a bible scripture at the ready. “Rejoice in the Lord always!” (Philippians 4:4) “The joy of the Lord is my strength!’ (Nehemiah 8:10) “He has not given us a spirit of fear but that of power, of love, and of a sound mind!’” (2 Timothy 1:7).  We just say shit— we’re just saying words like robots in an attempt to bury our loneliness, fear, resentment, sorrow, and all the other hard things we’re feeling. And it results in alienating ourselves, because it is literally inhuman to feel happy all the time. God Himself isn’t even happy all the time, it’s unsustainable.

One of my favorite things Pete (we’re on a nickname basis now) says in this book is that true spirituality is rooted in facing reality. If your parents didn’t know how to love you well, and when you look back it makes you sad, be sad about it! If you really need a new job and you’re hitting dead ends and it’s frustrating, be frustrated about it! If you’re single and you want to be in a relationship but it’s just not happening right now, and you’re mad, be mad about it! Don’t try to explain what you’re feeling away with some platitude about how you’re fine because you know God is really working with you through this time. He is, but you’re not fine. Maybe you’re mad at Him. And if you are, I highly encourage you to let yourself feel that. One of the most freeing things I ever learned was how to curse at God, honestly. Because spoiler alert: He already knows you’re pissed. You’re not fooling anyone by praying passive aggressively through gritted teeth.

In the same way we can never successfully hide our emotions from God, I don’t think we can successfully hide our emotions from each other either. I mean we sure do try though, amirite?! Lord knows we give it our best shot, but despite our efforts, we start to “leak” out all over everyone around us (EHS). All that unprocessed anger and sadness comes out in passive aggression, bitterness, judgment, blurred boundaries, and fakeness. Not to pick on Christians again (always picking on Christians), but who hasn’t heard people in the church described with at least one of those things? Yeah, I wonder why.

The second thing Pete says we have to do to grieve properly is to wait. I know, it just got worse. Literally the only thing less appealing than allowing ourselves to actually feel all of our negative emotions is to then release control over when it will end. Again, I’m not advocating wallowing, or abdicating from your life. Sometimes in certain grieving processes, taking a break becomes necessary (#BereavementDays). Do as much as you can, be around people who love you, but keep allowing yourself to feel what you feel. This is when it gets gnarly because then we’re like “Well for how long? How fucking long am I going to cry about this? How long is my blood pressure going to shoot up every time I think of this situation? How many times am I going to want to punch a wall when that person comes up in conversation?” And you know what man, I don’t know. There was more to Pete’s step-by-step but it kind of all boiled down to these two things. We feel and then we wait. And then at some point, through continuing to process, wrestle, and surrender, we make it to the other side— usually well outside of our preferred timetable. Because I don’t know anything about you, your life, your process, or God’s process with you, I can’t guarantee what the end of your grieving will look like. Hell, I can’t even guarantee what the end of my grieving will look like. But I have to think that as scary and as painful as grieving can be, it’s better than burying our emotions, trying to paint a happy face on, and then leaking passive aggressively all over our friends. Be honest with yourself about how you feel. Be honest with God. And if it requires so, be honest with trustworthy people you’re in relationship with. I know it hurts, but I’d rather that than the painted face. If you would rather the painted face though, I mean hey, no shame, we’re all just trying to figure it out. But if you need me, I’ll be in the corner crying.

 

“The quickest way to reach the sun and the light of day is not to run west chasing after it, but to head east into the darkness until you finally reach the sunrise.”

#TruthTour2016

I’m not going to lie, this post almost didn’t happen. Baby New Year ran me over like a goddamn freight train — I hope 2016 was gentler to you in her arrival. But, as I read on Tumblr yesterday, “You can’t get much done in life if you only work on the days when you feel good” (Jerry West). So here we are.

I originally wanted to write about waiting and what it means to actively wait and the trials and triumphs surrounding that, but in the last few days I’ve felt it weighing more on me to talk about the importance of honesty and telling the truth. Mind you this idea came to me literally two days ago so sorry if it’s a little rough around the edges.

Okay so honesty. Most of my friends will tell you that I’m a pretty straight shooter, blunt almost to a fault. Almost. I will always tell you if you look bad in something, if you’ve said something stupid, if I like or dislike you, etc. Sometimes it goes really well, sometimes I get into fights, but that’s neither here nor there. The point is that being honest requires courage, and I’ve found that it’s way easier to be honest when someone asks you “How does this fit me?” than it is to tell someone how they’ve hurt you.

I’ve been the first kind of honest my whole life. The second kind, the kind that requires some level of emotional vulnerability, I’m just starting to learn. I read an article a while ago by Mark Manson about how we all have emotional baggage and how dating or romantic relationships in particular can reveal the emotional baggage we might be carrying. The article noted that if someone stands us up for a business meeting, it’s annoying, but by 8 pm we’ve lost ourselves in wine and Netflix and forgotten all about it. But if someone stands us up for a date, all of a sudden we’re on the phone with our best friends for hours, or sitting in our therapist’s office crying about how our parents divorced when we were 8 and we never saw our mom much after that. (Too close to home? I told you guys, no holds barred in 2016).

To me this is why being emotionally honest and ergo emotionally vulnerable seems so daunting. What if we’re rejected? And in that rejection we hear the echoes of a thousand rejections we’ve faced before that, all screaming in our ears that we are unlovable? What if we’re invalidated? And in that invalidation our biggest fears are confirmed that we are a waste of space? That we don’t matter, our existence is without consequence?

On top of all of this, emotional honesty is twofold in that it requires that we first be honest with ourselves before we can be honest with anyone else. And I can’t decide what’s more difficult, diving inward to discover and confront the ugly underbelly of your Self, or finding the courage to voice that ugly underbelly to another human being without knowing how it will be received. It’s all terrifying, really.

But I also don’t think it’s possible to have healthy relationships without it. There can be no trust built without someone first deciding to go out on a limb. There can be no bonding fostered without deciding to confront the fear of unveiling yourself. I picture it like trying to adhere a sticker to something without first peeling off the protective backing. We all realize pretty quickly that it’s not gonna work.

In my own life, I have been so lucky to have made two best friends with whom I can practice complete emotional vulnerability, and God has been so gracious to show me that I can also practice with Him. That’s not to say that I’m now great at it, or even good at it. But I have areas where I can try, and my hope would be that you find some place, a safe place, where you can try as well. Be it a friend’s couch, a school auditorium that doubles as a church on the weekends, a therapist’s office decorated like Anthropologie, wherever. I firmly believe there is no other way we can be and relate to each other. That being said, do not go to into your boss’s office and start crying about how her constructive criticism in that meeting this morning reminded you of how your parents always felt that you were never good enough lol. Don’t be silly. Again, find safe spaces. And honestly sometimes it happens that you think you’ve found a safe place in someone and they show themselves to be completely unsafe. That’s the hard thing about practice, it’s trial and error, and there’s no guarantee that at some point you won’t get hurt. In fact I would probably go the opposite way and guarantee that you will get hurt in the process. But that gives room for healing, as well as more growth, connection, understanding, and learning. I feel like at the end, it’s worth it.