It’s so not.
On the flight to Florida, my heart told me that it has even better insights than my head. This excited my head, because my head likes insights, but it also confused my head, which didn’t know how to get to my heart. My head wanted instructions.
So my heart gave me a hint. While listening to bubbles dance past my ears on a swim in the ocean on day four, my heart reminded me that the French word for “heart” is “coeur.”
You cannot access your heart without COURage.
So I courageously journeyed south (of my ears) and learned that whenever my heart feels vulnerable, I instinctively retreat to my head. That’s my safe zone. I can think my way around things from up there, garner praise, avoid trouble.
But the Uni-verse didn’t put giant, impassioned hearts in us just so that we could ignore them.
S/he gave us these hearts so that we could ride them like wild horses towards the sunset of our dreams.
It is blasphemous to ignore our hearts’ whispers.
I learned last week that my heart is even bigger than I knew. The times when I thought I was in my heart, I was really only rubbing off the dried-up outer skin of the onion.
That’s good…that I have a big heart. I guess.
It’s also SCARY because right now my heart is telling me that it is sad. And my head doesn’t want to know the depth of the sadness. My head just wants to retreat. It is scared. So scared, in fact, that for a moment, I saw white. Not black like when people faint in the movies or red like Sublime says, but white, like pain.
I do not know whether my heart has always been this sad (maybe that’s why I’ve trained myself to run from it) or whether today’s sadness is conditional.
Maybe I will feel better tomorrow.
I do know that this slide down the murky slope into darkness is too familiar. I’m remembering the constant desire to sleep. To escape. To not wake up until I can breathe without reminding myself to inhale.
There is a surprising comfort in THIS place, too, friends.
The comfort of sadness is an insidious one. A lure. One we’d prefer not to acknowledge, because when we do, we have to face the fact that we enjoy the power of our sadness. There are excuses here. A relief of responsibilities, a “specialness” about us. There’s pity and there’s attention from loved ones whose love we may not be able to access when they are not worried about us.
It’s also easy to manipulate people when we’re sad. I’ve done it plenty, and so have you, regardless of whether you acknowledge it.
Our heads may judge this manipulation as “bad,” but everything is inherently neutral, and this behavior is just another survival mechanism…a sign of intelligence, really. (As babies, we learn that people are gentler with us when we’re sad.)
By NO means are anxiety, depression, or other mental road bumps ALL about manipulation; that’s the LAST thing I’d want to imply.
It IS, however, immeasurably empowering to consider how we use our struggles as crutches, because until we realize that we are leaning on something, we will not get rid of it.
Did you read me? Until we OWN how our struggles have HELPED us, we are powerless to move past them.
Thanks to many years of happiness work, I have the tools–the scaffolding, if you will–to endure today’s exploration of my heart without falling into the depths of despair I’ve felt previously.
You need scaffolding when you feel yourself slipping, my friend.
Previously, when the storm clouds of sadness would roll in, my head would judge me. I’d twist gratitude into a whip and berate myself for the sake of all of the people in this world who have more difficult lives than I have. My head would tell me I had no right to be sad, and that a stronger person would just suck it up.
Heads can be judgy like that. They’re just trying to protect us, our heads are. They do it because they’re scared. Scared to recognize that sometimes it’s the stronger individual who does not “grin and bear it” but who confronts her sadness, figures out why it’s there, and slays that dragon instead of swallowing it.
Today, unlike in years past, I am courageously, PUBLICLY sharing my heart-heaviness because I refuse to contribute any longer to the shaming of mental health challenges by hiding my own. I refuse to play into the fallacy that accessing one’s emotions is a sign of weakness when really it is a sign of great character strength, ridiculed only by intimidated cowards.
Today I show you my sadness because owning ALL the parts of ourselves–ESPECIALLY the parts we used to think were shameful–THIS is what it means to “Let Ourselves Shine.”
Do not worry about me, friend: I have scaffolding. I’ll tend to my heart the way it deserves. I will see my therapist and talk to her about the things I’m afraid to discuss. I will exercise like a madwoman, marinate in my babies’ laughter, eat healthy, speak kindly to myself, lean on my husband, meditate, ask for help.
And I will celebrate the strength those things require of me.
So, yes: I am sad. I am crying a lot. I even stuck my face in a pillow and yelled to see if that would help. [It did, a little.]
But I’m far stronger than today’s lure of sadness.
I have the tenacity to get out of bed even when I just want to sleep.
I know I am loved even when my brain tells me otherwise.
I know that tomorrow…if I take care of myself…tomorrow I might feel better.
And I know I am succeeding at my vacation goal of learning to listen to my heart because even though this post got a little heady, it was not my head who told me these truths.
It was my heart.
Have you ever felt ashamed of struggles with happiness?
Have you refused to see a therapist because you saw it as a sign of weakness?
Have you experienced self-loathing because you think a stronger person wouldn’t even consider “relying” on anxiety medication to get through the day?
I have, too. And the more time I spend with people who are dedicated to thriving, the more obvious it becomes to me that the shame surrounding mental health challenges affects EVERYONE.
We are all responsible for the energy we bring to this world. If we want our children to be self-loving, we are morally obligated to model it.
EVERYBODY experiences sadness, my friend. Not everybody commits themselves to growing from it.
Seeing a therapist, taking medication, militantly rocking your fundamentals, doing whatever it is you need to do to be YOUR healthiest, happiest self in this world: these are not signs that you “cannot handle” life, Love.
These are signs that you CAN.
How does today’s post affect you? Please share with me in the comments. I love to hear from you!
Bethany Pearson O’Connor is a Life Enthusiast, Soul Photographer, and Self-Help Addict. Bethany connects with other “Lovahs of Light” on “Catching the Light,” (her blog at bethanyo.com), on Facebook, and on Twitter @_bethanyo.