On Tuesday, the candle burning on my altar was lit with the intention of inviting myself to speak my truth. Writing, especially as here on my blog, has given me an outlet to write my truth. Over the last year, this blog has opened me up to share a side of myself that only my closest friends really knew before now. And I do feel that with each post I share pieces of my truth with people who stop by here, the friends and family who read it, and I share it with me. It has been quite the gift in my life.
I have discussed that I believe we do censor ourselves on our blogs, but the reality is that we do this in our lives. Most of us do not intentionally want to hurt another person with our words, spoken or written. Yet, we do hurt one another. Intention is sometimes not enough because we occasionally speak long before we have had time to think things through, and we also cannot control how the other person reacts to what we communicate. When people react to something I say in a way that indicates they feel hurt by my words or actions, the first thought I often have is, “but don’t you know me?” To me, this means: I would never mean to hurt you. I am still the same person I was right before those truly horrible words left my mouth and I really wish I could pull them back inside me. How can I fix this? But you just hurt me, that’s the only reason I just said that. I am just thinking this through aloud. I know I am being triggered here but I can’t find a way out of this situation. I feel cornered. I don’t know what to do so I am trying to fill up the space with words. And so many other similar thoughts.
In November, I found myself with an illness that centered around my throat on the heels of an experience where I had been unable to explain how I was feeling about something on the heels of a life where I am afraid to hurt anyone by telling them how I really feel. In the midst of the process of the doctors figuring out what was wrong, I had a procedure that was supposed to be a simple needle biopsy that might take five minutes that became a much longer and intense experience. Though they were wonderful throughout the procedure, because the doctor, nurse, and technician thought it would only take a few minutes, they didn’t give me a lot of instructions. My throat was numbed but my mind and adrenaline were awake and I was trying to breathe them into a space of calm. When I suddenly had a question and tried to ask it, the three of them said, “do not speak” at the same time. I hadn’t really thought about the fact that there was a very long needle in my throat, so I shouldn’t speak. I couldn’t see what was being done as my head was tipped back and it is difficult to see one’s neck without a mirror anyway. I was running so many scenarios through my head, including one that centered around the fact that because of the trouble they were having I must have cancer. In a sense, it was all of my worst fears in one moment: I had no control of anything. I could not move. I could not speak. I could not ask questions. My body was not doing what it was supposed to do. Even though Jon was there rubbing my leg, I felt alone and terrified. Even though there was a certain layer of good news that came out of this procedure and then very good news a week later, I can still feel that sensation of laying there feeling as I did that day…as though at any moment I might have to step out of my own body.
The day after this procedure, I began to be honest with myself about the lesson that was sitting across from me in every moment of this illness. The lesson that is always sitting in front of me. The one I have tried to understand and be honest about but never really want to look at. The lesson that scares me. Being literally unable to speak or move was the physical reality that made me pay attention to this lesson.
It is time to start letting it out. All the words, fears, anger, sadness, shame, hurt, agony that lives inside me. It is time to start letting it out. For real this time.
I have never done this because I am always afraid of what will happen. All the what ifs that come up when I actually think about telling someone how I feel. Because here is the thing, I don’t think the other person always has to know how you feel. Really, what do you expect them to do about it? You are in charge of your world and how you react to things. If you call a parent up and suddenly let him or her know all the ways you have been hurt about over the years, do you think that will suddenly solve everything? That you will just be over that pain because you said those words to that person and invited him or her to feel like shit? I don’t think so.
No, I am talking about something else. I am talking about being honest with myself about how I am feeling. Figuring out what is underneath so that when I do need to tell someone something, I can come from a place that isn’t full of all the anger, hurt, sadness, defensiveness, and pain that bubbled up to begin with.
When I met with my teacher in November, we talked about how I do share so many pieces of my truth here and in some other writing I do, but that my body is letting me know that I need to speak it. Out loud. My personal practice centers around this idea of spending time talking aloud about how I am feeling. In college, I went to therapy as my parents were divorcing. The therapist would often say, “And how did that make you feel?” And I would start talking. He would stop me and say, “But how did it make you feel?” I can see him pointing to his heart here, referencing how I was talking from my head. Even though I felt safe with him, I was totally afraid to be honest about how I was feeling. The anger that was bubbling in me, threatening to boil over as tears that might never stop. Through my conversation with my teacher, I was honest that I am afraid to tell my closest friend, who knows a whole lot of shit about my truth, and my husband how I feel about certain things, about certain people, about certain moments in my life.
As I talked with my teacher, it became clear that several things happen because of my fear of sharing how I feel. Because I do believe that we are constantly triggered by those around us and that we have to look at how we react to things, I spend a lot of time in my own head thinking about why I am reacting a certain way, what is coming up for me, and looking for the lessons. I am almost trapped in my own head unable to see the feelings for what they are. I spend so much time blaming myself for how things are going in my life that I am unable to see all the things I simply have no control over. But because all this work that I am doing in my head is such hard work, I sometimes resent that others around me don’t see all the work. They don’t see how hard I am trying to understand and be present to the moment. But then here comes the other part: they don’t see how hard I am trying to help them. And with that, poof, the very thing that I most do not want to invite in my life shows up, just like that: I become a martyr.
In trying to own my reaction to life around me, I somehow have decided that I cannot share how I am feeling about something. I am trying to protect the other person, but in doing this, I start to feel bad because suddenly I realize that very few people are protecting me. And then = suddenly I am alone in a room with only one door and its marked resentment.
In not speaking my truth, the truth began to fester in me, literally. Even though I am doing so much work and working so hard. Even though I have learned so many lessons, especially in the last few years. Even though my heart feels heavy a lot of the time. Even though the darkness sometimes threatens to knock at my door. Even though all of this is true, I have to be honest with myself.
The somewhat obvious question sits in front of me, “What would happen if you did start speaking your truth?” The answer comes in the form of another question, “What will happen if you don’t?” And my body already knows the answer. This is why I am grateful for the opportunity to get the lesson without cancer. I am grateful that I am beginning to push through the fear to be honest with myself. For real this time.
(And no, Carla doesn’t pay me to her plug her candles, but they have became such an important part of my own healing in the past few weeks that I just can’t talk about them enough. Again this evening, speak my truth is nestled on my altar burning brightly.)