No longer comfortably numb

Levi frowning during an amazing social justice conference at Reed College.
Levi frowning during an amazing social justice conference at Reed College.

I needed permission to feel. And, I didn’t have it. I didn’t give it to myself. I didn’t think I could give it to myself. I felt conditioned to be stoic. I felt conditioned to not show emotion. I felt conditioned to put on a happy face and keep plugging through, while recognizing there are ebbs and flows to life. I simply chose not to react to them.

Or so I thought.

Flashing back to a scene long ago where I was in my apartment. My boyfriend was visiting, not saying much, smoking a cigarette at my dining table. I knew the relationship was ending. I played two songs that spoke to my emotional being, passively describing how I felt because I couldn’t vocalize the words. He picked up on what I was trying to tell him. I was trying to tell him I knew something changed, and I knew he no longer cared for me in the same way as when we got together. And, I knew he didn’t want the relationship to last. And, I was deeply, very sad. Though I could not express any of that. Soon after the relationship ended. I was heartbroken. And, I was afraid of being vulnerable about expressing those emotions because I was afraid he would leave, and I would never meet anyone again. I was afraid I would never find love again.

I am still afraid of being vulnerable, but something in my life changed dramatically when I became a mother. Something became incredibly clear as I have watched my son grow up to be a man. I want him to be able to express himself, to use his words, and to be vulnerable with those he cares about. I want him to be able to express when he is unhappy as easily as he could express when he is happy. I want him to be able to tell those he cares about that something they did bugged him, a lot, and he would prefer if they could not do that thing.

The realization sank in – I need to model this behavior. How can I model this behavior? I am stubborn. I won’t admit I made a mistake if I adamantly believe I’m not. I have a tendency to go for the jugular when really provoked, and since I don’t like being mean I tend towards a state of artificial harmony. But that means frustrations come through in the form of passive (aggressive) behavior.

Sure, my son can come into his own with those weaknesses, but I feel like I ought to do my part to teach him a better way. So, what’s this better way?

I need to learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. I need to be vulnerable. So, why is vulnerability important?

Brené Brown gives a great TED Talk on why that’s important.

So, I should be vulnerable. But how? First, a therapist, years ago, gave me permission to be mad. Since, I’ve acquainted myself with other coaches and trainers who have reiterated that sentiment. It is okay to feel. It is okay to say no. It is okay to tell people you don’t want or like a thing. I have to remind myself to be compassionate to me. I have to remind myself that I don’t have to be perfect. I have to remind myself to put away the “shoulds” and accept that good enough is okay.