For some home is a place of comfort and safety, where laziness rolls in and we can watch Netflix all day. But at the same time it can also be a place of earth shattering brokenness. It can be a place where we finally acknowledge our pain because the silence is so deafening. For some home is the place where we are reminded that we are broken – where we are beckoned to listen to our demons.
As a birthday approaches what’s the natural thing to do – reflect on the year. As I meet new people, I’ve been reflecting on the year, relationships, brokenness, and healing. If I looked at myself a year ago I was carefree, extroverted, and passionate. I didn’t struggle to meet new people, had just quit school to return home for some soul searching, and was returning to the church I grew up in. I’d had a feeling in the pit of my stomach that something big was going to happen, but what I didn’t know was that a year later I’d be reflecting on the season from hell. Dealing with your demons is not fun. It makes you stare yourself in the face and look at all your insecurities and try to convince yourself that you are worthy of being loved.
A friend of mine once said, “Life sucks and it’s probably going to be difficult and painful more than it’s going to be easy and fun. As soon as we can accept that we can actually live more fully in our pain and enjoy life even more.” Isn’t it funny how let down expectations lead to more pain than actually being let down. Let me explain. If you don’t get into a certain college the pain that you feel isn’t solely from the rejection it’s from thinking that you’ll never live that life, never meet those people, never have that job, etc. What we lose is control and sight of the future. It seems a lot of times we put a stamp on our dreams and present them to God and say, “Hey, I like this plan. I think this is what’s supposed to happen. Please make it happen. Amen.” Sometimes we even say “we’ll do whatever it takes” or “I promise I’ll go wherever you call” (as long as it’s part of my plan too, right?).
The past year has encouraged me to look a little closer at my story and discover some of my demons. The funny thing is as I’ve sought out wisdom in various books and from close friends I realized I’m not alone. In fact, most of the thoughts and feelings I’ve been trying to hide for years are actually universal. We all face rejection, we all have times of not being included, we all face feelings of unworthiness and insecurity, and we all feel lonely. The shame we feel from these things is meant to isolate us and perpetuate our loneliness.
I was having a conversation the other night talking about these things and about how to fix it and what I’ve been trying to do to end the cycle. I started explaining how I’ve been trying to ask for help and be vulnerable with other people and not just recite a story like we have no emotional attachment to it and pretend it doesn’t affect us. Not just that, but being vulnerable in a way that invites other people to do the same. I’m saying these things and let me tell you – I am no good at any of them. I’ve had a lot of failures in this area. There’s been many times where I’m in the moment and feeling awesome. Then I walk away and realize I just tried to fix that person and make the problem go away instead of being with them in it. The reason I’m saying these things is because we are all a work in progress.
After I had dumped all these things on someone recently they asked me one of the hardest questions I’ve ever had to answer. As you know we all have something to improve on and they had just acknowledged, “I could probably work on that too.” However, the next question was the stumper. “What’s given you the most success in being vulnerable? What are some tips that you could give?” Whoa. These days we talk about being vulnerable and how to do it all the time in our culture. But what actually works? What are the tangible things that we can say or do that provoke authenticity and true emotion? The answer for me. Knowing yourself. In order to relate to other people, you have to know your triggers. You have to know what in your story may get triggered when hearing someone else’s story – you have to know your “go to”. By this I mean what do you do to separate yourself. Mine is saying, “It’s ok though. I’m fine.” I get done telling a story about an extreme amount of pain in my life and undo everything by saying it’s ok. That doesn’t invite anyone to be with me in that story and it doesn’t invite healing. Sure, some people may know you better than that and push you, but why put yourself in a position to feel more unknown and more rejection if you don’t have to?
Growing up is hard and as I become more of an adult I’m realizing that I can’t just shove things under the rug anymore. If I truly want to grow up I have to work on becoming the healthiest version of myself. I’m not saying I’ll ever actually get there, because the finish line never really exists in these things – but we can always work to get there. I know if I didn’t go through this year I’d be sitting pretty and looking at life with a fairy tale lens wondering why none of my reality was like that. I know if I don’t face my demons and get to know myself and my story I’ll end every friendship, romantic relationship, and unfulfilling job wondering what is wrong with everyone else. What I won’t acknowledge is my own brokenness and where “my stuff” got in the way. That’s what this year has shown me. Growth is hard and feelings are hard, but they make us better. After all it’s not really about what you do in this world, it’s about who you are and being who you were created to be.