I was talking with my boss/good friend/all around awesome human being this week, and we both were practically in tears talking about the death of someone we had never met. We were allowing each other to be emotional over something that hit our deepest fears a little too closely, and we did so without judgement. It got me thinking about how important this is.
I should tell you that I get brought to tears ALL THE TIME. Like, over everything. Social media posts, sad commercials, pictures of sad dogs- and for the love of God, do NOT show me one of those videos of military coming home to surprise their family. I do not present as an emotional person. In fact, many would describe me as a no nonsense cut out the BS just get on with it kind of person.
I am both of these people. I am a hard core introvert who cannot tolerate fakeness or unnecessary words. I am also painfully sensitive. I have always been painfully sensitive to the point where one image can (and has) been seared in my brain for a decade, coming back every day to remind me of the suffering in the world.
Why am I telling you this? Because I have recently had an epiphany. I will get back to that in a moment. When I was a kid, the world was honestly too much for my little heart to handle. I once described it to someone as walking through a tunnel of razor blades. My nerves were constantly firing and I had not yet developed the skills to manage it. Then came early adulthood with its struggles and turmoils and lots of loss. So I learned to shut it down- because that is what we are taught to do to get through life; just lock up all the sadness that make other people uncomfortable and don't cry because you will look weak and you are trying to be a tough woman in a mans world.
My therapist once told me-( side note, I have now reached the point in my life where I begin far too many sentences with, "My therapist says...") she told me that we develop all these defenses to protect ourselves. And they work. Until they don't. Well welcome to your thirties where all sorts of things don't work anymore. You are left to redefine who and what you are independent of your family and your upbringing, and it can be a messy process.
I have spoken a lot about how something amazing happened to me when I turned 40, and I will say it again here. I just started allowing the overly sensitive nature of myself to flow out of me and I stopped apologizing for it. I think it was more out of pure fatigue than empowerment, to be honest. You know what happened? I felt like I could breathe. I stopped hiding fear and sadness behind anger and just let my nerves be raw. And they hurt a lot less when I did.
Now comes the epiphany. What else did I start doing at 40 (Besides mammograms and upping my fiber intake...) ? I started writing. I found that my hypersensitive nerves were begging to be given a voice, and I had spent 4 decades silencing them. They had a lot to say, and I finally let them have a seat at the table. Ernest Hemingway said, "The world breaks everyone, then some become strong at the broken places." Well I realized that my broken places (and let me tell you there are a lot of them) were where my stories lie.
You see, what I had been taught was a weakness was in fact the part of me that I am now more grateful for than anything. It allows me to connect to stories and fictional worlds in a way that makes me excited to write. My books are for me, but I do hope that they help someone else heal their own broken places.