Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Being Tender and Open is Beautiful

"Being tender and open is beautiful. As a woman, I feel continually shhh’ed. Too sensitive. Too mushy. Too wishy washy. Blah blah. Don’t let someone steal your tenderness. Don’t allow the coldness and fear of others to tarnish your perfectly vulnerable beating heart. Nothing is more powerful than allowing yourself to truly be affected by things. Whether it’s a song, a stranger, a mountain, a rain drop, a tea kettle, an article, a sentence, a footstep, feel it all – look around you. All of this is for you. Take it and have gratitude. Give it and feel love."  -Zooey Deschanel

Those who know me know I love a good quote.  This one spoke to the heart.

Ever since I can remember, I've been a sensitive and "tender-hearted" individual.  When I was five, my older cousins took me to see Bambi.

We had to leave the theater.

When I was sixteen, a man who was homeless came into Papa John's where I worked to put in a job application.  Based on his appearance, I was pretty sure he would not get the job.  I was right. My manager scoffed at the idea.

After I went home, I spent the better part of my night sitting out on my porch, tears falling down my face, contemplating the unfairness of life.  Here I was with nothing but youth and a clean appearance on my side.  And here he was, the irony of desperately needing a job being the thing that kept him from it.  "Social proof" I wouldn't learn about until much later, but my lesson in how it applied I learned early.

The older I got, the tougher I tried to be.  To shield myself and my emotions.  I thought that if I did so, I could present to other people and to myself as well, that I could be strong and handle things. To maybe erase some of my bad memories and experiences, or at least to view them differently.  I didn't want to appear too emotional to others, and I always hated crying in front of people.  Especially when it was in front of people who had hurt me. 

As I got older still, I learned that strength comes from within.  And allowing myself to experience the full range of those emotions is what builds my foundation of strength.  Being open to things, even when it means it might break your heart, is what makes me a better person. It can be detrimental at times, and there are those times when I've had to set boundaries for my own sanity and protection.  But even when I have to take some time out alone to do it, I still feel the full effect of my experiences, good and bad.

If I did not allow myself to be vulnerable, to be truly affected by things, I might have taken another path to where I am entirely.  Becoming a mother has opened up a whole new range of emotions for me.  Where I used to maybe smile to myself at happy events in life, I am now brought to tears at times.  Furthermore, I might have chosen a career path that maybe helped people day to day, but didn't make a difference in the lives of others in a way that satisfied my inner need to do so.  

So I go to work everyday.  Like any other job, there are up and down days.  And then there are the days that break my heart.  Sometimes I think of what the people I work with have been through, and it literally hurts to breathe.  But I let myself be affected by it.  I let myself feel empathy, admiration, guilt, graciousness, and like I'm lucky.  Sometimes I cry, sometimes I'm angry, sometimes I'm astounded.  And in the end, if I didn't let myself feel those things, I don't think I would be very good at my job.  

So yeah, I'm sensitive.  I'm brought to tears by looking into my son's eyes, I cry at pretty much any animal movie, my breath is taken away by sunsets and the ocean.  Being vulnerable and emotional is what lets me give.  Give gratitude, give to others, and give love.  


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