I used to believe I had to do it all on my own. Relationships weren’t for me and neither was receiving support. I lived my life as a girl and then a woman striving to make it on my own, accelerate, and surpass others in the human race.
Due to several tragedies that I bear witness to as a girl, I believed that God wanted me to go through life alone. I needed to show that I was strong enough to do it without fear or asking for help. I pushed myself in my studies as surely as I pushed away possible friends and allies. ��I don’t need them,” I used to declare, “I can do it on my own.”
My idea of ‘it’ circled around getting straight ‘As,’ going to an Ivy League, and then working as a high paying diplomat. ‘It’ happened to include saving the world by telling the world ambassadors and diplomats the solutions to world hunger, poverty, war, terrorism, and disease.
Daily, I worked towards my high achieving goals with constant activities that I deemed would make me successful. As soon as I stopped working, achieving, and busying, there would be this numbness in my body. I hadn’t cried in over a decade. I would only feel a slight tickle in my throat. I wanted to feel good about what I was accomplishing, yet, I only felt empty. At night, I would flip on the TV to have some activity distract me from the numbness. After awhile, I began to get used to the numbness. At the time, I believed not feeling anger, sadness, or anything was a new level of evolution. “Great,” I thought, “I don’t have to waste time from my day with all those feelings.” Feeling, I believed, would only slow me down. Feeling was for weak people.
It was some time later, in the midst of human doing, that I organized a “Walk for Hope” fundraiser where all donations and sponsorships went to cancer research. In order to get people to donate to this important cause, I spoke about the event in front of a group of 500 people. I spoke about the facts of how many lives cancer touched. As I was listing the facts, I realized I needed to not only touch their minds; I needed to touch their hearts. So, I decided to vulnerably share a personal story about how cancer had affected my life. I told myself I was doing this for the audience. Truly, I was also doing this for my own healing.
As I stood there in front of 500 faces, I began to feel something. This wasn’t someone else’s story. This was my story. Not only did the audience need to feel it, I needed to feel it. My voice cut out and my throat felt lumpy. As I ended my speech I said, “This not only affected my life. Cancer affects the lives of many and research will help. Please stand if cancer has affected your life through a family or friend.” The hairs on my arms stood up as I saw over a hundred people stand.
A new imprint was forming that whispered, “I am not alone. There is an unspoken community.”
As I went home that day, I decided not to flip on the TV. I decided to feel and to wonder. I began to wonder about what I had accomplished and created. I wondered if it would be nice to share more of my life with a friend, a community, or a partner. I felt a mixture of grief percolating with some joy.
Although I didn’t cry that night, something was opening. A sense of peace began to come over me that night as I lay in bed and closed my eyes. Maybe I could feel again. Maybe I wasn’t destined to go through this life alone. Maybe I could connect with others who went through hardships or who were passionate about the same causes.
A new sense of hope emerged.
I began to slow down and connect more with people and to engage in conversation during my day. I began to trust more that this world was for me. Most of all, I began to smile more. Not the fake smile I used to do to ‘give face’ as I passed someone. This time, it was a genuine heartfelt smile as I greeted another person and felt connection.
As I write this, my intention is to share with you that while grief and hardship have likely been faced in your life, it is not something that needs to be buried or not felt. Courage and strength is not found in numbness, putting on a tough face, and staying busy. Courage is rooted in strength of the heart. That means connecting with your heart even when it is painful. It means grieving, feeling your feelings, and then taking life step by step. It means seeking support and making connections with like-hearted souls and trusting you are never really alone. Support is waiting for you in a hug, a mutual sigh, a smile, a laugh, or a reassuring touch. Support is waiting for you in words of encouragement and acceptance. Connection is available and joy can be found.
With love and support,