Have you ever had that feeling? That feeling right after you read something poignant, something true, something you’ve been avoiding thinking about because thinking about it would hurt, and you don’t have time for that sort of emotional volatility because your kids are home and Octonauts only lasts 22 minutes and you’ve already spent two of them refilling your coffee and four of them reading whatever it was that set you off? So instead of thinking too hard about it, you look away from whatever you were reading, stand up, and then have to double over because the ceiling just shrank on you, and you have to hold your insides in because they are in danger of somehow falling out? But you definitely cannot cry, or weep, because every time you do your face gets all blotchy and lights up like a tattle tale, and the last thing you want to do is explain to your kids why you might be sad, because sad doesn’t begin to describe it and plus words are so hard. So you angrily swipe away the renegade tear and curse at it for betraying all the things you are desperately working to keep inside, and didn’t that stupid, careless tear notice you were HOLDING YOUR INSIDES IN AND THAT TEARS ARE SUPPOSED TO LIVE INSIDE?!
Yeah, me neither.
A little more than year ago I sat down and wrote in my journal about sexual assault. The about-to-be President of the United States had been exposed for admitting and being proud of the way that he treated women, and the nation’s response to it had left me awake at night reliving my own experiences with sexual assault. There have been so many, and I don’t remember how some of them ended. And looking back on them now, re-reading what I wrote, I see how much I qualify my experiences. I downplay them. I take responsibility for other people’s actions. Maybe that time didn’t count, because… Technically, it wasn’t… I should have… It wasn’t as bad as…
Now, I never do this to other people. When people have talked to me about what’s going on in their lives, I have never thought to say, ‘Well, that doesn’t really count,’ or, ‘That isn’t as bad as what this other person experienced.’ In fact, for other people, I am generally the champion of reminding people that just because someone else may have experienced something worse, more traumatic, more difficult does not mean that what they are going through is not worth talking about or having feelings about.
I am all in when it comes to giving others permission to have their feelings, talk about their bad days, and know that they are seen and believed and heard in their challenges.
And I do not allow myself the same grace.
So, recently, the social media #metoo posts about people’s experiences with sexual harassment, assault, or rape have brought me right back. Added to that is a conscious decision of late to be more gentle with how I treat myself, and a paragraph in a book about forgiveness. I’m a mess. But I don’t have time to be a mess—Wednesdays are busy, y’all—so instead of pouring more coffee I find myself holding my insides in. And I’m going to be okay with that.