Vulnerable Disappointment - Part 1
I realized the other night that you can’t sob while running on the treadmill. There’s something about breathing patterns, rhythms, and the need to choose one tempo or you fail at both. That night I chose to run. I ran my emotions out. I ran to the lyrics of the song that made me want to cry. I ran and let my tears fall anyway.
It was time to work through the real emotions. The disappointment. The shattered hopes. The frustrations. I realized though, it wasn’t even about the emotions. It was about sharing the real emotions and inviting community into the life of these emotions.
See, it’s easy to appear strong – to live in the logic of what you need to appear as. Logic is black and white. Logic makes sense and sticks to patterns and rules. Logic exists in structure and systems.
It is really easy to get the job done, to appear fine, say you’re fine, convince yourself you’re fine, then go home and cry into your pillow, or journal. You can even do this every single.day. But that isn’t what truly defines being strong.
Strength – if you’ve heard 5 seconds of any Brene Brown talk - is straight up vulnerability, honesty, truth, and the courage to share what’s really going on inside. This is especially true when a song you’ve heard a thousand times came on and triggers all the feels.
Maybe it’s time to share my real feelings.
I’m almost 38. I’m single. I’ve never been in a serious relationship. And up until 7 months ago, I placed a lot of my self worth in my social status -even though my logic knew this is completely wrong.
As young girls and teens, we create these ideas of what life will look like when we’re older. We formulate ideas and ideals, hopes and dreams, and we attach the mathematical equation to it. For example, I equated beauty to relationship. The pretty girls had boyfriends. If you didn’t have a boyfriend, it was probably because you were weird… or not pretty.
We also follow the social norms of those that have gone before us and expect our path to be similar.
For example: My mom got married when she was 22. She had 3 kids by the time she was 27 – as did her best friend. My best friend got married when she was 23 and she now has 3 daughters. It was the only path I truly knew and believed would be what life looked like, and I wasn’t following.
I didn’t know what had gone wrong. I waited. And still waited. And then waited, disappointed. 28 came and went. Congratulating 22 year old’s on their engagements got hard. 35 showed up way too soon and still left me single.
I chose to busy myself with education, leadership, jobs, hobbies, travel… However, when your heart deeply desires all these things AND companionship, disappointment can set in deep. When asked repeatedly about “fixing” the situation, the probing curiosity or suggestions from others left me with anger and frustration. I do not have the answer to “Why are you not married?” and the implication left me hurting.
As in elementary school, it can feel like your worth is tied to the social connection of marriage, particularly when placed in roles of church leadership. The years brought more disappointment and a heightened awareness that I must be lacking something – and – that there was a terrible defect in who I was that kept the missing husband away.
My pleas to God were persistent. I would demand something to hold onto. I wanted answers, hope, faith, or something that would bring me clarity or understanding.
Instead, His answer has always been “Trust me”.
Nothing more, and nothing less.
And while this doesn’t give me the relief I believe I’d get from “Wait 2 months, Shar” or “You will be married in March of 2015 so enjoy your singleness before this all changes,” it reminds me that He’s still working.
It also reminded me how loving God is, or how His ways are higher than our ways. Most of the time I have to be okay with blind trust or blind faith.
Because, His answer is never “Get over it and let it go.”
His answer is never “You don’t deserve it”.
His answer is never “You’re not good enough.”
His answer is always reflective of His plan, His steadfast character, and His faithfulness.
And, His answer never tells me to stop feeling, longing for, hoping in, praying about, or dreaming. I let myself feel. I can feel lonely. Feel lost. Feel forgotten. Feel angry. I let myself feel frustrated and invalidated.
I might feel hurt, lost, used, misunderstood, invisible, and of course, I will probably feel those non-enough emotions a lot.
It’s okay to feel because we are created to feel and experience emotions. And when that one song comes on, we are given permission feel all the things. This has to be why that song was written, right?
The thing is, though I won’t stay in those feelings. I will acknowledge what I feel, and then I will choose to move forward. I will choose to change the song. But sometimes, we need to ask someone else to change the song for us.
We need to invite others into the real emotions.
To be continued...
- Sharlene O'Reilly