Whenever we see something empty it is quite normal, and generally wise, to fill it back up. It can be anything from the need to fill up the gas tank, restock the candy drawer or recharging depleted computer/cell phone batteries. Depending on the perceived value or importance we give the tangible voids in our life is tantamount to how prompt we are to fill them. What about our emotional voids?
Do you find yourself groaning now that you realize the direction I am going– and it involves, once again, talking about feelings. Perhaps you are starting to think about the laundry that needs to be ironed, the garbage cans that need a good scrubbing, or anything else that would prevent thoughts from going beyond the arduous task at hand. It seems most will do anything to avoid facing their feelings – especially when they are attached to personal voids.
It isn’t always easy dealing with feelings – and when it comes to confronting our emotional voids, well, the anxiety of having to acknowledge them, let alone face them, can push us into hiding behind our life. How do you hide behind life, you ask? Actually it’s quite easy. In fact, we usually slip into hide and seek mode without even realizing what we’re doing. All it takes is finding a project, chore or mindless chatter to jump into … laundry, gardening, cleaning, errands are all excellent activities to hide behind because they consume the unspent emotional energy created by the feelings we refuse to acknowledge.
Actually, facing my feelings is something that has become a bit easier now that I can no longer hide behind life as easily as I once could. What is frustrating for me is the realization that confronting emotional needs is far more easier, and far less complicated, then all the havoc created whenever I jumped into some sort of project. Now I can see what a waste … not only of time and energy but of life.
What is the big deal when it comes to baring feelings? Is it fear to admit we have needs that we want acknowledged or filled – or is it pride? I think in my case it has been a bit of both. There was no way I was going to admit an emotional need or want and risk rejection or scorn so it became easier for me to just tell myself I didn’t need anything or anyone. It didn’t take me long to become convinced I was “an Island unto myself” – I just put a wall up around my emotions and on life went … without me. That’s right, I said without me.
My first glimpse into that reality was when my mother was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. During her illness I had to revisit many of the emotional voids I had carried since a child. Pushing past the fear that surrounded those voids was tough. However, getting past the anger that the fear gave way to was almost impossible. Fortunately something happened to help me see it, for the most part, boiled down to pride … and the need for me to get over myself.
I remember the day mom and I sat and talked about my perceived unrequited needs – those long–ago–yet–long–held–on–to childish needs that left gaping voids. She then shared her perception of the different situations I had brought up to her. We sat in silence for what seemed like hours but in reality was mere minutes before she looked at me and said, quite simply, “I wish I had known.” What! I spent years playing hide and seek with those feelings and everything was summed up in a matter of a few minutes and a simple statement … she didn’t know.
Talk about an epiphany. My mother was flesh and blood – human – and not a mind reader. Now here I will veer off topic long enough to say that, while mom obviously was no mind reader, I do think she could … now come closer so I can whisper … see through walls! Ha, I can see my sisters, CJ and JB, as they read this – well, after they straighten up from leaning into the screen to hear me whisper … now, come on girls, admit it, you leaned forward didn’t you! I am clearly teasing – about mom seeing through walls, that is – though as kids we did find it amazing how she could be in another room yet always knew exactly what we touched, took or broke.
That conversation with my mother pushed me to re-evaluate the way I guarded my feelings with everyone in my life. In particular, it was realizing I had created most of the emotional voids I carried because I refused to face them, to talk about them … to feel them. I realized there were so many issues that could have been settled if I had simply allowed myself to feel the voids.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t until after mom died that everything finally came to a head and I started lowering the wall that I normally kept my emotions behind. At first it was quite challenging because I had to fight the urge to ignore a particular feeling and, instead, face it head on. But, once I started acknowledging my feelings, wow, talk about a huge impact on just about every facet of my life. It has changed the way I see myself, my life, my relationships with family and friends.
I still have a ways to go when it comes to facing any feelings attached to my illness – not only facing how I personally feel about having a terminal illness but what I am able to share with friends and family. However, in general, I have to say I can surprise myself over the ease in which I am able to acknowledge my feelings … it has become easier to talk about them and move on.
I now see the aspects of my life that remained stagnant because it was tethered to certain feelings that I had been carrying for years … feelings that shaded my sense of self, my trust in others, my ability to express love. Yes, the emotional voids were heavy and tiresome yet, through the years, I dragged that emotional baggage with me everywhere I went.
That is, until that day when mom told me she wished she had known how I felt. Now, where my family and close friends are concerned, it is probably safe to say they know how I feel about them, our relationship, and anything and everything in between. I have found my friendships are warmer, the relationships deeper because feelings are unencumbered with all sorts of silent ruminations – you know, the “hmm, I wonder what was meant by that comment?” type of thought.
I guess you could say it has been somewhat liberating because my heart, my life, my friendships, and relationships are not tethered to hurt, raw, vulnerable feelings. I have learned it is important to acknowledge feelings, mine or someone else’s – no matter how insignificant they may seem – then talk about it. Yes, it really is that simple …. It’s called feeling the void.
I wish I had known.