When my brain gets swirly with all the things I can’t control, and panic floods my chest, and my prayers start sounding like: “I can’t, I can’t, I can’t!” and: “It’s not okay!”
…When that happens, I close my eyes.
“Tamara,” I ask myself, “do you believe God is real?”
“Do you believe He knows your heart?”
“Do you believe He cares about your heart?”
“Do you believe He can do ANYTHING?”
“Do you believe He is good?”
“Do you believe He is, in all His ways, Love?”
I talked to my therapist about how, when I was a child, I was cuddly, and needed lots of love, and also easily hurt.
My siblings would tease me and, rather than get mad, my heart would break. I interpreted their teasing as a lack of love because I loved them, and I knew I would never treat them the way they were treating me. So, heartbreak- characterized by screaming and crying. Because I was a child. And children don’t come to this earth just instinctively knowing how to deal with heartbreak.
But my parents didn’t know how to deal with it either, turns out.
Mom would drag me to my room because, she’d say, it didn’t matter what my brother or sister did, all that mattered was that the way I was handling it was inappropriate. My emotional reaction was too big for the situation. (Although, in my defense, any negative emotion in that house was considered inappropriate.)
And I’d be even more hysterical as Mom tried to get me to my room. I’d hold on to the stairwell wall, begging my mom not to put me in timeout. “I want a do-over!” I’d wail. “Let’s start the day over!”
But she’d always win, of course.
And I’d be in my room, and she’d lock the door from the outside so I couldn’t get out. Because she knew I wouldn’t stay in there. I wanted to, HAD to, fix it- and not later, but right that second. I had to make it be okay.
So I’d pound on the door, panicked, screaming: “I’m sor-rrry!” But no one ever came.
And I wonder if God is calling that to my memory, not because it still hurts, but because it helps me be compassionate with my present self. It helps me understand why I feel the way I do. And it helps me see that some of who I am today has been learned, yes, but some of who I am is just the way God designed me.
I have ALWAYS been a sensitive, kind-hearted person.
I’ve always needed lots of love and I’ve always been quick to interpret others’ behavior towards me as proof that they don’t love me.
I’ve always had big emotions.
And when those big emotions came, they have never been seen as “okay”, but something to apologize for. They’ve always been something people have used to withdraw or ignore me until I could “pull it together”.
As a result, I’d feel, not only like I was drowning in my emotion, but like I was doing it all alone. There in my bedroom as a child, or now in my home, whenever I feel anything passionately, I believe two things: 1. My emotions ruin my relationships because no one can love this version of me, and 2. No one cares how I feel.
I learned as a child that people leave you when you feel. And that has been reinforced in my life as I’ve grown up. People leave.
And the underlying message is, of course, “I’m wrong.” Even when I don’t consciously believe it, part of the panic I battle in those “emotionally intense and all alone” moments is, “I am wrong for feeling. I’ve ruined everything. I need to make them love me again.”
I never learned to sit with what I was feeling, but to instead panic about it and and NEED to fix it RIGHT. THIS. SECOND. And when I can’t? When everything good feels gone and I’m powerless to do anything about it? That feeling is… I can’t even describe it.
I am still just that little girl, pounding on her bedroom door, begging someone to answer it and reassure me I’m loved–no matter what–and that it’s going to be okay.
Love has always, always, always felt fragile to me. And I’ve always, always, always felt hard to love.
I took Arlow on a walk this evening, and watched him play in a fountain, lit up red and pink and blue.
I watched him try to figure out why the water kept disappearing and then reappearing. He’d get close to sniff the place the water just was, only to run over to me when the water would shoot back up, startling him.
And I laughed, aloud–cackled, really–all by myself, while people watched.
And we walked through red and yellow and salmon colored leaves.
“This moment is a gift,” I told myself. And I was relieved to find that, not only did I know that to be true, but I could feel it as well.
And inside of me is so, so much sorrow. And my instinct is to panic, to wail against it like that child locked in her bedroom.
But I’m trying to let God parent me, to do the parenting that my mom and dad were unable to.
And He says, “You are tender-hearted. This is a good thing. You are kind and thoughtful and you have big emotions. This is by design. It is all part of who I made you to be.”
He tells me that I am not put together wrong. I am not unlovable. I am not wrong for feeling.
And I hear Him, but I am still filled with the panic of my child self, pounding on that bedroom door for someone to come and love her and hold her and tell her it will be okay.
And then He opens His arms up wide.
And I get to choose whether or not to let myself be held by the One who showed up for me, or keep staring at that door.
And He pulls me close, my heart still beating like a rabbit’s, and He asks me all the questions I listed above. Do I know He loves me? Yes. Do I know my heart matters to Him? Deeply. Do I believe He can do anything? I do.
And He doesn’t try to talk me out of my panic, He just speaks love over me.
And as I remind myself who He is, I can breathe again.
The sorrow is still there,
but I can breathe.