I haven’t written for a few days (apologies for stating the obvious). I kind of found myself drowning in my own thoughts a little bit, and decided to take a break from trying to do everything and be there for everyone, and just focus on putting myself back together (or at least not falling apart), which is something I don’t normally do.
We try to put everybody else first and suppress our own emotion in hope that it will get bored and fade out of our minds, but it doesn’t work like that. We start to drown and still feel it is our duty to keep everyone else afloat; in our attempts to hold them up we simply sink faster, and we drag them down with us. Sometimes we just have to let go – not the kind of letting go that can be confused with acceptance or forgiveness (that is not something you can really control, it is something that controls you), but the kind of letting go that involves giving in.
Giving in is different to giving up, you don’t throw in the towel, you don’t surrender to circumstance, you just admit defeat. Sometimes admitting defeat is the only way to move on from it; sometimes the only way to move forward is to look down, to unshackle the chains that life anchors us with, or simply stop fighting reality. Because without realising it, most of us fight every day. We fight to be the best person that we can be. We fight change, we fight our emotion, we fight with thoughts that we don’t want to admit that we have, thoughts that we are ashamed of. We fight the reality that we live in, because we never want to admit defeat, we don’t want to accept that the things we want are out of reach, the things we tried to achieve are never going to happen… We are too embarrassed, too proud, too afraid of letting other people down. We are too stubborn to feel, too afraid of our own emotions.
We claw at the past, we cling to the present and we try to change. But we just aren’t strong enough to change the things that have already been, and it is too late to change what is happening right now. Instead of realising this, instead of letting these things fade with the passing of time, we desperately try to pull them back towards us, we refuse to move on from them, our thoughts fixate on them and we pour our energy into them. We fade with the things we so desperately cling to. The weight of words, the weight of our past, the weight of the world… We carry it with us, we let it drag down every thought, ruin every good mood. We fight so hard to hold up the internal walls that hold back our emotion. We fight to keep them contained and suppressed and the effort is exhausting.
Let go. Accept that it is what it is. You don’t have to stay strong, strong people eventually shatter. You don’t have to put on a brave face and hold everyone else together. You just have to let go of everything you’re trying to hold in. Let your emotion breach the walls you put up to keep it hidden. Let tears fall and let people help mop them up. All the time you fight, all the time you try not to feel, your mind is like a pressure cooker and the needle on the pressure gage just keeps pointing up and up and up with every moment that passes. If you don’t let go of some of that, if you don’t allow some of it to wash over you (and to cleanse you in the process) you will explode (metaphorically) or implode (metaphorically) or both.
It’s not as easy to achieve as it was for me to write in this post. As the things you are letting go of rush through your hands you are going to get a few cuts and bruises, you might grab at them every now and again out of habit, too afraid to let them fall, but once they have fallen through – once you’ve given up worrying about that deadline, stopped worrying about whatever it is that somebody said about you, refused to give any more time and energy to the thoughts that were destroying you… You no longer have to live under the strain. And that is how you move on. You don’t shut it out, you don’t forget it, you don’t even have to forgive, you just have to stop trying to hold it all in. You don’t realise how much energy you waste trying to do that until you stop.
People think that strength involves not letting something beat you. It also involves accepting the fact that you’ve been beaten. Life is a worthy opponent, it has millions of years more experience than you do, and it is going to beat you every now and then, unless you are some kind of superhuman. Pretending that it doesn’t might involve a huge amount of inner strength, but the pressure of trying to carry on as normal also fractures the very heart of who you are. I have admitted defeat. And I’m not ashamed to say that any more (for a long time I was, believe me.) I stopped fighting things that it was pointless to fight against. I accepted that this was it now, this was how things would be, and in admitting that defeat, surrendering to it, I freed up enough thoughts and energy to move on.
A prime example of this was when my hair started falling out. Around December last year I was very unwell, my body was freaking out because I refused to accept the fact that it needed a break and pushed it beyond its limit (and then some!). I had some medication which apparently can stress out certain organs of the body, and I ignored the whole lecture I was given. Then one day I got in the shower and my hair started falling out in handfuls. I would wake up in the morning to a load of hair on my pillow. I had long, curly hair. I had been growing it out for years. I couldn’t imagine me with virtually no hair, and the thought of it made me want to cry. To cut a long story short (no pun intended) my hair is now a few centimetres long. I hoped it would grow out by the time I started university, and thankfully it has a little. My hair was the only part of me that I actually liked, so to lose it was pretty devastating at the time. I tried everything to stop it falling out. I tried everything to make it grow back faster. I hated looking at myself in the mirror, I didn’t want my friends to see me, and I stupidly kept telling myself that there must be something I could do about it. And then, about three months ago, I just embraced it. I bought a couple of headbands to clarify that I’m not a pre-pubescent boy, and I decided that there was nothing I could do to change the situation, so I reluctantly embraced it. I wasn’t happy about it, I wasn’t suddenly ok with the situation, I just stopped stressing about it.
There are things we try to let go of that won’t let go of us, things that are just too painful to feel, things that we aren’t quite ready to be weathered by.
There are currently ten of us living in our house. My uncle, aunt, and two cousins have come home from Hong Kong for a few days (it was an impromptu visit that has been rearranged many times), and my grandparents have come to stay with us as well, so there are three generations of our family all in one place. It is nice having everyone around, but the bigger our family gets, the more lost I feel. I don’t really fit. If you spoke to my parents they would tell you that isn’t true, but a feeling is a feeling, and fact can’t override that. I went out to lunch yesterday with the rest of the family while my parents and brother were at work and school, and we started talking about my background, about the history of me and the man who made me, and the other man (who I call Dad) that raised me; then, in the middle of a restaurant, feelings I thought I had safely walled off in my brain grew so large that nothing could stop them, and I cried (I really need to stop doing that. It was only a few tears but I don’t like to cry).
Often the way others deal with emotion is to try and override it with fact. There is no use in that. Logic cannot fight out an illogical thing, and emotions are highly illogical sometimes (and by sometimes, I mean pretty much all of the time). My grandparents tried to tell me how proud they are of me, and how much I mean to them, which was very sweet of them; but you can’t fix an internal problem externally. You can’t transplant thoughts into somebody else’s brain. They have to figure out a way to do that themselves, a way to be happy with who they are… Or in my case, a way to feel part of the family that made me, rather than a blot on the page of our family tree. I’m certain that in time this will happen, but that time isn’t now. My parents get very frustrated at me for feeling this way (and I also get pretty frustrated at myself), so I try to block out the way that I feel and simply sink faster in my attempts to keep everyone else happy. I try to let go of these feelings, but they won’t quite let go of me.
Are any of us really ever happy in our own skin? Or do we just suppress the fact that we aren’t?
Step 20 to getting out of a rut in life:
Don’t give up – just occasionally give in.