She’s a runner, She’s a Track Star
I have been running from emotions all my life. I didn’t realize it, because there are parts of me that feel like an empath. And truthfully I am very empathetic to other people’s emotions, but I am deathly fearful of my own.
I came to this awakening a few days ago when the outpouring of my emotions caught me off guard in two very random and unexpectedly different moments. Then a few days later on my younger sister’s birthday, while pouring out her own feelings, she reminded me that I have a tendency to get through problems in my life by avoiding the way they make me feel and focusing on the practical ways to tackle them.
WOW! This epiphany has hit me harder than any truth about myself that has been revealed. Because now I know how and why I move through the world the way I do. But most importantly I realize that this irrational fear has landed me in spaces and places with people that repeat unhealthy patterns I now have to recognize, release and reframe. ( Read that post from last April).
When I sense I am becoming emotional and exposing how I feel to others I have some go-to strategies of avoidance. I will crack a joke and bring some levity in to cut the tension, but also to avoid the reality of what is churning inside. I shift the subject away from me to the other person’s needs or circumstances. And then there’s an easy way to avoid emotions by just being physical. Yes, women can also use sex to run from expressing and speaking about emotions but still maintain connections. Truthfully though, none of these methods have actually helped resolve any of those painful moments, they just pushed them to the side momentarily until they resurface again unexpectedly, just as they did last week.
The first time I was quick to escape the discomfort of feeling something, I was sitting in the conference room of my office. Me and two of my male colleagues and friends were having a conversation about life, creativity as BGI and joking about my tendencies as an overthinker. It was fun banter with a couple friends to cut the stress of the complex and heavy work we address daily in our roles. Then one of the guys left and two of us were sitting there and it all started to shift. Out of the blue as I was catching up on his life and how his kids were, he asked a direct question about a guy I had in my life one year ago. The question took me off guard and for some reason my usual knee jerk response to avoid talking about that personal aspect of my life with anyone, faded away.
My response was the abridged version of the past three and a half years of a complicated dynamic I had grappled with in three simple statements. “I fell for him. He chose someone else. My heart was broken and I lost my friend”.
In an instant I went from being self assured as BGI to the little Marya inside whose heart had been hurting in silence for over a year. But the moment I allowed the emotions to slip out, I did my best to shift it back to anything but me and feelings. So I interjected the moment with. “You can create the image you need in Canva. Let me show you how.” I shifted from emotional to professional because the absolute last thing I wanted was to show pain about a man in front of men I worked with or any other people. It rolled off my back as nothing bigger than a bullet dodged in the office and I was relieved that I was able to preserve my dignity in the moment. Then the second moment happened and it all started to come together.
That evening my daughter and I were driving home and for some reason she brought up Halloween. She was insisting I have fun even though she would be with her dad that day. While she was talking about it, my mind was triggered by emotions because the last Halloween I had was fun and made me extremely happy. In fact it was one of the best ones because I was in Miami celebrating with that same guy who at the time I thought was part of my future.
So, a simple conversation on Halloween for my daughter was resurfacing a beautiful memory while also reminding me how fleeting that moment was. My mind started to spiral into emotions, because I couldn’t help but recall how after Halloween and Miami everything crumbled and he walked away with no notice.
Internally I was hoping that this year would not be like the last, the fear that I would again experience the pain and sadness I did from Thanksgiving, to Christmas and then finally my early January birthday where the morning of he posted videos of his trip to another country with the woman he chose. My mind was going down an emotional path of fear and pain and I could not stop any of the thoughts or the tears and emotions that were surfacing.
As we arrived home ,my six year old daughter who is incredibly empathetic and intuitive, could sense my shift and asked what was wrong. The wounds of my heart could no longer be placated that day and I broke down in tears. That does not often happen with me. So my immediate reaction was to apologize for crying. And say it was nothing and I was fine.
Her mature six year old senses took my hand, led me to my alter and said, “Mama it’s ok to cry, you have to feel your emotions. Let’s sit and you can cry with me.” This profound moment with my daughter made me incredibly proud, but also extremely embarrassed. How could I be such a mess in front of her over something as ridiculous as an imaginary relationship with a man who wasn’t thinking about me or my feelings. I was mad at myself and wanted to escape the emotions.
So even with her effort, I was ready to move away from it. In fact I told her I didn’t want to think about how I was feeling, I would rather turn on some music, dance, sing and laugh with her and not have emotions at that moment. She reluctantly obliged and we shifted gears. The music was cranking and I was dancing around the kitchen with my baby girl covering up my wounds with a temporary fix to avoid the experience of her seeing my emotions that were not always pretty, packaged neatly or even explainable.
I thanked her that night as we were in the bedtime routine. Thank you for noticing my emotions and taking care of me. Thank you for caring that I was sad. And the truth is, you are right we are supposed to feel our emotions. It’s ok to be sad and hurt. Those are normal things and we shouldn't pretend we don’t feel them or feel bad when we do. I was wrong to run from that.
My six year old daughter opened my eyes to my fear to truly know myself and expose all the parts of me that are not put together. The emotions faded and the night went on to the next project, job or idea I was working on. I have now been reflected on this day first at work and then at home with her, wondering what made me so fearful and trying to uncover the patterns I exhibit when I am.
So this doesn’t solve the problem or ease the pain, but it helps me acknowledge unhealthy patterns on my healing journey. My goal is to stop them before they stall my growth from truly knowing myself and sharing them with people I trust and have emotional safety with.
So even though I have been a runner, I am pushing myself to grow by sitting in that discomfort long enough to honor myself as a human who feels pain and sometimes may need to share that with people who love me.