When I was a senior in high school, one of my closest friends was killed in a car accident. We danced together so she was someone who got to see a side of me that most of the world never saw. I was sitting in my Accounting class at school when they announced her death over the intercom. It was Friday, March 19, 1993. Exactly a week before my 18th birthday. There are so many little details I remember about that day and the days to follow. But nothing is more clear than what happened the day after she died.
On Saturday morning, I received a call, requesting that I be a pallbearer at the funeral. I can see myself in my bedroom, kneeling in front of my closet, looking for something. I don’t remember what I was looking for – I may not have even known at the time. Knowing myself, I was probably doing anything I could to distract myself from what I was feeling. I learned at a very young age that emotions were bad. But I had not lost someone close to me before that. I was feeling intense emotions, and there was a part of me that somehow knew that those emotions were normal. Unfortunately, that part of me was not strong enough, and it got locked away on that day
As I was looking in my closet, my mom came to my door. She asked me something – I think it was along the lines of, ‘Are you ok?’. Whatever she asked, I couldn’t answer. My emotions were too strong, and I just started crying. Looking back, I know that my mom didn’t know what to say or do, but I have never gotten the visual of that day out of my head. When I started crying, my mom said, ‘I’m sorry.’ Then she turned and walked away. What I needed in that moment was for someone to hug me, but what I got was the solidified message that emotions were not ok. I locked that part of me away in a box that day. Every time I would start to, or even thought there was a possibility of, feeling emotion, I would see my mom walking away. I would not allow that to happen again. I learned on that day, if I wanted to be accepted, I could not show emotion. I became very good at disconnecting myself from any emotion.
Last week, I realized Jesus had been holding onto that box since that day; just waiting for me to be ready to open it again. It’s been almost 20 years, and I have learned so much about myself and about truth, but I still had intense fear about opening that box. All I could see was the only end result I knew – someone walking away. I wasn’t sure I could go there. But with a little help from my friends, I was able to open the box. I reconnected with a large piece of myself that night, but the thought of destroying the box has been almost as difficult as opening it. There is a large part of me that wants to keep the box.
That moment I locked away my emotions – that moment my mom walked away – what I needed most was just a hug. Over the last few years, a big part of my journey has been about connecting with my emotions. One of my biggest struggles – other than just being so used to disconnecting – is that I don’t want to connect alone. When I’ve come close to connecting, I’ve found that I hit a wall because I am alone. I can’t completely process through most things because I don’t have a lot of options when I need to talk about something, and there isn’t anyone there to just hug me. It makes connecting with my emotions very isolating. If I destroy the box, how do I deal with all of what that connects me with by myself? Because that is part of why they got locked up in the first place – there was no one there to help me through them. I’ve been realizing why it’s been easier for me to believe the lies. If the lies aren’t there, I have to connect with the emotions, and that can be really sucky. But it’s worse because I feel like I have to go there alone. At least if I have the box, I can put some things in there until I’m ready to handle them. If I destroy the box, I’m afraid that I won’t be able to handle everything on my own, and I won’t have anywhere to put anything.
I fully realize that fear plays a part in that, as well as the lies that I am still holding onto. But another part is the reality of my situation. At the end of the day, I go home alone. When I need to talk through something or need the human connection, I most often have to place those things on the back burner and hope that I will eventually have the opportunity to fully process through them. So, for now, I try to sit with those emotions – and then trust that if I destroy the box, I will be ok. Because I know that the box represents boundaries, and if I let go of the box, I will have the world. Wish it were as easy a choice as it sounds…