Learning to be Gentle

I am not sure where it comes from really because it could be so many things; society’s influence, past experiences, growing up with it or being rewarded for it or all of that combined but I know that it has a place in me and I’m ready to let it go.

I’m tough. Don’t mess with me. I can take it. I’m fine, really. Back off. Talk to the hand. I’ve got my guard up. I can protect myself – I have to protect myself. Quit crying. Suck it up. Tough girl.

And then I had a baby. And I chose to love my husband and my children with wild abandon, with all of my heart, huge and overflowing. I cried like I had never cried before in my life. Not the bawling kind because I was exhausted and lonely with my newborn (ok, yes that too) but because of that stupid kleenex commercial, or when he got vaccinated and even when I watched someone I didn’t know have a tender moment at the park. The subtle, wistful cry when my eyes would simply well up with tears. This kind of love brings me to my knees, makes me cuddle up in a fetal position and I experience vulnerability like I never imagined.

This morning my little guy was writing a card to his teacher, it’s his last day of 3rd grade and he is going to miss her something fierce. He looked up at me with two huge fat tears rolling down his cheeks. One on each cheek (a perfect shot for a scene in an after school special on lifetime) and I choked. I took him to the bus stop and went to the gym. I didn’t expect that we’d have an emotional morning so I was caught off guard when I started crying on the treadmill. Crying at the airport I get…but on the treadmill? Come on now.

The little voice that has been part of my life forever gave me the pep talk, “quit crying…don’t be so sentimental, toughen up chica and run faster.” This would have worked a while back but this morning I heard something else in that voice. I heard criticism and shame. I used to mistaken that voice as a helpful voice but not this morning. The so called pep talk made it sound like it wasn’t ok to feel what I was feeling. Yet I knew it was. I knew it was okay to be vulnerable and feel deeply and fully with all of my heart. I knew it was okay to have a sentimental moment. But I didn’t feel like it was okay. The new message that came through was to get out of my head and into my heart; to allow whatever energy was flowing to flow. And to be gentle with myself.

At one point in my life, as a little girl and as a vulnerable teenager and even as a young woman in dangerous places, I needed to be tough and protect myself. That served me and as unfortunate as it may be, it is my story. I won’t judge that as right or wrong. It simply was. But that voice doesn’t belong here right now. It certainly has no business making me feel bad for feeling what I feel.

The inner critic still barks sharply at me when the soft, feminine spirit flows through me and tears well up and sometimes spill over. I hear you and I don’t need you anymore. I am in a place where the courage to be vulnerable is stronger than the need to protect myself.  

It’s like the messages that served to protect me went a little overboard and turned critical and harsh. Perhaps there is a time and a place for the tough girl attitude in my life…I don’t think so but I’m still learning. I do know with all of my heart that it was not okay this morning and I’m grateful that I didn’t listen to it. Be gentle with yourself Sara. Be gentle. Your heart is big and you are love.

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