Four little words.
“You live and learn.”
Sounds so simple doesn’t it? It is. But simple doesn’t mean easy.
Those spaces between live and learn are deep and wide.
I’ve learned I’m not always so good with those empty spaces. I’m uncomfortable in the interim. I get squeamish in the silence. And truth be told, at times I act like a fool amidst the living and the learning.
I’ve also learned that you simply cannot rush the “and.” You can’t skip live and jump right to learn. Living IS the learning. And then after you learn, you circle around again and keep living. It’s a process. A sometimes very messy, very embarrassing, very painful process; but that’s the way it works.
It’s just that, if I’m being honest (which is my favorite way to be), this in between stuff- life- is a lot harder than my parents made it look when I was a kid. They still make it look easier than it is. Maybe that’s because they just did it better than I have. I don’t know. But here lately I find myself wanting to Google things like, “How to change your brain,” “How to not feel so much,” and “How to be a different person.”
It’s taken me a lot of years to be happy with who I am. I legitimately feel like I do love myself today. BUT, when who you are- this soft, vulnerable, too open, angsty, mushy, messy, compassionate to a fault, sorta broken but also strong girl- continues to be the thing that causes you to stumble in certain situations, it starts to feel like maybe the problem is just you.
I sometimes feel like God made me inside out or something. Like all my innards are just right out there on the outside and no matter how many times my lack of skin covering my insides causes me different types of pain, I continue living my life exposed because it’s just who I am.
The thing is though; sometimes it’s not safe to live without skin. It’s not smart. It opens you up to all kinds of things you shouldn’t be exposed to and leaves you in this constant state of tender vulnerability.
For a long time I’ve operated in such a way that places all my power in the hands of others. I walk around uncovered. I immediately hand over my heart, my mind, and at times, even my body; and then I stand back as I watch people assess what I’ve just handed them, hoping they deem it all worthy.
That’s not the smart way to do it friends.
I’m growing skin again.
I understand why it’s important to hide your heart a little bit before just handing it right over no questions asked.
I’m standing in the gap between living and learning, and I’m circling back around, yet again, to keep trying.
But geez! This is just hard.
I can’t be the only schmuk out here flapping around in the breeze with a skinless body and exposed heart. I’m not the only empath in the world who feels too much and loves too hard. I’m not alone in my over-zealous endeavors to find and create healthy relationships which end up back firing and exploding in my face.
Some of you reading this right now are also heart on your sleeve type people. Some of you reading this know what it feels like to be too much which then leaves you feeling not enough. Some of you know what it’s like to have your insecurities over-power your strengths and ruin potentially good things because you just keep making stupid mistakes.
But here’s the good news.
You’re not alone, and you’re not doomed. It ain’t over till the fat lady sings, ya know!?
We’ve still got a lot of living to do and there will always be a lot of learning to do.
You don’t have to change who you are and you don’t have to tuck your heart away so that it never gets hurt again. You don’t have to cover yourself up with unnecessary covers; trying to be someone you’re not to please everyone else. You don’t have to sensor yourself. You don’t have to doubt yourself. You don’t have to apologize for being you.
The fumbling and the embarrassing mistakes as we dance our way between live and learn can sometimes make us feel like we are the issue. That if we were just different we wouldn’t struggle so much and it would be easier and smoother. And that we need to change who we are so we avoid these same growing pains over and over again.
But that’s not true.
After my most recent embarrassing fall, I said to a friend, “This is so much harder than it looks. We writers can write all the beautiful things we want and dream about, and we can write how it should be and all that…But that’s just not really the way this goes. I’ve been so proud of my open, unchanged heart despite such hell in the past, but this has all definitely changed that. I’m still who I am but I definitely feel much more guarded moving forward.”
And then they gave some beautiful advice in stating, “I wouldn’t be guarded. Just more strategic. I’m a planner and I feel like I have a plan for my heart.”
That is the smarter way to do it folks.
Diving in with your heart is beautiful and romantic and it’s fun to dream about; but in practice, it’s messy and disorganized and just a little bit stupid I’ve learned.
So we don’t have to change. We don’t have to cautiously conceal our hearts and our feelings and our souls from the world. We just have to be a bit more strategic about it all.
Some day maybe I’ll figure out how that looks.
If I do, I promise to share it with you. And if you have already figured it out, please, spill the details!
In the meantime, I’m just going to keep going.
That’s all there is to do really. Just keep showing up.
We live and learn.