human, being

On feelings and forgiveness
March 27, 2009, 10:50 am
Filed under: love and relationships | Tags: , ,

I can usually tell how deep my upset goes with something by how it feels in my body and how able I am to talk about it. The deeper the upset, the tighter my chest, throat and solar plexus feel. The deeper the upset, the harder it is to actually put my feelings into words.

I’m not a master of “feelings.” I used to blame it on being a Gemini. We gems are rational, cerebral, not emotional. I know that my personality leans toward those tendencies. Something troubling me? Certainly, I can think my way out of it. God knows I can’t just sit with the feeling and let it run its course. I’ve come to realize in the last few years that a more legitimate reason for not being good with feelings stems from how I was raised. My mother is a strong woman–very strong. She has had debilitating rheumatoid arthritis for almost 32 years. She lives in pain. Yet I rarely if ever saw her hurting, saw her slow down, saw her feel sorry for herself, saw her mourn for her athletic past that disappeared as the disease progressed. I’ve been pissed off about the way I feel I was taught to handle feelings: anger and happiness are the only two allowable emotions. Everything else? Bury it.

I spent most of my life avoiding feelings by eating them–sometimes, and especially in the last 10 years or so, literally eating them. I avoid them by over-scheduling myself, staying so busy that I don’t have a moment to feel anything. I’ve never turned to drugs or alcohol, but I have spent my way through many a depression.

In therapy during my divorce, I spent a lot of time untangling my inability to feel, and my inability to name my feelings. Angry and happy, those I could name. During that time, I became incredibly resentful of my mom for how she raised us. My brother and sister seem to have similar issues with feelings. None of us know how to talk about them. We avoid confrontation at all costs. I’ve spent a lot of time blaming, feeling sorry for myself for the way I am. This inability to name my feelings, to discuss them without getting blinded by defensiveness or too much thinking, has impacted every relationship I’ve had. I get myself into impossible corners at work because I’m afraid that, if I say something other than I’m OK, people won’t like me or worse, I’ll get “in trouble.” Romantic relationships? That topic is too messy to delve into without writing a book. The worst, though, is my relationship with my mom. I have just recently been brave enough to push through her stuff to talk to her about how I feel about things.

I have always been told I’m wise beyond my years, mature for my age, etc. I think that’s because, unlike most children who would have tantrums, I learned early that such behavior was unacceptable. I know now that I’m not so mature. In fact, I’m quite emotionally immature. I realized about three years ago that I’m an emotional toddler, just learning how to really feel and deal with my feelings constructively.

For the past several days, my life has been a living hell. I’ve been so incredibly upset that I haven’t been able to eat, to sleep, to concentrate. It stems from Steve, who I love more than any man I’ve ever known in my life, and how he has been treating me lately, literally transposing the anger and stress he feels about his work life onto me. Two nights ago, I experienced the final straw. I realized that I was feeling the same way as I had about the time in my marriage when I totally checked out; when my ex started telling me in subtle ways that I was a piece of shit, and I was lucky that anyone put up with me or was willing to live with me. I swore that if I ever came to that place again in a relationship, that relationship would be over. And there I was, in that place with the man I am in love with.

Yesterday, I was so grateful that I couldn’t get into work because I wouldn’t have been able to work anyway. I really believed that I was going to have to ask him to leave. I didn’t know when. I didn’t know how. I couldn’t imagine not having him in my life, in my bed. But I also know that I deserve to be treated with respect and love by the person who put a ring on my finger, and he has been treating me with disdain and disrespect. I’ve done my best to NOT take it personally, but the words had become incredibly personal.

Yesterday afternoon, stuck in traffic on my way to pick up my best friend from an outpatient surgery, the tightness in my body became too much to bear. I called my other close friend, Barbie, and after some hemming and hawing, I began to describe what I was experiencing. That led to me unloading on Laurel later. Which led to me reaching some emotional clarity as I sat on the couch next to Steve, not looking at him or touching him–totally unusual behavior for both of us. I threw my finished Popsicle stick at him, partially because I wanted to punch him in the face but couldn’t/wouldn’t, partially because I knew I needed to talk to him and didn’t know how to start. Everything was caught in my throat and choking me. He got a funny look on his face. “A Popsicle stick, Lynn? Really?” he said,  then leaned over to hug me and put his head in my lap. And I burst into tears. Sobs. Deep, racking sobs.

I don’t cry. I used to be proud of this fact, but now, it’s an embarrassment that I don’t really know how to let go like that. I can yell. But I don’t cry. So when I do, it’s a surprise and a relief. I forget how good it feels to cry — not the stuffed up nose, scratchy eyes part, but the unleashing part.

After I cried, it took me a few minutes to start talking. I talked calmly for about 15 minutes. I have learned, actually with Steve’s help because he’s a feeler, not a thinker, how to at least get to the bottom of my feelings. I had spent enough time releasing that pressure I was feeling in my body earlier in the day that I could actually dig down. The sobs unstuck everything from my throat so I could physically express my emotions. So I did. And he listened. And he saw things from my point of view. And he recognized that I was not over-exaggerating or being dramatic. And he apologized, truly.

And I forgave him.

Because in the end, forgiveness is the act that allows you to feel fully. When you are unable to forgive (which doesn’t mean forget, but rather allows you take back the energy you’ve been pouring into a situation), all you can feel in your life is resentment. Being unforgiving is a layer of ice that keeps you frozen in the lower emotions, keeping you from rising to the highest emotion, which is love.

We came to a pact last night. We are going to go over and above in being loving to each other. We are both going to refrain from being sarcastic or snippy. We are both going to consciously think about what we are saying to each other, both in words and in tone. We may screw up. Hell, we’re going to screw up. But the only way we can continue in this relationship is to consciously love each other. And forgive each other when we are not perfect.

This experience–how I handled it internally and externally–brought me some insight this morning. I have a whole frozen ocean of resentment when it comes to my mother that keeps me from loving her fully. I feel anger, not compassion, toward her. And that is hurting me, hurting my ability to grow as a person, hurting my ability to fully love anyone. It hampers my ability to be a good parent, a good partner, a good sibling. I quit going to my divorce therapy sessions because we reached a point where the therapist wanted me to work on compassion and forgiveness toward her. I couldn’t then.

Maybe I’ve moved from being an emotional toddler to a preschooler. Maybe I’m ready to begin that work now.


4 Comments so far
Leave a comment


I know it’s been a while since we REALLY talked, but I cannot tell you how much this article meant to me!! I know that sounds crazy, but…. I have been living with Fibromyalgia and Systemic Lupus for over 27 years. And I do exactly the same thing your mother does. I do EVERYTHING in my power to NOT show pain, and to keep doing everything “normally”…for both my husband and my children’s sake. I thought I was protecting my kids from seeing their mother in pain. Maybe I’m hurting them more than I think I am. I need to try to figure out what I can do to change what I do to them so they don’t feel like you do when they are adults. I, also, had a mother who had severe Lupus symptoms, and was in and out of hospitals, but I learned from her how to hide the pain. I do think it’s hard if you’ve never experienced these pain issues to understand how hard it is on us…the so-called “victims”, but now, through your story, I am also trying to see it from the other “victims” eyes. Thank you for that!

I also am having difficulties in my marriage, which stem from holding my tongue too much, and being in a relationship with someone who is NOT the most attentive or caring individual, and who is VERY controlling (like my father)…….so your “resentment feelings” struck a chord with me as well.

I hope my comments on your article do not make you mad….I REALLY am glad you wrote this and are trying to work through some personal issues. BRAVO!!!

Comment by Kimberly Sudol

@ Kim … from my experience, your children need to see that you are human, that you are vulnerable, that you can be brave, but that it’s also OK to show emotions. You are the model they have! I’m not talking about venting inappropriately to your kids, but rather just being real. It’s scary, I know, but worth the risk!

Comment by humanbeingblog

Thanks for the good advice! You’re right….it is scary! Seeing how scared they were when I had to go to the hospital last year was REALLY scary for me as well! Every day they would come in, see me in massive pain, struggling to breathe, and my oldest, especially, was so afraid to come near me! My youngest had no fear whatsoever….thank God! But I do think you’re right. I sometimes lash out when I am in a lot of pain, and I need to NOT vent at them, but maybe share with them what’s going on.

Thanks again!!

Comment by Kimberly Sudol

Well, at least you recognize what’s happening, that’s good! I know how it is to repress things until you don’t really even notice them any more, or they come out under odd circumstances. My 20s were spent taking things way too personally (when they really were not), and I wouldn’t really feel things until they overwhelmed me. It was like volcanic feelings sneaked up on me, but I’m sure it was just due to me ignoring early warning signs. It still happens to a certain degree now. And, admittedly, I still do everything I can not to cry in front of anyone. Probably not healthy, but really deeply ingrained because crying = weakness.

Forgiving is good, but don’t forget. Patterns are important.

Sorry to hear the last few days have been so hard. I probably shouldn’t make blithely jokey comments if I’m not sure what’s going on – hope the comment on the previous post didn’t make things worse.

Comment by Derende

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: