There are stories I grow tired of telling.
The very thought of recounting them makes me weary.
There are some hurts so deep that they are painful to navigate after weeks, months and even years pass. But I have learned that the stories which cause us the most pain are the most important to share.
Pain can be a guidepost, if we use it correctly. When our bodies feel pain, we know that we need to pay attention to them in some way. When our hearts feel pain, they also need our attention, and yet so often we try instead to numb the pain or ignore it or distract ourselves from feeling it. We spend so much time wishing it away rather than giving our hearts the attention they need so that we can begin to heal.
But when we use pain as the guidepost—the sign that we’re heading in the right direction—then we can take the time to trace it to the source. We can figure out where the pain is coming from and unearth the story that’s causing it. By telling the stories, we not only gain perspective ourselves, but we’re able to share our lessons with other people who may be traveling the same road, feeling just as scared and lost and hurt as we are.
Pain can inform us, and then our stories can free us. These stories may even free others.
For them to be of benefit to others though, we must acknowledge and feel them deeply ourselves. Only then can we truly heal that hurt and possibly help others to heal theirs. In my experience, telling the story once may not be enough. We may need to continue to dig deep and share as many times as it takes until we’ve gotten to their roots.
I’m tired of saying these words, but they are a part of my story. Once upon a time, I fell in love with someone who didn’t love me back.
These words sit heavily with me on some days. I carry them around in a heart filled with all this love that someone else didn’t want. I’d never experienced unrequited love. I was always so independent and practical that I just took things in stride and, while I had an infatuation here or there, I never really fell. And oh, how I fell for him!
It wasn’t one thing in particular, although I think I fell in love with his eyes first. I never noticed so much how someone’s eyes could just light up looking at you. Or how a smile could be felt in the eyes first. And those eyes were nearly always on mine. But it was his whole self really. Every atom of his being called out to mine.
Sometimes I blame oxytocin. Yes, on some days I blame science—pheromones, chemistry, that damn cuddling hormone. I fell and fell and fell further. I even know the exact moment when I realized it, a moment that probably meant nothing to him and everything to me. That moment is mine, and I’m grateful to have it, but there are days when it feels like a rusty nail lodged in my heart, scraping, scraping.
I don’t want to be in love with someone who doesn’t love me back and never will. I don’t want to love someone who is currently with someone else. I don’t want to be that person. But, as the saying goes, the heart does want what it wants, and I fell, and there’s no wishing that away. I also don’t ever want to toughen up and stop feeling things. As much as it hurts to feel this love so strongly, I know that it’s important that I feel it.
What we learn in an experience like this is that continuing to be vulnerable is worth more than shutting down. We have to make ourselves stay open, even when our survival instinct is telling us to close up shop and hide ourselves away. We have an instinct to protect our hearts from being hurt when what we need to do is hurt more, feel more—feel everything.
We need to crack open our hearts as far and as wide as they’ll go, letting everyone in. We need to feel our pain, to use it, to continue to grow far beyond what we ever imagined that we could. It’s not just important. It’s essential. It’s necessary. It’s what we have to do if we ever want to be all of the beautiful things that we are, the things that we’ve buried and protected and built walls around.
I face two challenges though, if I want to stay vulnerable.
The first is to continue to tell my story in the hopes of healing myself and helping others along their path. So I will say now and say often, “Once upon a time, I fell in love with someone who didn’t love me back…”
And while I love him still and miss him, he was never and will never be mine. And it hurts like hell, but it’s part of my story, and it’s okay. I’m okay. Falling in love isn’t a failing, and it takes enormous courage to be able to tell someone we love them knowing that they don’t feel it back. It takes even more courage to share with others what sometimes feels deeply humiliating. But that vulnerability is my power, and love is never the wrong thing to feel.
The second is to stay open and soft. I hate crying. I cry when I’m really angry more than anything. I also cry when I’m disappointed, and when I’m hurt. And while everything inside of me hates this, I’m not going to stop it. In fact, I’ll cry when I need to because I need to. I’ll feel all of my feelings, even the ones that feel too strong to bear.
And I’ll continue to put myself out into the dating world. I’ll meet new people and give myself the opportunity to fall in love again, hopefully with someone who could feel the same. I will keep myself open to what may come. Even though it hurts. Even though I’m afraid.
Our pain is letting us know that we have healing to do. So we’ll speak our stories and face our challenges, knowing that we’ll grow and change and be so much better for it in the end. We’ll open up our hearts, embrace our vulnerability and lead with love. We’ll be mindful of the pain, using it to instruct us where to dig next.
We’ll weed out the stories that are hindering our growth and begin to blossom in ways that we never could before. We’ll cry tears that nurture us and shine a light on all of the things that we used to bury. And our hearts—our beautiful, loving hearts—will finally begin to heal themselves.
Author: Crystal Jackson
Editor: Khara-Jade Warren