There is a pocket resting deep within my chest wall, adjacent to my heart. I’m certain it has always been a part of me. Years ago, I became more aware of its presence in my body as the weight became more than I could bear. It seems as if there is a fistula connecting my heart to this pocket. Upon further investigation, I have found that the pocket is filled with the words that my heart is unable to contain, words too painful for me to feel and remain alive. The pocket acts a safe space to hold what otherwise feels intolerable.
Years ago during a celebratory dinner, I began filtering the comments that headed my direction, words about my children and my parenting and what is “normal”. As I sat there deciding where each comment would rest inside my body, the tension in my chest began to increase with an intensity that could only dissipate if released externally. Unfortunately, my emotional state left me feeling highly sensitive and somewhat irrational. In attempt to make the discomfort stop, I erupted verbally with the words on the tip of my tongue, “You are such a Miss Know It All!”. In that moment, the world swirled around me and I froze. Did I just say that? Responses to my verbal explosion confirmed that I had indeed said something extremely hurtful.
That moment, although painful to recall, has served as an invitation to explore how I manage my internal world. A complicated world composed of conflicting dialogue, questions, and opinions rests deep within my core. Sorting through this noise has been a challenge for me especially when it comes to my feelings surrounding parenting.
Years before we ever received any formal diagnosis for my son, I was inundated with comments that his behavior was “normal” kid behavior. I remember the first time I had a friend agree with me that something was different about him and how validating that was for me. My heart has never been to have a label that would define him but rather to have understanding and insight on how to come along side of him as he navigates life.
Somewhere along the way, I had to get honest with myself and accept his neurodiversity by agreeing with a diagnosis. In doing so, we began to discover groups and individuals who knew more clearly how to speak our language. Although I would not have chosen on my own to join the circles I belong in, I am grateful for the community of others who are facing similar challenges.
We long to feel connection and to belong.
While there has been goodness in connection, I am also aware that at times, I’ve felt that familiar tension rising up inside of me. While talking with someone recently I noticed it again. Hyper aware of this trigger for me, I began to disconnect slightly from the conversation to pay attention to what was bubbling up inside of me. My mouth wanted to blurt out, “Stop! You don’t get it! That’s not how it is for us.” Instead, I chose to listen, thanked the woman for the insight, and moved on.
Feelings of isolation and resentment washed over me later as I sat in the reality of what had just happened. How confusing I must be, not only to others, but also to myself. I don’t want people to normalize what I go through, I want them to understand. At the same time, I know that others can never fully understand. So, how can I be loved if I’m never really fully understood? To be honest, this is the question that weighs heavy in my chest.
I may never be fully understood and loved by everyone I hold dear. Can I begin to receive connection in another’s attempt to know me regardless of how badly I feel they are screwing it up? Will I be vulnerable in sharing my story, even if they never understand the depth that is me? Will I be kind in my responses when the tender places in my heart begin to scream?
I long to be a woman who emphatically says, ‘YES! Yes I can, yes I will.” Truth is, that’s harder than I’d like to admit. I am learning that the pocket deep inside my chest doesn’t need to contain everything. I am learning to let go of that which doesn’t belong and I am finding there is more space inside of me. That open space creates room to just be…and to be me.
Bethany Cabell, a lover of simplicity, is often inspired to write by the relationships she holds as a wife, mom, and a physical therapist. Bethany, her husband and their boys returned to life in Texas after wandering off to the Midwest for a season. What she once pictured her life to look like has forever been changed by her two sons. Navigating this messy and beautiful path of parenting two children each with their own unique challenges, she finds grace and beauty in the gift of each moment.