My name is Sadie. I am the strong one in my family. I stand up to people, I hold my ground, I take on other people’s struggles when they are too weak to keep going. Nobody ever sees me sweat. You can leave your problems with me when you are down, I will keep going. I can do this all by myself, you can watch me, but I don’t really need your help.
Cut scene. Break character.
So, he asks, “are you alright?”
And I say, “not really”.
And hot tears roll down my face. As they roll, they seem to be burning off my strength story. I don’t know what burns more, my deep pain – or my embarrassment at laying waste to my image in one fell swoop, in front of my whole community, the ones I counted on seeing me through that lens. Will they ever trust me again? What do they think of me now? How disappointed are they in me?
Am I weak for breaking down crying in the cafeteria? For the time I couldn’t stay upright so I sat down on the floor – during a call – in order to get my balance, then told my colleagues it was too hot in my chair? Wasn’t I supposed to be the strong one? My world view is upside down. And by my world view, I mean my identity here. Funny how they are interchangeable. Who am I? Have I let everyone down?
The voice down the telephone continues. “Sadie, they have a duty to take care of you… you need to rest”.
Somewhere under the weeping blithering mess I have become, something in my heart clicks. He’s not upset with me. He’s not making me wrong, he’s not trying to change my emotions and he certainly isn’t trying to force me back into my own story.
I was the one doing that. – Woah.
What he is trying to do is make it okay. Alleviate my pain. Take the weight off my shoulders.
Have I made him feel guilty? Oh no. (Cue, I start feeling guilty for potentially having made him feel guilty).
Why can’t I let this be what it is?
What it is? I am crying in the middle of the cafeteria, on the phone to my mentor, with my friends crowding around me. I am causing a scene. I am forcing everyone to make a fuss over me.
Yup, that’s about right. But what I’m not acknowledging here is the extent to which I have been championing other people’s problems, trying to alleviate their stress levels, sharing the burden. Which would ordinarily have been fine – I wasn’t planning on being attacked myself.
Well, that was silly of me. Or was it?
I’m pretty harsh on me. Here I was thinking I was all spiritual, full of resources, able to change my state at a moment’s notice and therefore immune to unhappiness. I thought I had it all sorted… but I’m being a complete bully to myself. And now I’m making myself wrong for doing that. Am I trapped in this circle?
The answer, of course not. I’m just hanging out here for a bit.
Still, that critical voice just doesn’t seem to shut up. It is answering a question I have been asking myself – “what am I doing wrong to cause all this turmoil?”
That’s a pretty bad question, really. (Thanks, critical voice.)
But I do need to transform a little here. I wonder what empowering question I could ask myself, to break my pattern and put me back on the path towards joy?
…that was a question itself, wasn’t it? Wow. How did that happen?