(please excuse me if you consider this inappropriate. the following may cause visuals that you might not appreciate. continue on or quit reading according to your own discretion. if you are offended by the word or idea of "poop" you should stop reading now. don't say i didn't warn you)
A little over three years ago I was sitting in my living room with my visiting teachers having our regular monthly chat. We small talked about life, they shared a spiritual message, and like always they asked, "so how are you doing?"
I instinctually said, "I'm good!" even though I knew it was a lie.
I was struggling deeply with something very private and very painful.
Something that wasn't completely my story to tell.
And I had promised myself I wouldn't tell it.
But it was consuming me with sadness and concern and I wasn't quite sure how to deal with it.
The weight was growing too heavy for me to carry.
The tears were filling up too much below the surface and I didn't no how much longer until they would spill over.
I felt suffocated by those untrue words. I was not good.
Though my heart raced with anxiety and fear that they would press harder and I wouldn't want to answer, a calm peaceful thought entered my mind, "It's OK. You can tell them. That's why they are here."
I took a deep breath and gathered all the courage I could and corrected myself.
"Actually, I'm not good. I've been dealing with something really difficult. I really don't know if I should share this, but I feel like it's OK to share with you...." and I went on to share my burden with my trusted visiting teachers.
I felt relief. I felt safe.
I felt thankful for our relationship of trust.
I felt thankful for the confirmation from the Spirit that it was OK.
I felt my testimony of visiting teaching growing right then and there.
After I shared enough, but not all, I repeated my thought that I wasn't sure if I should have shared it. That I hadn't told anybody about it because it mostly wasn't my story to tell. I was worried about betraying confidences I had made with others. I was worried about crossing that thin line between what's affecting me and gossip. I was worried about taking away from the sweet spirit they brought with their message and turning the visit into something negative. I was worried about sharing too much and not being able to take it back.
One of my visiting teachers went on to share the potty metaphor.
"Emotions are like going to the bathroom. You can't just hold them in forever, or you'll explode! When you gotta go, you gotta go!"
This, of course, made me laugh.
She did have a point.
I countered with -
"Yes, but you can't just go to the bathroom anywhere you want. You should find a bathroom!"
We laughed some more.
But the metaphor stuck with me and proved to be very profound in my life.
It is true, emotions cannot be held in forever. They must be processed and dealt with like any bodily function. However, I believe it best to find an appropriate time and place (and person) to share. Getting so caught up in the need to share without regard of who, what, where, or when can have negative effects. I can't just poop on some one's lawn and be surprised if they mind!
Thankfully there are some people that are more understanding or more forgiving, and close friends or family who love me may offer whatever I need whenever I need it - everyone has accidents now and then. But even still, it may not be appreciated. And I'm sure if I pooped on their lawn everytime I came to visit, I may not be invited over quite as often.
But holding it in all the time, is not good either. It makes it difficult to enjoy life, connect with others, and can become a burden too difficult to bare. Like feeling sick when your digestive system is backed up, emotional constipation can create emotional sickness and discomfort. Plus, it's bound to come out sometimes. The longer you hold it, the less control you may have as to where and when it comes.
Both ends of the potty metaphor spectrum are fairly common phrases - "emotional constipation" and "diarrhea of the mouth." One can have negative effects internally and one can have negative effects externally. I believe neither are a healthy or productive way to deal with emotions. I'm striving for some emotional regularity somewhere in the middle. I mean really, aren't we all?
It is important to have confidants. It is important to be able to process and express emotions - the good and the bad. That will look differently for everybody. For some it's a journal. For some it's a dog. For some it's a spouse. For some it's a best friend. For some it's a group of friends. For some it's a mother or father. For some it's a good long run to sweat it off. For some it's prayer. For some it's a combination or something completely different. And different circumstances may call for different methods. There really is no wrong way to process, as long as it works.
I am a believer in the power of focusing on the positive. I have said that before.
It doesn't necessarily come naturally to me, but it's something I'm trying really hard to master.
I don't want to be talking about hard things all the time. I don't want to be focusing on hard things.
But I can't, nor do I want, to pretend that I don't "go to the bathroom" like everyone else.
I struggle with the same things most women, mothers, wives, friends, daughters, and sisters do. There are a lot of things about life that are just plain hard. We all have poop!
I also don't want to be talking about my bathroom experiences every chance I get. Even with my closest confidants. I feel like the more I process the hard things - with friends, family, on my blog, or in my journal - the more that's what I see in my life.
I really don't want that.
Like most people, I try to figure out my healthy way of coping with life. But every once and awhile something comes into my life that feels really hard to deal with. I try to proceed cautiously and find an appropriate way to express and work through it. I have learned that once something is shared, it is almost impossible to take it back. And I am not so naive to think that my words do not affect others. Unfortunately, I can't predict or control that. And unfortunately I have accidents every now and then.
I feel blessed to have discovered some things that work for me and to have trusted people in my life whom I can confide in - most importantly my husband. That is a gift I do not ever take for granted.
Sometimes I feel like I'm still "potty training" and I have accidents.
Sometimes I hold it for longer than I should and it all comes out when and where I don't want it to.
Sometimes I find myself in a port-o-potty without a door and I feel embarrassed that I didn't wait for a more private moment.
Sometimes I recognize my need to go, I make it to the bathroom, and I feel pretty proud of my success and that I didn't make an unnecessary mess in the process.
This is a lesson I've been working on for a few years now.
I am trying and I am learning.
And that's what life is all about.
Trying and learning and trying some more.
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Thanks for stopping by!