So Precious It Hurts

1897805_10152032196258105_766840449_n-1As my dear friend drove our two families up to Walker Ranch for their quarterly homestead day a few weeks ago, I looked in the backseat at our three sweet and precious boys. Their faces were alive with excitement at the prospect of “going back in time,” as my little one said. Three beautiful, kind, creative, alive boys. The angles of our hearts. And, knowing that we would be driving up a steep and winding road seven miles into the mountains (not my favorite kind of road), an awareness of their vulnerability pierced through me. An awareness that one wrong move, one random boulder, one unaware driver careening on the other side of the road…

“They’re so precious,” I said to my friend. “Why does anyone do this? To love them this much and to know that something could happen to them… sometimes it just feels like too much.”

“I know. Why do you think I’m going gray?”

She’s not going gray, but I know what she means. When the love and worry crescendo into those moments of painful awareness of the risk that accompanies loving, I think, “Why does anyone do this?

We do it because nature pushes us toward procreation. We do it because of instinct and love and the mysterious and miraculous force that calls us to create new life. We do it because our urge toward life is more powerful than our fear of death. And once we’re in, we’re in so deep that there’s no going back. The love that expands your heart when you become a parent carries you through the rest of your life alongside the worry that accompanies some minute of every day as caregiver for these beloved beings.

Because we’ve all been hurt, it’s not only parents who are challenged with the awareness that with great loving comes the risk of great loss. If you weren’t hurt at home, you were hurt at school. If you weren’t hurt at school, you were hurt in sports. If you weren’t hurt in sports, you were hurt by religion. If you weren’t hurt by religion, you were hurt by a first love. Perhaps the rampant dysfunction in our culture inevitably causes hurt, or maybe getting hurt is simply part of being human. Either way, we begin open and trusting and, somewhere along this road of life, we learn that our hearts can break and shatter. When this occurs, some people make a decision not to open their hearts quite so widely ever again. It hurts too much, they decide. The walls go up and the capacity to experience real love goes down.

But then we’re faced with real relationships that ask for real love. It could be a close friend, a partner, or child, but when we come into contact with someone who is openhearted, who is everything we thought we wanted, something inside of us retracts. The very object of our longing then becomes something painful, and we erect walls of “no” and “don’t” and “not now” to keep our hearts safe and protected inside their wall of unshed tears. Dr. Pat Love explains this phenomena so beautifully in this video:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZNdGrXLcWqs[/youtube]

So we have a choice: to stay behind the wall the protects our vulnerability or to make the courageous choice to open and risk and love and hurt. I hold my little one as he sleeps at night, my arm around his chest so that my right hand cups his heart, and my own heart quickens as I hold his in my hand. His heart in my hand. I remember when our kids were babies and my friends and I would look at each other in wonder at the miracles that lay cushioned in their cotton clothes on our soft beds and say, “Our hearts. Our hearts now walk around outside our bodies.” Nothing has changed. Our kids are now nine and seven and six and four and baby and they are still our hearts, made only more precious by the layers and spirals of love and pain and anger and disappointment that can only grow from time spent in an openhearted relationship where two souls choose to collide.

And we choose to open. We open to our little angels and our big partners. We open to our friends and our families. To open is such an act of courage because we all know, we know in our souls, the searing pain of loss and heartbreak. But we open because to remain closed in a life half-lived, the narrow life that eliminates the risk of loss but also squeezes out the joy. We open because we’re given this privilege of being human and loving full-bodied and warm-blooded can only happen in human form. We open because tears of joy and love are more delicious than the risk of the pain of loss. We choose to risk and then we delight in the richness that can only arise from life fully lived, which means a heart fully open to wide spectrum of feelings and experiences that hearts are meant to feel.

24 comments to So Precious It Hurts

  • 2good2lose

    I have been tapped into the Consious Transitions website for over a year and a half now. I was once terrified of getting married and having panic attacks post engagment. I knew I was going to go through with the wedding as my now husband was definitely 2good2lose.

    During our engagement, while working through my anxiety we found out we were pregnant, and while this could have propelled me further into panic it instead brought me peace. My initial reaction to the news was pure joy, and clarity hit as I knew that my husband was going to be a great father and the best life partener for me.

    Our son is now 7 months old, we are married and my walls continue to crumble. They were high and mighty as I have experienced great lose in my life; witnessing my brother fall to his death and then losing my first love to a sudden heart attack at a young age. Having my son terrifies me once again. Sometimes when I look at him I start to cry. I recently wrote in my journal… “feeling love makes me weep”… and of course it does… and that is OK.

    This article spoke to me like no other. Everything you have written here rings true for me. While I still have doubts that crawl into my mind, I now have a better understanding of the fears that fuel them. I feel more content and settled in my relationship then I ever have.

    Thank you

  • Ally Benson

    Hi Sheryl, and everyone on here. I am been reading your site for a while now, but have never worked up the nerve to actually post. I had been in a relationship for 3 years. We broke up one for a month in our first months of dating because I wasn’t sure I “felt that connection”. I later decided to give it another chance, and ever since then we have been together. It was a very rocky relationship at the beginning. Tons of Fights, issues and arguments. At times I felt like we were two people trying so hard to be together, when we weren’t really meant to be together. During fights he would get angry and call me names, and I had a habit of apologizing regardless of fault to avoid fighting. However, it was still a good relationship. As a worrier, I from time to time wondered if I was really attracted to my partner, but I managed to push those feeling aside and be present in the relationship. We went through a really good patch, and started getting really comfortable with each other. He comes from a wealthy family in the city, while my family in very low income in the suburbs, and sense, we don’t always agree on everything. Little thing he started to do or say that always annoyed me a little bit early in the relationship stole my focus the last couple of month. My biggest issue was that he would make comments about my family and friends that bothered me. At the same time, he loved me, and I love him. I was feeling frustrated one day while we were cuddling and watching TV together, for no particular reason that I can imagine, and I had the sudden realization that I needed to leave, that I didn’t really want this, that we aren’t meant to be together. It was so scary. After that moment, I couldn’t feel a connection, and I left the relationship. I sit here every day and wonder, what if I tried harder? I feel as though I am going crazy without him. My counsel is telling me, doubt is don’t, but I don’t want to believe it, get the anxiety won’t let me go back either and I’m stuck. Can I still save this relationship? I know that a question nobody can really answer, but right now, I just need some extra help. What should I do? Im hurting so bad between risking hurting him all over again, and giving things a chance, and really fighting for our relationship, or accepting it’s not right and walking away for good. I just feel like I haven’t tried, but haven’t I been trying this entire time?

    • Clara

      Ally – I don’t think I have any answers for you, but wanted to say that most of us who follow Sheryl’s work have been where you are now at some point(s). Doubt does NOT necessarily mean don’t (especially for an axious person), and we need a skilled counsellor to help us tease apart fear from truth. Sheryl is dedicated to this, and has helped hundreds of us with exactly what you are going through. Perhaps invest in some skype sessions with her. Very warmly, and good luck!

  • Jen

    Everything is pure beauty here.Thank you so much.

  • Gen

    I agree with Sheryl, 2good2lose. Your comment is beautifully vulnerable and actually made me teary while reading it. You should listen to the Ted talks by Brene Brown where she talks about vulnerability- they are some of my favourites!

  • Marc

    Sheryl, I think you’re a mind reader. I was literally thinking in the last couple of days that it would be great if you wrote an article about how opening out hearts is a conscious choice, however scary it may be!! Thanks once again!

  • Jo

    Love your article Sheryl. In Australia there have been some really disturbing stories in the media around paedophiles and one boy in Brisbane who’s abuser was sentenced to imprisonment.
    I have two young boys and like you, look at them in awe and wonder and how I would risk life and limb to protect them. It upsets me when I read these stories and see the parents on the news, the hurt in their eyes.
    My husband and I had children because we wanted our love to grow stronger and bigger and create our family. Our hearts are now open and raw and will never be the same again. But I can’t even think about what it would be like to not have them here in our lives. It would be like a day without sun or wind or rain, it doesn’t even bear thinking about.
    x

  • Cornwallbride

    Hi Sheryl,

    I love reading your posts and this of course is another great article. I have been working through the ecourse. I have also posted on the forum and sent you a message there but it all seems strangely quiet? I am struggling again at the moment and could really do with some support.

    Look forward to hearing from you soon. Keep up the good work x

  • Clara

    Thank you, Sheryl. This article spoke to me, as I grapple with the challenges of creating life in a gay relationship, and in the context of some earlier trauma around conception and the transition into motherhood. Sometimes I really wonder why my partner and I are doing this – the world is over-populated, and the potential losses involved(career, time, peace of mind…) are many. But as you say, our love of life is stronger than our fear of death. Procreation is such a primal drive… and for me, it is the point upon which my greatest desire and my greatest fear converge.

    PS – thank you for your quote from Anne’s House of Dreams…. I have been an huge ‘Anne fan’ since girlhood, and it’s wonderful to look as the messages in those stories through adult eyes.

    • “Procreation is such a primal drive… and for me, it is the point upon which my greatest desire and my greatest fear converge.”

      Wow. That is so powerful, Carly. Thank you for your articulate expression, as always.

  • I, too, was a huge “Anne fan” as a girl and it’s a delight to re-read these books as an adult. It never occurred to me to do so until a reader quoted a passage from Anne’s House of Dreams that just blew me away.

  • Veronica

    This brought tears to my eyes. I saw the title and knew without a doubt what the article was about. This is how I feel about my children. They bring me such a joy that it hurts. That being said I wouldn’t trade it gor anything. Thanks for putting into words what’s in my heart.

  • Michelle

    “We do it because our urge toward life is more powerful than our fear of death”.
    I needed to re read this article and the comments today. I cannot relate to motherhood yet but because I have been bogged down with the negative, sadness and fear in this world. A feeling of my life, not being out of control in the hands of a higher power, but in the hands of humans who control the world and what is my place in this world? Bogged down by conspiracies and “the end of civilization” (hate to say it but a popular post going around facebook). I can appreciate this quote makes so much sense and sometimes I can feel it but then the negative comes back I am so stuck in “What is the purpose of all this? Life, family, relationships, jobs, if it is all going to end one day? Why should I keep going if I can lose it all? So scared of loosing it all! and the fear of death (which I am learning is a fear of loss) is so big!
    But thank you for this message and article :).

  • Oh my gosh…LOVE THIS VIDEO!! Absolutely going to share it on my page and with some clients and friends. Thanks for sharing Sheryl!

  • Kerri

    This video was GREAT! A little button went off inside of me…. I have always had this sad feeling of not being loved, of feeling strange and unlovable. All I have ever wanted was someone to love and to love me, someone who gets me and make me happy. Now that I finally have it of course there is going to be anxiety, because I have never felt this pure, happy, and most importantly healthy love before.

    I have also had anxiety because I feel like being with my partner should be make feel complete, that I shouldn’t have those lonely, sad, ” gray” feelings. But I know from reading your posts, that I cant rely on someone else to make me happy, that happiness comes from loving and accepting myself. And even though I feel empty inside while in a relationship – I need to stop projecting that onto my partner and start digging deeper into myself! Figuring out my issues, instead of assuming they are him.

    Thanks, Sheryl!!

  • It sounds like you’re doing great work on yourself, Kerri. Keep going!

  • Samara

    “We do it because our urge toward life is more powerful than our fear of death.” Absolutely true, brilliant, and revealing.

    And, Dr. Pat Love’s video is amazing! So common sense and simple, and yet said so well. I wish I had seen that video while in the thick of my anxiety! Over the past month, since doing your group class, my anxiety has completely vanished. And I know if and when it returns, sources like this video will be my rock, my strength and reasoning, while I grow through the next cycle in my maturation.

  • Joan

    Hi Sheryl,

    This post comes after reading your article “The Wall of Unshed Tears”.

    I am now aware that I stay forever angry and ruminate over what was said, what was done, and what I should have said/done because I did not know how to deal with the profound heartache of another person’s (whom I love and care deeply about) unloving behaviour and which I now know to emotionally abusive (ignoring me for a year and half while living in the same house and then telling me she didn’t expect to not talk to me for so long).

    The wall around my heart has grown thick from this as well as other incidents in the past, and despite uncovering beliefs that told me I was weak if I cried, that I shouldn’t feel hurt and it’s no big deal, that on some level I deserved the abuse, and being told I’m being unreasonable and unkind for wanting no contact with this person and that I’ve broken up the family, I am still unable to cry and get resolution.

    I understand that the depth of the wall is the depth of the pain and to move slowly and with great compassion, however I feel stuck and unable to move forward.

    Could you offer some guidance regarding practices that can slowly soften the wall around my heart?

    With gratitude,

    Joan

  • lina

    Hi all…
    I have been reading sheryl’s blog for a while now..I have relationship anxiety…I was freaking out from the thought of getting married with my bf (e are together fore 4 years now) and each time i felt that i really don’t want to do this..he is an amazing guy, will be a perfect husband and father! I used to got nausea every time I thought about him proposing to me..I didn’t want to marry him and I didn’t know why!

    Anyway, I somehow started to want to get married..I thought about how I will get a ring and tell my friends that I am engaged. .it made me feel good..excited. .
    So..I told my bf that and now I am engaged…he proposed 2 days ago..

    The thing is, that now I can’t stop thinking negative thing like : “I will get bored with him pretty fast in our marriage.”
    I will have enough from him fast”
    ” we wont last long!!!” And I believe in that..I actually feel that I believe that we won’t last and will get devorced.
    I don’t know why I think and believe in such horrible things!

    I just really need a word from someone. .that I am normal..that it doesn’t mean anything. ..or that I am not alone feeling this way or believing in such horrible things..

    Thank you guys. It will mean the world to me to hear from you.
    God bless you all.