Breaking Through

“I was tied, but now unbound. My head is off the ground.”

I don’t have a lot of people that I’m close to, much more by choice than by chance. This wasn’t always the case, but after getting burned and disappointed one too many times, I built up walls and distractions to steel myself against ever feeling that way again.

“For a long time I was so weary. Tired of the sound, I’ve heard before. The gnawing of the night time at the door.”

But the thing about emotional walls is that they also keep you from feeling just about anything except numb. I’m okay with this most of the time, or at least I think I am until something happens and I’m reminded that while I can be okay with this, that doesn’t mean I have to be.

“Haunted by the things I’ve made. Stuck between the burning light and the dust shade.”

A good friend sent me a CD of some of her favorite music. I popped it in my truck on the way home and brick by brick, with each of the 12 simple tracks on the disc, the whole damn wall came crashing down.

“I said now I used to think the past was dead and gone. But I was wrong, so wrong, whatever makes you blind must make you strong.”

I pulled into my driveway and sat parked with the engine off and the music on. As I watched the squirrels hop from tree to tree, I did something I rarely ever do. I quit fighting it.

And cried.

“In my time I’ve melted into many forms. From the day that I was born, I know that there’s no place to hide.”

I’m not quite sure what “it” was that I was fighting. Not sadness over anything in particular, but rather a culmination of stress, of love, of loss…of life. Without distracting myself in an effort to feel, well, anything, I started to feel everything.

“Stuck between the burning shade and the fading light.”

There are times I worry so much about liking someone or something too much and having it taken away that I default to feeling too little or nothing at all.

I forget that most of the people that like me did so before I started trying to make sure it stayed that way, before I worried about what I said or did.

“Well you walk these lonely streets that people send. There are some wounds that just can’t mend.”

I forget that yes, I can be okay alone within the safety of my walls, but that doesn’t mean I have to be.  And while I know these revelations are usually fleeting,  it’s nice to have a reminder that I can feel emotion without feeling like I’m weak or broken. 

“I am free from all the things that take my friends. But I will stand hear till the end.”

That by opening up to people and showing vulnerability—to even just one person—I can gain so much more in the end. If I choose to, I can feel, well, everything.

“I was broken, for a long time, but It’s over now.”

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This rare display of emotion coincided nicely with the Studio30 Plus prompt this week:

It wasn’t what I expected.

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51 responses to “Breaking Through

  1. Beautiful and heartbreaking post, Abby.
    Hope your heart healed a little when all that pain came flooding out.
    I’ve been in that moment…I just want to let you know that I understand what you are sharing here today and that I felt every single word.
    Keep going, brave girl.

    • Oh no, I hope it wasn’t heartbreaking! Like I said, things like this come in waves and every once in a while it just kind of leaks out when I actually allow myself to open up and accept that yes, I am a normal human with emotions, even if I numb them out all the time. Thank you so much for the comment, as always.

      • Heartbreaking as in your heart broke open- that’s how I like to look at it.
        Your beautiful, lovely heart broke wide open and said here I am. I’m still here.
        You felt everything and you got through it. You didn’t shut it down.
        And for that, you are so very brave. :)

  2. Beautiful and real, and something I’ve felt lately myself. And for some reason, I tend to cry in my car in my driveway at the end of the day. Thanks Abby!

  3. Oh I could write a novel. I have just, in the past few years, begun to cry freely. Now I am a total cry baby. I cried on the way to work thinking about how so many friends have lost family members to addiction this past few weeks, that I just can’t take it anymore.

    I cried yesterday because it hit me like a ton of bricks that I do not have a man to nuzzle up to anymore.

    I let very few people in. The few I do, I say I let all the way in, but to be perfectly honest, even my best friend has no clue the extent to which I feel broken a lot of the time.

    You are not alone. And I’m glad I heard from you today. I adore you and you are in good crybaby company. Okay, some would argue about how good my company is, but still.

  4. It’s so easy for me to relate to this. I think you know that I wear my heart on my sleeve. I feel TOO much. And for too long, it’s left me vulnerable, exposed, easily hurt. For that reason, I close myself off to friendship. I never let anyone in too much, for fear that they’ll hurt me or see the real me and not like me or whatever the hell kind of thoughts go through my head. I’m trying to do better in this regard. I think there’s a happy medium. Somewhere between being completely closed off and being completely vulnerable. I don’t know how to strike that delicate balance. I don’t know how to stop getting hurt without building up those walls.

    For me, it’s easier to stay closed off. It’s the hardest thing in the world to put myself out there and give so much of myself on the chance that I could be rejected.

    But I don’t want to be that person anymore.

    Glad you shared this. Glad that there’s someone out there that understands and feels it all, too.

    • It’s always much easier to not feel anything than to allow yourself to be vulnerable. That’s why I distract myself or numb things out at times. I think a lot of people do, but those of us who are a bit more sensitive (yes, we are sensitive) are simply more in tune with it and still crave that connection we so often close off. I’m most certainly still an emotional hoarder/hermit, but there are times I open up and am almost always glad I did. For what it’s worth, you know I love when you do, too ;)

  5. Abby,

    Thank you for sharing this. I know that it was difficult. You are strong and you can feel. It is what makes us human. We are all just bundles of emotion bagged up under our skin and every so often, we have to poke a hole in it and relieve the pressure.

    Not too many people are brave enough to share with others when we have to make that hole.

    You are.

  6. This post and that song … both beautiful and powerful. And such an inspiring reminder that we are not alone. Not in our brokenness nor in our conflicted desire to protect ourselves from hurt … and … to be close to someone, somewhere. Gah. Thanks for posting this.

  7. What a beautifully written piece, especially juxtaposed with those song lyrics. “That which is most personal is most common.” I read that in Adair Lara’s book on memoir writing, “Naked, Drunk & Writing,” and it would seem to apply here. I’m sure you touched that part that’s somewhere in all of us. Good work, Abby.

    • I love that lyric. So perfectly said. I also think I need to check out “Naked, Drunk & Writing.” Just to judge a book by it’s title, it sounds right up my alley ;)

  8. Just call me K

    Thank you. A beautiful post. I resonate with all of it. One thing you wrote just really hit me in the gut though: “I forget that most of the people that like me did so before I started trying to make sure it stayed that way, before I worried about what I said or did.” I never thought about it like this before – so true. Also, I want to thank you for reminding me about this amazing song! xx ps: I the same with the whole wall situation – there’s a party going on next door as I type! pah.

    • Isn’t that song amazing? And yes, I often do forget that the people can make their own choices. If they choose to be with me, I need to accept and not question it, not worry about keeping them interested every second. Just…be. Glad you could relate.

  9. I’ve always compared myself to a computer…everything that happens in the brain counts, because there is no heart. People say I’m very sensitive but they don’t realize it’s only for others. I have no sense (feelings) about myself at all. I did it on purpose, and I think I know how it started, maybe. And maybe I’ll have the fortitude and grace to write about it as you have. Thank you so much for being another of my unknowing mentors.

    • Thank you for such a thoughtful comment. I also put up my “fiercely independent” vibe 99 percent of the time, but when it comes to other people, I’m extremely oversensitive to their emotions. I always feel like I can handle crap better than anyone else and want to save them from having to deal with stuff I can just file away. I have a big heart, but sometimes I shield it with armor ;)

      • “I always feel like I can handle crap better than anyone else and want to save them from having to deal with stuff I can just file away.” Oh man, right on the spot/dot/clot! Filing away is easy when you’re a computer head, eh? I think I also might do it because then maybe they’ll like me (better) because to tell the truth I don’t like mself very much.

  10. This is where I am today with my remembrance of Kurt Cobain and his music along with the others who made up my formative early 20s years.

    I did the same thing in the car today, but there was a grungier feela nd I didn’t wash my hair.

    lovely post

    • I read your post but couldn’t really articulate anything that didn’t sound lame. I’m glad you let it out as well, you greasy rocker groupie.

  11. This was wonderful. I’m so glad you shared this. For the most part, I’m a very interior person and it’s taken so much strength to really put myself out there over the years. I know what it’s like to stay numb for so long because it seems worse to feel. I finally broke through that but every once in a while it will creep up a tiny bit and sink in when I’m least expecting it. Then, it’s back to moving through instead of around whatever is going on. Keep connecting and reaching out. Sometimes you get burned but it’s better than being alone.

  12. you cried?! breakthrough indeed.

    You know I’m here. I wont ever “burn” you.

  13. I find that people don’t seem to want you to have emotions. Maybe it’s just me, but I get annoyed when I’m sad and folks immediately swoop in to “cheer me up.” Sometimes I just want to be alone to feel my feelings. Sometimes I WANT to cry. I’d rather feel sad than feel nothing at all. Emotions are beautiful. I’m glad you got to open up and feel.

  14. AMEN!!! Let the walls coming tumbling down. I love WHO you are. Cry it out, feels good to release.

  15. You can break my heart and heal it all at the same time. I love you so very much..xoxo

  16. Whoa. You got me Abby. I was not expecting to feel tears well up when I read this post. Beautiful writing. You mingled the lyrics in with your own thoughts and feelings in a seamless fashion. xo.

  17. My dear friend, I read this whilst blinking through the tears. Your writing transports me to a part of myself that I know so very well, but keep hidden from most people around me. I know we’ve spoken about this before, but music speaks directly with my soul. It moves me in a way nothing else can, there’s something so organic about the way it transcends my regular range of emotions. I listen to music whilst I train for my marathons and at times, I feel like I’m floating on air – even when my body is exhausted and my legs feel like lead.

    And I always cry. Always. The crying runner girl.

    A beautifully written, reflective and emotional post, Abby. I’m proud to be your friend.

  18. Tez aka Terry

    No wonder you’re my favourite blogger. Walls up, down or shaken all about, you’re still A OK xxxx

  19. I’m the exact same way. I have such a hard time letting people in. I like my bubble and my routine. I’ve just been burned so many times by both friends and boyfriends. I keep hoping that I’ll meet someone who will make my walls come down, but I have to be willing to do the work on my end too. Beautiful post Abby!

  20. Great post – sad because you feel shut off most of the time, and very cool that you had (and wrote about) this mini break through. Maybe it’s a blogger thing? I don’t invite a lot of people in, either…

  21. What Katie said. Rejection, perceived or real, cuts me so deeply that I withdraw a lot. Sometimes I convince myself I’m unlikable. Other times I berate myself for not trying more with people. Much of the time I end up saying screw it. I’m in a phase now where I’m trying to open myself up and it’s terrifying (see fear of rejection). But I’m trying to look at my fear more rationally–I don’t like everyone I come across, so not everyone will like me either. But I won’t connect with anyone if I withdraw.

    Music can dissolve me into a puddle many days. I’m obsessed with listening to music.

  22. Sometimes music is the one thing that gets me to come to terms with whatever I’m feeling. I am so free with my words all the time, writing about every little thing I do, see, eat, whatever, that sometimes I forget to really look into what’s going on in my heart. And other people somehow have a much better way with words when it comes to my own emotions. I’m glad you had a breakthrough :)

  23. Oh, Abby. Sometimes a really good and ugly cry is very healthy. I hope you are feeling better today.

  24. I loved this: “I forget that most of the people that like me did so before I started trying to make sure it stayed that way, before I worried about what I said or did.” That’s something I always try to remind myself about.

  25. StoriesAndSweetPotatoes

    I always feel better after a nervous breakdown. None of my stressful situations have changed but I just feel inexplicably much better for a day or two. I think that kind of release usually takes me to a place of “Fuck it, this is life, it is what it is”. Blissful apathy or something.

  26. What a great and moving post! Many folks have walls up and don’t even know it. We do it for a lot of reasons, but primarily it’s to keep us safe and from getting wounded (or further wounded) on an emotional level. My walls were up for MANY years and they helped to keep me safe. As we all find out eventually, those same walls sometimes keep us from feeling the good stuff as well. It sounds like you had a breakthrough! No sense carrying that stuff around with us all time. Nice job letting go…

  27. how very, very touching. Beautifully written and very powerful. Brought a tear to my eye knowing you crossed a bridge. I love it when that happens. Cyberhugs, Laurel

  28. If you haven’t checked out the TED Talks by Dr. Brené Brown, you should. She’s an AMAZING vulnerability researcher and I think her work speaks to the feelings you describe here. But expect more crying. The ugly, but good, kind.

  29. Lovely. The walls come tumbling down eventually. We’re not meant to be the best of engineers when constructing them. They’re temporary. Looking at your avatar, and then reading that you listened to the CD in your truck…I was thrown a bit. Your avatar doesn’t look like she’d drive a truck. Shows you are a complex woman with complex feelings, and that’s a good thing.

  30. You literally just read my mind. I need to read and reread and sit with your words time and time and time again. They reached a place of honesty in my heart that I had shielded from the light for so long. It’s a tiny corner where I put my vulnerability and keep it locked away. Perhaps it’s time to pick the lock?

  31. It takes energy to keep walls intact. I put up walls after being a victim. I tore them down the day I decided I didn’t want to be a victim anymore. It takes way too much out of me. Now? I’m the exact opposite. I experience every flash of emotion I can. I’ve been known to cry spontaneously at a sunset. It helps that my husband finds my emotional roller-coaster endearing.

    That doesn’t mean that you have to become a weepy willow. Emotions work for me because I had set my walls for all the wrong reasons. Walls are fine as long as you’re healthy and not indulging in self-inflicted pain. Don’t let anyone tell you when those walls are supposed to come down. You’re the only one who should make that decision. We’ll all love you just the same, for you are as beautiful as your writing, and your voice is amazing…

  32. I’ve been broken too … but as you say … we don’t have to stay that way! :)

  33. “I built up walls and distractions to steel myself against ever feeling that way again”….haven’t we all done the same?

    Walls give us a safe haven to re-group, some time to gather strength and face the world again. Walls should never become a self-imposed exile from life, yet, they are necessary when some hurt comes crashing down on us.

    Excellent post, written as if you looked into many souls, especially mine.

  34. I love how this leads up to it being a choice. You can choose to protect yourself and not take a risk which though it might seem safe ends up being pretty two dimensional.

  35. I built up those walls very young. Bullied, geeky, etc. And when I met my husband, it was like the walls weren’t even there. It wasn’t that they were gone. They were still up for other people. He just pole vaulted over the battlements. And let me tell you what a MESS I was sorting that shizz out. But then, it’s always been like that for me. I have a very few friends with whom I have built a lifelong connection. And those people… they were people I connected with instantly, who understood my walls and flopped right on over them. I am so grateful to have people like that in my life, and I think it’s awesome that your friend who sent you the disk connected with you in that way.

  36. Stupid wordpress. I wrote a long thoughtful response and it ate it. Synopsis is that I wasn’t heartbroken at all. I was heartened. Because I feel exactly the same way, and I’ve had those walls up for most of my life.

  37. What a beautiful and meaningful post. You really are letting your guard down here, and it can be so important to do that once in a while, whether online in a blog post or in a journal or in your own private way. Thanks for giving us a glimpse into your mind and your vulnerability. Stay strong girl <3

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