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On Learning To Feel My Feelings

Expert Author Mallah Rych Hurst

A stranger bought lunch for my son and me today. When I arrived at the cash register, I was told that my bill had already been taken care of. "By whom?" I asked looking around the restaurant. Apparently, it had been paid by a local pastor at a local church that I didn't even know existed in my neighborhood. It was a terrifically kind thing to do... and completely unexpected. I've done this kind of thing in the past but I never expected it to happen to me. Even now, hours after the event, I find myself moved with emotion by the gesture. It was a gift.

You see, today is the nine month anniversary of my husband's passing. We used to always go eat out together and he always insisted on paying... from the time of our very first "date" to his very last day of life on this planet. From the beginning, he referred to me always as a "real lady". (No one had ever referred to me that way before.) He took pride in the fact that he always provided and cared for me. He said it was his privilege. His devotion to taking care of me caused me to raise the bar on my own sense of self-worth. My own parents were not permanent fixtures in my life at that time... nor had they been for quite some time. Why did he care about me so much? How could he love me so greatly when I was so obviously flawed? His perception of me changed my own perception of myself. He saw the person that I was inside --- flawed as I was and chose me anyway. He often joked that he chose me because I was a good cook and that I won his heart by making the best hamburgers. By the time I had met him in my thirties, I had already pretty much resigned myself to the fact that I was far too damaged for any long-term, real relationship contender... but as it turned out, I was wrong.

I learned at a very young age that my feelings were not important to other people... especially my parents. When I asked my mother about the whereabouts of my father or when he would return, I got yelled at and told to stop asking. When my step-father would walk into my bedroom and see me crying, he would simply turn around and walk out the door. So, I learned long ago that crying was useless. It was a physical response to pain that yielded nothing. I became very, very good at stuffing feelings. I stuffed them so well that often times, I didn't even know which feelings they were --- if they weren't happy ones, they got stuffed.

All that stuffing is bad for a person. I had eating disorders as a teenager and digestion problems as an adult. I was emotionally frozen. I stayed in my head because for so long, it had been the only safe place. I created an entire world for myself inside where I did not get hurt and people loved me. Going through so much death, pain and loss has really forced me to confront these old negative programs from my youth that I have been carrying in my head all of these years. I can't live my life not feeling! I don't want to. Allowing myself to grieve over all the loss in my life has been a labor-of-love process for my very soul.

Honestly, in the very beginning, I had a difficult time processing my husband's death. It was easier for me to grieve for our beloved Labrador than it was for me to accept that I lost my life mate. When I got back from Puerto Rico and my dog wasn't there to greet me, I crumbled into a pile on the floor and sobbed uncontrollably for hours and hours. Until that day, I had not allowed myself to cry that much for anything or anyone in years... not even my own self. For six months, I cared for my terminally ill husband and his frail, elderly mother. I was a trooper! I really was. Lots of people commented on how "strong" I was. I told them over and over that I always come through in a crisis... the time to worry about me is after the crisis is over. I know myself well...

Since then, I've done a lot of crying. Sometimes, I hold my husband's ashes in my arms and just weep. Just yesterday, I fell off the truck while balancing on it to fill the main water tank and tumbled to the ground and hurt my left knee. It hurt and I was hot... and I didn't want to haul water anymore... so, I cried and later, I comforted myself. I try to consciously tell myself every single day all of the loving things I had always wished other people would say to me in my life. I find that being emotionally honest with myself and the people that are in my world is one of the bravest new behaviors that I have been developing within myself... and it is. Even now, I am a work-in-progress.

So, today a stranger paid for my lunch... my hamburger lunch. I chose to receive it as a gift from my husband from whichever dimension he finds himself in. The entire incident brings tears to my eyes but unlike the old me, I don't hold them back like I used to. I allow myself to feel what I feel... which is gratitude to the stranger, loving comfort from dimensions beyond, wistful longing for my dead husband mixed with tears of pain for all that I have lost... and tears of wonder for all that the future holds for this new me.

Mallah Rych Hurst is the Editor-in-Chief at Poree Publishing She is also a classic-era jazz, blues and Latin lounge singer, musician, songwriter, poet, children's book author... and lover of all things chocolate. She records music under the name, SoulePhix.

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