Say What Hurts / by Sarah Schwartz

Sometimes you have to say it out loud, the thing that hurts. You have to name it, wrap your tongue around the way it sounds, roll it around your mouth like a hard candy.

Sitting across the table, she asked you about about the hurt, a topic the three of you occasionally dance around or make jokes regarding, but haven't talked about in seriousness for years now.

It has been years, after all, and everything in you wants to be graceful and poised; a marble statue of a woman, responding with a laugh and a line like, Oh, that? I had almost forgotten.

But instead, you nervously rub clammy hands along the tops of your thighs, suddenly aware of your heartbeat emanating throughout your body. You read somewhere that we never really get over hurts like this, not even with time, we just absorb them, and hopefully let them carve us into kinder, softer creatures.

You'd like to think you're a kinder creature, but in moments like this, you wish you weren't quite so soft. You're embarrassed at how flushed you still get when this comes up—but these are friends with whom you feel safe, and so instead of retreat inwards, a tempting and oft used option, you lean in to the moment and the fear of being exposed, even though it makes your stomach spin like a laundry cycle setting.

You answer honestly, slowly choosing and stringing your words into sentences like salt water pearls on a string, each one a little misshapen, but forged somewhere inside of you that's true.

This is what hurts.

This is what makes me afraid.

This is what I hope.

This is what hurts.

When you're finished, you let the words sit between you for a few moments, proud of yourself for not immediately rushing to a more comfortable subject. Your heart is slowly returning to it's natural rhythm, and you trust your palms will follow suit.

Your friends are good listeners, and don't jump to offer solutions, or reasons as to why you shouldn't feel the way that you do. You sense they know something holy has just transpired, too.

You've always said that if given the option, you wouldn't trade how deeply you feel, about well, everything, but that doesn't mean you haven't thought about it. Because while it's your natural posture to give and receive love with gusto, with depth, with a keen knowledge of just how sacred these hearts of ours are, it also means you don't have any callouses to hide behind when sadness, grief, or hurt comes.

And from time to time this makes you feel small and childish, like when an old hurt comes up and your face still turns seven shades of blush. You wonder if it means you are weak, this way you love and feel and break. It would be a whole hell of a lot easier, you think, to move through life not giving a damn.

You're thinking this over a few days later when a dear friend texts you an excerpt from a book she's reading.

This just glowed Sarah, she writes.

"If we're going to put ourselves out there and love with our whole hearts, we're going to experience heartbreak. If we're going to risk caring and engaging, we're going to experience disappointment...If we can learn to feel our way through these experiences and our own stories of struggle, we can write our own brave endings."

You laugh out loud, grateful for friends who know you.

"There are too many people today who instead of feeling hurt are acting out their hurt; instead of acknowledging pain, they’re inflicting pain on others. Rather than risking feeling disappointed, they’re choosing to live disappointed.

Emotional stoicism is not badassery.

When we deny our stories and disengage from tough emotions, they don’t go away; instead, they own us, they define us. Our job is not to deny the story, but to defy the ending—to rise strong, recognize our story, and rumble with the truth until we get to a place where we think, Yes. This is what happened. This is my truth. And I will choose how this story ends.” (Brene Brown)

Say it out loud, the thing that hurts. And do not feel shame for being a soft creature.

Perhaps this thing that makes you feel small, is your greatest strength.