We hear it all the time, in memories and eulogies, over too much wine and too much heartbreak — “I should have told them.”
That we cared, that we were upset, that we loved them, that no, we’re not okay and here’s why. There are so many different instances of the idea that maybe we shouldn’t tell people everything, whether it’s a lighthearted punchline in a stand-up special, or our own hearts that remind us of what happened the last time we did this. We got hurt, we got rejected, it turned out that the other person didn’t care.
Whatever the outcome, it never tells us that this is a risk we ought to take again.
So we regress into ourselves, we stopper things down. We tell people we’re fine when we’re very clearly anything but. If we’re lucky, when we explode, it’s not a breakdown but a breakthrough. It’s something that tells us about ourselves, something that illuminates not only a feeling we had in the core of ourselves, but a way we should live our lives better. Usually, though, we’re not so lucky. Instead, we cry our eyes out, experience a pain so heavy that it physically hurts. And we stopper this down, too, and put on a brave face, and tell people we’re fine.
(It’s funny that as we live in an increasingly connected society — one where we can tell complete strangers the tiny, little inane details of our most mindless thoughts, we’re still not comfortable with the idea of telling those close to us how we feel. Maybe this is irony. Maybe it’s just human nature. After all, most of those jokes can’t be used against you. Your attachment to the people and things you love, however, can.)
The whole of who we become — not just who we are right now, but the person we’ll be tomorrow, and the person we’ll evolve into in five and ten and 15 years — transpires through a set of beliefs we cultivate through experience, the emotions that come from those beliefs, and the actions that come from those emotions. And that person who was and is and will be us learns how to cope with feelings and emotions from past experiences. If you never practice by telling people how you really and truly feel, you’ll never learn.
And when we spend most of our lives quelling those feelings, shielding ourselves from vulnerability and dampening the ecstatic, marvelous, horrifying, tragic beauty that is life and all it’s supposed to mean to us, we’re not living it completely.
Some of us aren’t living it at all.
In fact, some of us are on autopilot most of the time. Acting out of supposed obligation, not will and choice and emotion and feeling.
There are, of course, caveats. We are told from a young age that it’s a risk to let people see how you feel. To leave emotions out of the workplace, never to let them see you cry, that you’ll be seen as less-than for expressing anything other than tacit okay-ness with how things are swimming along. And, in some instances, you can understand why this is true. Because sometimes the head and the heart don’t align, and yours isn’t the gut reaction being called in for opinion.
But in all other cases — in all of the other ways the world manifests itself as scenarios and possibilities — if you ask me, it’s better to risk being hurt than to feel nothing at all.
Because eventually, the ends will outweigh the means. A risk you take on telling someone how you feel, expressing why you’re not okay, saying the damn truth for once in your existence, will open you. And it will open every part of your life up to the things that could be and should be and will be. You stand no chance of finding love if you don’t tell anybody how you feel. You stand no chance of finding yourself if you’re always convinced that you can only contain half of what you really know to be true of you in that moment.
Tell someone how you feel. Go after what you want. Be honest with yourself, and your emotions, and listen to your gut reaction when something screams at you from your very bones that no, you are not okay. Ask yourself why that is. Listen to yourself. Trust that a feeling is a feeling is a feeling. There’s no wrong way to experience an emotion. There’s no wrong way to feel.
So tell them now. After all, it’s either this, or telling someone else why you were afraid. Which one would be harder to admit?