The Belief that Sucked the Life Out of Me
Somewhere in my early years I picked up a strong belief that has robbed me of feeling happy and joyful. If I feel happy for longer than a minute I start to feel uneasy with a sense of pending doom. It seems every time my sister and I were having fun my Mom would shut us down harshly. Being a sensitive child, I took it to heart and began to believe that having fun and being happy triggered getting in trouble.
When I was 21 my very best friend died in a motorcycle accident. My belief that having fun equaled getting into trouble became feeling joy meant I would also feel deep emotional pain. I couldn’t have one without the other. One caused the other. So I stopped feeling.
My Mom used to say I had a great sense of humour when I was a kid. This belief sucked humour right out of me. One day my middle sister was relating a discussion she and our youngest sister were having about me. Our youngest sister told a joke and they both laughed out loud. “Did you tell Shannon that joke?” my middle sister asked the youngest.
“Yes I did.” She replied.
“Did she find it funny?”
“Yes she did.” My youngest sister answered.
“And how could you tell?” Asked my middle sister.
“Because she said ‘um that was funny’ “
I learned from this revelation that I wasn’t very expressive with my emotions. I had become emotionally shut down and wasn’t experiencing life from a happy place. Instead I was very guarded and controlling of my emotions and my life.
And so I began the long journey of undoing this belief. The first step was to learn to laugh out loud again. This might sound silly, but it was awkward and took perseverance. Before too long I was having sincere belly laughs.
As years went by I paid attention to what I liked and didn’t like. Slowly peeling back the layers of the onion took time. As I discovered something new I would make course corrections to allow myself to feel and enjoy.
Most times a re-awakening effects every corner of our life. With me, it meant divorce, marrying again, moving, and quitting a long time well paid career. And life threw me more curve balls. Over 7 years I lost my youngest sister to suicide, another best friend to a car accident, my Mom, a Grandmother that I was very close to, my Dad and several other friends and acquaintances. It seemed like death was here to stay. I was only 47 and truly felt abandoned. A large part of me shut down again.
It wasn’t until recently that I even realized I had stopped the feelings of joy. I was once again faced with the onion. The endless onion of learning to feel my emotions and to feel happiness and joy to the fullest. From deep down fear bubbled up that if I am too happy someone I love will die. Absurd. The two aren’t connected. One doesn’t cause the other. But somewhere in my brain, is that old belief that they are.
Christmas just passed and we had the best time with our nearly 3 year old Granddaughter. Feeling joy for more than a few weeks, I was once again plagued with the unsettled feeling of impending doom. I didn’t know why I was feeling this way until we saw the movie “Saving Mr. Banks” with Tom Hanks. I had one tissue in my purse and cried more than it could hold. The movie triggered some of my own memories that refused to let go. In the movie was one line spoken by Tom Hanks just for me, “Isn’t it time to forgive?” Yes, I thought, it’s time to forgive myself, and others and allow joy to live in my life more consistently.
However I’m afraid. Never again do I want to feel the heart-ripped-out of my chest feeling of loss of a loved one. There is no guarantee in life that I will or won’t outlive someone or everyone. The two aren’t related. We will feel grief in life. We will feel extreme joy. And I no longer choose to live denying joy out of fear of feeling extreme grief. With this little ingrained belief I was allowing myself to be robbed of the best moments of my life. So the journey begins anew. The journey to be vigilant and allow extreme happiness and everlasting joy a place in my life. It is in these moments that I will gain strength if I outlive yet another loved one. It is my intent to cherish each day as it comes in gratitude and pure love one day at a time.