“Barretts Don’t Cry.”
I learned it very young and have heard it repeated several times in my life. We are a family of people who take care of ourselves, endure hardships with a smile, and don’t get sick. We are a competitive family, one that fights to be on top and performs well in any activity we set our hands to.
We are a proud family and we never shirk from difficulty. Even as the feet of the duck paddle frantically under the surface, we glide smoothly across the surface and refuse to break a sweat.
This teaching, engrained deep in my psyche, has been slowly worked out through the loving hands of mentors over the last several years. If I am unable to feel pain, joy is less enchanting. When I squelch the pain of betrayal, I lose the fierce empowerment of one proving loyal.
But even with all this work, my default to difficulty is to fall back into stoic, emotionless detachment. Unsure how to feel or how to express what I feel or should feel, I hide with a smile the raging winds inside of me.
So that’s where I have been the last few weeks… and writing peels away layers that I fight hard to keep on so you have seen nothing coming from my blog as I fight desperately to maintain my composure.
But I’m tired. And the emotional stoicism is cracking. Like a lit fuse on a firecracker, I will probably blow up if I don’t let out some of this emotion in a healthy way… so that means it is time to write.
It all started on my birthday; actually the day after my birthday. I met a man at a Toastmasters event and we clicked pretty well. He asked me out and the following day I went on my first date… like ever.
Fearful and unsure, the following two weeks were two warring emotions. On one hand, I loved having someone want me. I have never been pursued, called beautiful, and treated so well. On the other hand, each time we were together it became more and more clear that our faiths do not align.
I knew that we needed to have the conversation about God but kept finding every excuse to wait because once that conversation took place I knew we would not be able to keep dating. And I loved having someone care about me, someone who wanted to know how my day was going and wanted to spend time with me.
On Valentine’s Day we went out and the more we talked the more clear it was to me that our worldviews do not align. He was fun and awesome and thought I was beautiful… but we saw the world through a different pair of glasses.
I fought it for a few days and eventually that Friday I called him and told him that it wasn’t going to work. While I knew this was the right decision, it was terrifying to think that I may have given up my only chance at finding a husband.
Sunday morning at 5am I boarded a plane headed for Orlando, Florida. The trip was for work but I was going in early excited to see a good friend who has mentored me through the last several years. While my ultimate freedom from a 20 year stronghold is fully to God’s praise and glory, this friend is, of all people, the most involved in that process.
When I landed in Dallas I texted her that my flights were on time. I landed in Orlando to her response that we couldn’t meet. Her husband, also a friend of mine, had moved into hospice. That night, during our team dinner, I was informed he had died.
I’ve experienced death before, but this was a new experience for me. On one hand, I have never questioned if someone’s death is my own fault before. This time I did. What if I had prayed harder? What if I had spoken more positive declarations? Was it something I said?
At the same time, I was in more pain for his wife than for him. She is such a dear friend of mine and has had such an impact in my life. And there is nothing at all that I could say or do to take away the pain. It broke my heart.
But between that night and the Thursday funeral I had three days packed with working a conference, meeting and greeting potential customers, and taking existing clients out for lunches and dinners. So I donned my “Barretts Don’t Cry” stoicism and endured the next three days.
Wednesday I had a coworker tell me she didn’t know how I did it and that she would have fallen to pieces. I know how I did it… my whole life has prepared me for this duality. What I didn’t know was how to control the ice creeping through me. I questioned several times why I had broken up … I could really use someone to talk to right now.
Thursday I rented a car and took the hour drive to Melbourne for the funeral. It was great to see friends, and heartbreaking to see him there, having lost over 60 pounds in just a few months. After a week of blocking emotions, I didn’t know how to process what was happening in me.
I wanted to make his wife no longer sad … but there is nothing I could do to ease that pain. Meanwhile I had my own grief, grief of what could have been. This man was so kind and happy and cared more about people than anything else. Why him?
But also fear… as everyone shared their stories of how he had impacted their life I began to wonder what would be said of me. The breakup still fresh on my heart, I began to question if I would ever find love or I would die alone and unwanted.
Still processing these things, I came home to a weekend with family. I love my family but right now there is turmoil and sides are being taken. Watching it pull apart my family, while still unsure where I stand and how to process the situation for myself, was just too much.
I shut down and closed inside of myself. Most likely I appeared uncaring and disinterested but I just couldn’t take anymore. My heart is raw from too much turmoil so it’s easier just not to feel.
But I do feel.
I feel fear and hope and anger and guilt and love and confusion and pain.
And I don’t know how to process any of it.
So I grab another sweet thing or watch another YouTube video trying to numb everything away. And for a moment it works… until it’s over. And I need another.
I refuse to stay on this self-perpetuating cycle that is stealing everything I worked the last 8 months to accomplish. There is nothing I can do to change yesterday. Tomorrow is beyond my grasp. But today is mine. And I will experience it to the full.
I will choose to laugh.
I will choose to cry.
I will choose to eat if I am hungry but not to mask my feelings.
I will choose to feel.
I will choose one choice at a time to walk into the life I know I am called to live.
Because it is a lie. Barretts do cry. It isn’t weakness; it’s strength.