I’ve been re-watching The Great British Baking Show. If you aren’t familiar with the program — it’s a bake-off, a competition. And it’s about as much drama as I can handle right now. All of the contestants are committed and invested, but the stakes aren’t so high that there’s anything much to get stressed about. Everyone is good-natured throughout the challenges. Even when their dough doesn’t rise properly or someone’s custard is tad runny, the contestants and hosts and judges all remain unflappably polite, appear genuinely nice, and seem unconditionally supportive of each other. I LOVE IT.
Travis and I have hundreds of other interesting shows queued up in our various watchlists, every genre and format imaginable. And I often think about checking out this or that thriller, comedy, documentary, biopic, or critically-acclaimed drama. But I keep drifting back to the GBBS. It soothes my soul.
Early this week, though, I was finishing up an episode, one I’d already seen, one about which I knew the outcome… And I found myself sobbing when a contestant’s elimination from the competition was announced. I knew she was going to go home. In fact, because this was a re-run, I knew that she had been cut three-and-a-half years ago, back in Season 8. But, dang it, there I was on a sunny afternoon, shoving rice cakes into my mouth, blubbering like I’d just lost my best friend.
Gosh, I’m thin-skinned these days. I mean, I’ve always been sensitive, and generally I like that about myself, but lately — ugh.
I’m in one of those phases (biorhthymic? hormonal? astrological?) in which I cry at every sunset, or the sweet look on Travis’s face, or the little oinking sounds our cat Danny makes when he’s content, or because someone texted me a well-timed heart emoji. I think that a lot of us are feeling the same way. We’re all a little weird, a little bit off, emotionally and relationally, right now.
And no wonder, right? It’s been a ridiculous year. Heart-breaking and horrible in some ways, simply bonkers and stupid in other ways. And we have to keep plugging along, doing the best that we can, feeling lots and lots and LOTS of feels…
So I want to make a request of everyone: that we all make an extra special effort to be kind, patient, generous, and forgiving with ourselves and each other.
A lot of us are practically crawling out of our skins with impatience to return to something resembling normalcy. Others are feeling anxious because we may have realized that we don’t really want things to go back exactly as they were, and we don’t yet know what that means, so that’s scary. Many of us are frustrated because while there have been numerous positive shifts, other situations and conditions look as intractable and ugly as ever. Some of us are lonely, some of us are sick and tired of the faces in our little zoom boxes… Myself, I fit into all of these categories sometimes, and into some of them all the time. OF COURSE WE’RE EDGY.
The reason I’m writing this today is because I got my feelings hurt recently.
I don’t want to whine about it, and I’m really not requesting sympathy. Like I’ve said, I already know that I bruise easily; it’s not hard at all to ruffle my feathers, in fact sometimes it’s hard not to. And I am aware that this particular situation didn’t have to be that big of a deal. But it took me by surprise and bothered me more and in different ways from what I would’ve expected. I got thrown off my game, left with an inordinate amount of self-doubt and quite overblown feelings of futility.
(It didn’t help that this was all happening while I was trying to write and deliver last week’s message about the essential goodness of humanity and the creative juiciness of unbridled optimism — boy oh boy, did that make me feel like a freakin’ fraud.)
So I’m asking myself a fairly fundamental question this week: how do we hold our hurt feelings?
I mean, we’ve all got them! We’re all walking wounded in one way or another, especially nowadays. It seems to me, ultimately, that being tender-hearted is a good thing, a noble quality. Vulnerability and openness are the only ways we ever really get to experience authenticity, empathy, and honest relationship. But at the same time this does position us, sets us right up, to get our feelings hurt and our hearts broken again and again and again.
I’m wondering if maybe there’s something to be plucked out from the very idea of broken-heartedness… Maybe that’s not the most powerful way to conceive of it at all.
Perhaps “broken” isn’t the right word for it. Because, really — a heart that feels, cares, aches, loves, longs… hurts… That sounds to me like a heart that’s working just fine.
Here’s what I’m looking at:
- How to remain open and tender without being overly fragile.
- How to not take things so personally that I feel like crap, but take them personally enough that I stay engaged. Taking responsibility for my reactions, and participating intentionally and creatively going forward.
- How to keep doing the beautiful, rich, rewarding work of sustaining relationships, even as I learn time and again that this can be a sorrowful process.
Trevor Noah (from The Daily Show) described himself like this: “I don’t think I have thick skin, but I heal fast. It’s easy to break through, but I heal fast.” That sounds pretty good to me. Maybe that’s what I’m looking for.
Not a thicker skin, not a tougher shell. But rather a mature capacity to feel things fully, the joy and the tears of it all, without being swept off my feet a hundred times a day. To connect genuinely with others, heart to heart to heart, while developing the emotional-spiritual-psychological tools and FAITH to recognize and experience this as growth rather than breaking.
Thanks for creating with me a safe space for all of us. Thanks for letting me be me. I celebrate and love you being you.
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