Cautiously Optimistic

crocus in light

As I walk this crazy path of discovery, I’m uncovering things about myself that, although I’ve always suspected them to be true, are now proving to be true.  It’s kind of like learning about a long-lost relative with whom you share personality traits or getting the results of your first Myers/Briggs Assessment.  You see it and then think, “Wow!  So that’s why I eat my peas with my knife,” or “Hmmm, that’s why the pillows on the couch need to be perfect.”  There’s comfort in numbers and an even greater comfort in knowing WHY.

I have always had a very difficult time letting people take care of me.  I brush off comforting hugs (yes, even from my husband and children) and say, “No, no really…I’m okay.”  I feel extremely uncomfortable when people reach out to me with compassion and concern.  My first response is ALWAYS, “No worries.  I’ve got it.  Don’t trouble yourself.”  When my father died I wrote the eulogy and watched, dry-eyed as my husband delivered it.  People saw me and began to cry and I comforted them.  The same happened when my mother died.  My children were devastated and I had to be there for them.  I pretended I didn’t need to grieve because we had such a difficult relationship but that was the biggest pile of bullshit ever slung.  Everyone needs to grieve – for what was or for what wasn’t – doesn’t matter.

The love and compassion flowing from the comments on this blog recently are overwhelming to me…and a little uncomfortable.  Each one I read touches my heart, some make me cry, some make me laugh but they all make me know I’m not alone…that I’m cared for.  While I’m reading them however, there’s an crazy desire to say, “NO, NO…it’s okay!  I’ll be FINE.  Don’t worry yourself about ME!”  Can you hear the unspoken truth here?  It’s saying…”Don’t worry about me…I don’t deserve your love and concern.  I’m not worth it.”

How fucked up is that?

Pretty fucked up indeed.  But like the tendency to perfection, I’m uncovering WHY all of these things exist and that part, while extremely uncomfortable, it really kind of exciting.  Why is it that I don’t feel I’m worthy of the love and kindness you people pour forth?  Why, after 32 years of a happy marriage, is it so hard to for me to believe that my husband loves me?  Why can’t I let anyone give me a hug when I’m crying or say “there, there”?  Why can I be there for everyone else in their time of need but not let anyone be there for me?  Kind of selfish don’t you think?

But now I’m starting to see some answers and it has me frightened and nervous and anxious and excited.  Just the thought that, after almost 54 years on this planet I could open my heart to love and compassion not only from others but from myself; that I could actually learn to love the person I am and not the person I think others want me to be; that I could actually let someone else TAKE CARE OF ME emotionally has my mind reeling and my heart cautiously optimistic.

It’s almost too much…but not quite.


“Most of us have far more courage than we ever dreamed we possessed.”  ~Dale Carnegie

19 thoughts on “Cautiously Optimistic

  1. Wow. I just want to say me too.
    How did I come to repress my own feelings? Why can I see and want to feel compassion for others but am afraid to let it completely flow for myself?

    Why are my personal expectation of me different than my expectations of others???

    Thank you for this. I know there is a lot of emotion stuffed inside me. I am afraid to let it out. I don’t know how. But I know it would be good for me….

    1. I know for me, my emotional constipation is related my mother’s limited ability as a parent. She never hugged me or comforted me. I used to think everyone’s mom was this way. If I fell and hurt myself, her response to me was anger. I never understood why, but I didn’t know that was abnormal. One time, I went to my neighbor’s mom who was a nurse when I fell off my bike and cut my knee open. I was too afraid to go home with my bloody leg. I don’t know if she knew I was afraid to go home, but she cleaned my cut with hydrogen peroxide and put a bandage on it and I remember feeling grateful that this woman who wasn’t my mom was being so patient and nice to me.
      I guess I grew up knowing that mom was not a safe place to bring my pain, sadness, fear, or anything else, so I learned to be “fine.” If you can’t trust your mom with feelings, it’s pretty hard to learn to trust anyone else. I’m trying, though.

      1. Mine was a little different. I could bring home my bumps bruises and emotional pain but it came with a cost. For as long as I can remember I heard, “Remember that time when I bandaged you knee?” or “I’ve always been there for you so why can’t you do this for me?” After awhile I just stopped going to her because it was always conditional. I learned to take care of everything myself. I know it hurt her because she wanted to be a good mom and I froze her out…but I was in survival mode (and part of me was likely punishing her as well.


      2. My family wasn’t touchy or emotive either. From the time I was little I wanted to be a tough guy who didn’t cry, like a GI Joe, because crying and having feelings was for babies.

        I honestly don’t remember much of my parents from when I was a kid. They weren’t dead or deadbeats or anything, I lived with them until 18, and I was always clothed and fed and educated, but I don’t remember interacting with them much, except when I got in trouble. I dunno. Does that make sense?

      3. It does make sense…sadly. I made sure that all four of my boys knew, from a very young age, that crying was not only allowed – but encouraged. That is was okay to get mad, just not hurt anyone. That there feelings were real and not just kid stuff and that their dad and I would always pay attention and help them through it.

        You know…all of the stuff I didn’t have.


  2. So well said. So much in common. Not an alcoholic myself, but the wife of an alcoholic, I have come to the same place in my life as you, and have experienced all the same things you so eloquently express here. Love and have compassion for yourself, you deserve it.

  3. Hey, I also don’t like having people care for me. Well, maybe my wife. But anyone else makes me uncomfortable. Even when I was a kid, after about age 7, I avoided “meaningful” talk or touch with my parents or anyone else, except when there was no other option. Just didn’t like it, and kept to myself instead.

    1. I don’t think I avoided it, I think I actually craved it. I just don’t think I trusted the people who were supposed to provide that meaningful touch so it was uncomfortable. Strange…I know.


      1. Good point. You’re right. In retrospect, I decided at a young age that being solitary was safer than letting someone into my personal space (both physical and emotional), and that the pain of loneliness was easier than the pain of rejection, because the loneliness was self-chosen. It wasn’t what I wanted, so much as it was the best option I had.

  4. The morning my mom died, I went to the hospice facility where she had been for the last 6 months. I felt sad for the the way she had died, alone and confused, drugged up just beyond consciousness. I sat with her for a bit, then I didn’t know what I should do. She was gone. I went down to the chapel room down the hall and sat. After 20 minutes, or maybe 2 hours, (I don’t remember how long it was) I went back to the nurses station, asked for her things, which were brought to me in a heavy suitcase and a bag. I was headed out the door when one of the nurses asked if I needed help out with the bags. I said “No, thanks, I’ve got it.” That moment is a microcosm of my whole life, and your story is SO familiar to me. The nurse said something to me, her exact words escape me now, but it was something to the effect of “you’re not as strong as you think you are.” I blew them off, angry at her for going on so unceremoniously with her job while I went through the darkest, most painful moments of my life. 157 days today.

    1. Oh do I know exactly what you mean. The morning my mom died all I wanted to do was get home to be with my kids. They really loved their grandma. But some do-gooder chaplain kind of woman kept making me sit down and breathe. She wanted to pray with me, to comfort me. I just wanted her to get the hell out of my way!!!

      I still think about that and wonder why in the world she just wouldn’t let me get gone.


  5. I am the same way. As you know my mom died a week ago. That day I began to pack up her things as the assisted living would continue to charge until her apartment was cleared. People kept asking if I was okay, and I kept saying yes.
    Now I am home, and I am not okay. She is gone, and is all the stuff, but I am still not okay. My husband knows I am not okay, but when he asks, I say I am fine. Is it that I am afraid to show weakness, I don’t want to be comforted? I don’t know. When your therapist gets to the bottom of this, please share.
    It is the same when I get angry, I rarely let it out. Everything is always okay. Even when on the inside I am raging or crying. It is a heavy load.

    1. So sorry about what you’re going through. I’m just now cleaning up the mess I made of myself when mine died and it’s been 3 years ago. It really is a heavy load, and no one else can see it.

      I think a lot of us who bottle everything up like this just didn’t get a lot of validation of our feelings growing up. I grew up hearing things like “Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about.” and “Wipe that look (frown) off your face.” And anger? Forget it. My mom was all about the silent treatment when she was mad. There was no arguing or talking about angry feelings, just stony, suffocating silence, and she could keep that up for weeks at a time. Does any of that ring a bell for you?

      1. Every word is my childhood exactly. I would fight back and really get in trouble. My brother used to say, just let them win then it will be over. My father gave me permission to get my ears pierced, took me to get them done, then didn’t talk to me for a week because I put holes in my head. Crazy, crazy shit.

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