Even though I’m only four feet eleven and 1/2 an inch (well, 3/4’s of an inch on a good day) tall, I did actually experience growing pains growing up. The leg aches. Oh the leg aches. I remember crying to my dad one night because I couldn’t fall asleep because both of my legs just ached. And I didn’t know why. He tried explaining to me what growing pains were. He said that even though they were uncomfortable, they were necessary to grow big and strong.
Different Kind of Growth
Fast forward to my life now. I’m turning 24 in a few weeks, so I’ve finished the body aches that accompany physical growth. But I’ve had a LOT of emotional growing pains this year. Year 23 was really hard.
I got engaged last May, and about a month later, he called it off. I was devastated; I practically spent the entire month of June watching ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ in bed. I couldn’t understand why he called it off. It was so unexpected and our communication was so poor. I was in a lot of pain.
Luckily for me, I work with a bunch of therapists who 1) are kind and amazing and 2) have great resources. So I read Brené Brown’s Gifts of Imperfection. Between her words and time, I started feeling better.
He reached out to me again a few months later and a quote from the book came to my mind: “Courage is a habit, a virtue: You get it by courageous acts. It’s like you learn to swim by swimming. You learn courage by couraging.”
It felt right to practice couraging, so we started communicating again. It was amazing the growth that had happened for both of us that summer apart! I kept thinking, “All that pain was worth it!” “Look at how much we grew, and how much stronger we are because of it.”
We dated again for a few months before he proposed to me again in January of this year. It seems like as soon as the ring was on the fing, our relationship fell apart. Long story short, we talked, and communicated, and fought for months. We compromised and cried and eventually realized that it shouldn’t be this hard, and decided to end it.
Partially why I held on so long was because I did not want to experience the pain again. I wasn’t ready for it to ruin and wreck my life. And I already finished ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ twice! I didn’t want to wallow in my self-pity and hurt like I did again.
Big & Strong
And surprisingly, I didn’t. All that pain and hurt I experienced this summer made me big and strong, just like my dad said it would! And as I reflected on our round two, I see how the growth manifested itself even in our relationship! The fact that we communicated as well as we did is proof. Or our ability to have really difficult conversations and give really important and necessary feedback, even though it hurt. And that I would listen to his feedback without getting immediately defensive or offended. I grew big and strong, and I didn’t even realize it.
This time around, I read Rising Strong by Brené Brown. I loved everything about that book, and recommend it to anyone. One of my favorite quotes from the book is actually from C. S. Lewis: “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
Another reason I held on to the relationship was the shame. “Oh, hi everybody. We got engaged again, and called it off again!” I know people who really matter wouldn’t care; they just want me to be happy. But shame is a very real emotion. However, that quote made me realize that I wasn’t blindly going back into the relationship, I was being vulnerable.
And I am proud of that! Being more vulnerable, authentic, and honest was one of my goals for 2018, and I am proud that I was actively engaging in one of my goals. And an uncomfortable goal at that! The last quote I’ll share from Brown’s book Rising Strong is: “Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome. Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage.”
Year of Growing
My take-a-way from my year-of-growing, as I’m calling it, is that there is no growth in comfort. Lean into the hurt and vulnerability. Rub the aches when they come, but don’t wish them away. I can honestly say that I am grateful for year 23. But I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t tell you I am really excited for year 24. I’m excited to put the growing pains I experienced into another year of life. And hopefully it can be a better year because of the growth I experienced.
In conclusion, physically I may not be very big, but emotionally? Emotionally I am a lot bigger and stronger than I was a year ago. And I am calling that a win.
Brown, B. (2015) Rising strong: The reckoning. The revolution. The rumble. New York: Spiegel & Grau.
Brown, B. (2010). The gifts of imperfection: Let go of who you think you’re supposed to be and embrace who you are. Center City, Minn: Hazelden.