“Chippie the parakeet never saw it coming. One second he was peacefully perched in his cage. The next he was sucked in, washed up, and blown over.
The problems began when Chippie’s owner decided to clean Chippie’s cage with a vacuum cleaner. She removed the attachment from the end of the hose and stuck it in the cage. The phone rang, and she turned to pick it up. She’d barely said “hello” when ‘sssopp!’ Chippie got sucked in.
The bird owner gasped, put down the phone, turned off the vacuum, and opened the bag. There was Chippie—still alive, but stunned.
Since the bird was covered with dust and soot, she grabbed him and raced to the bathroom, turned on the faucet, and held Chippie under the running water. Then, realizing that Chippie was soaked and shivering, she did what any compassionate bird owner would do … she reached for the hair dryer and blasted the pet with hot air.
Poor Chippie never knew what hit him.
A few days after the trauma, the reporter who’d initially written about the event contacted Chippie’s owner to see how the bird was recovering. ‘Well,’ she replied, ‘Chippie doesn’t sing much anymore—he just sits and stares.’”
~ from “In the Eye of the Storm” by Max Lucado
How many times have we felt tossed and turned like Chippie, coming out the other side only to “sit and stare.” We’ve all been there at one time or another.
Last week, the city where I live was hit by the first typhoon of the season. Watching the storm from my vantage point inside my fourth-floor apartment, set on a hill, overlooking the water, I was in awe at how powerful the wind blew. As we “battened down the hatches,” I was reminded of the chaos and destruction a violent storm can cause. The day after the storm blew through, I went out to exercise, stepping over broken tree branches and around debris littered on the ground. Workers were busy picking up the wreckage.
I contemplated how much chaos and pain our own personal storms in life can cause and how destructive they can be. As I witnessed the wreckage, the question surfaced in my mind,
“How do we move forward, picking up the broken pieces, after difficult seasons in life blow through?”
One answer is to make every effort to be with people. What we should not do is move away from people. Isolating ourselves is never the answer in picking up the pieces of hurt or loss and finding healing for our damaged emotions. Though withdrawing for a time may be necessary to seek peace through solitude when a difficult situation occurs and our emotions are raw, it is not a healthy long-term way of living through it. If we seek solitude for a time, we should make plans to resurface.
When I feel hurt, my natural instinct is to withdraw from the rest of the world. I seek isolation, insulation from that hurt. Many of us spend energy on building up walls to protect ourselves. But, building walls accomplishes our intent a little too well. It keeps people close to us out. It also creates a vicious cycle. People stay away and we become lonely, causing us to feel discouraged, and for too long of a time of isolation, feelings of despair creep in on top of the hurt we are already working through. It is far too easy to hide away. The urge to be alone and isolate ourselves does not go away easily, we need to make intentional plans to be with others. We are made to live within community to be healthy versions of ourselves.
Find a trusted friend or family member to be with. Do something you enjoy together. Go for a walk or sit quietly on the couch with someone and watch a not too emotionally intense TV show or movie.
As I mentioned in the previous post, ignoring or suppressing difficult feelings and emotions into silence is not a healthy plan. For most of us, suppressing how we are feeling and closing ourselves off from those we are closest to is nearly impossible anyway. When we try, agitation and anger surface in place of the difficult emotions we are struggling with. We answer their question of, “Are you okay?” with an “I am fine,” while gritting our teeth. Those closest to us know when we are keeping them out. They feel our turmoil and see it through our body language. They feel excluded. Not only are we left with our inner turmoil, by holding these feelings close and not including those closest to us, but we also create rifts in our relationships.
Communication is essential! Our loved ones deserve our respect in this way, not to close them out. If communication is too painful at any given time, we can at least say, “I am hurting, but I need time until I am ready to talk about it.” Even if we are not able to communicate with our loved ones all we are feeling, we should share at least the basics. In addition, having healthy patterns of communication already put into place with those closest to us is important even before difficult seasons blow in.
In different measure, my husband and two adult children often and with great patience listen to my emotionally charged words. I am thankful for them. However, whether we talk with family, a friend, or a counselor about the full depth of the turmoil we are dealing with, it is imperative to find someone we can trust to share our innermost feelings with. It could be a smorgasbord of people, sharing specific feelings with specific people.
Find that person, or people, who you can share these deep feelings with, who you can trust to not judge you or feel hurt by your feelings. Find someone(s) who can help you carry the burden of your difficult season.
Instead of isolating yourself, seek to be with people when you are ready. Instead of suppressing your feelings, feel them deeply and then find the best ways to release them by communicating with others.
“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” (John Watson)
On a side note, a wonderful gift to give the people closest to us is to listen to them and strive to understand their feelings. To enter the mind of the person who is communicating and seek to understand their intent and meaning in the words they are speaking. Listen first, pause in the middle, and then respond (or don’t respond – just listen). I am not saying this is always easy, life is messy and so are we; however, this communication stream (sharing, listening, and understanding) is essential in building emotional fitness and creating healthy relationships.