There was a time when I was void of emotion. Hardened to the realities underneath the surface.
Perhaps it was my inaccurate view of what being a man looked like. Bootstrapped, tough, invulnerable.
Or maybe it was the scars left by wounds I’ll explain in another post.
Whatever it was, I took pride in always holding it together. Don’t show pain, don’t show fear, don’t show doubt.
Push the scary stuff way down deep where no one can see it. Where it can’t hurt.
Squash the emotions, bury the evidence.
A rainy night in a Walmart parking lot changed it all for me. The dam broke.
And I blame Brooke.
We were in the on again part of our relationship, not knowing that it would be for good this time.
She was attracted to my optimism, my outlook and my dreams for the future.
But she was terrified of my inauthentic, surface emotions. She knew there was more. There had to be after all, she knew the hurt I had experienced.
She loved me enough to put me on the hook. The hook I had avoided as I hid, pretended, postured.
I was now twisting on that hook while Brooke prodded me with questions.
She was relentless. Because she knew it was worth it. Like a good counselor does (and man, I can’t wait to write a counseling post soon), she led me to the head-spring.
No one had guided me there yet. Those waters were cold, unknown and frightening. I preferred my dammed up, safe life much better.
Sure I didn’t feel much in those waters, but the absence of hurt felt better.
Brooke didn’t accept my BS. My explanations. My outlook.
She persisted. The rain pounded on the windshield in that parking lot, and my heart pounded with fear.
“But Justin, how did it make you feel? I don’t care about what happened to anyone else, I want to know how you felt.”
At the time, her interrogation felt harsh. I wanted to flee, escape, retreat.
Brooke wouldn’t let me. Slowly at first, my put-together facade began to crumble. And before long it erupted through the dam and wrecked my life. In the best of ways.
What the hell are these salty things running down my face? Why am I so angry? Why do I even care? For the first time, I had more questions than answers.
I laid on the operating table while Brooke carved me up – in loving, gracious ways.
The stories, emotions and fear that I smothered to the deepest recesses of my heart bled all over the car that night.
And now, 15 years later, I look at that night as one of the most pivotal moments of my life. A night that sprung forth emotions that I had hidden for too long.
I had built a big, safe wall around me. No one could come in unless I invited them.
When that wall collapsed, I began to experience life again. Sure it oftentimes looked like sadness or pain.
But it also looked like beauty and hope.