I have always had difficulty relating to the word tough. As a boy full of sensitive feelings, I never gravitated to fighting or dangerous stunts. The risk of hurt was not worth the effort to be daring with my body or my heart.
Certain coaches, conductors and teachers tried to culture toughness by intimidation and shaming. They rationalized their methods as a way to survive competition and harsh criticism. I wished for a long time that they could have found other ways to motivate me.
I love feeling. I love feeling good, feeling joy, feeling love. In order to rise to a challenge of proving my toughness, I thought I needed to close my heart to feeling, and to armor myself with cold determination. I could do it, but it felt wrong to my nature. The armor was something “not me”, and the façade felt foreign to my way of being.
It felt so wrong that I deliberately tucked myself for 25 years into a small, safe box hidden away from the harshness of the world. I thought cloistering myself in a marriage and community would bring me the happiness that I was looking for.
These past few years I have had to make tough decisions to leave very safe little boxes of my own and others’ making in order to grow.
The inner guidance to make these decisions has brought me to a new place of alone-ness in which I’ve had the incredible opportunity to get to know and explore close friendship with myself.
This has led me into a discovery of my own heart, which I’ve been writing about lately. Opening it up, I’ve listened to all that it has to say—not just the love, joy and happiness, but the hurt, disappointment, fear, resentment and anxiety from decades of repression.
I am learning how to clear and heal by listening. Whether it is by journaling a dialogue with my heart, or by visualizing music as a receptive vibration to invite release of old layers of hurt and pain.
At first, this was really scary. How much was in there? How much had I repressed? If I let it out, would it take hold of me and drag me under? Sometimes reliving those moments from the past was hard.
And then all of a sudden, I realized that by having the courage to face the past, I was finding my true source of toughness.
It wasn’t toughness from the outside, but from within. It wasn’t something I had to put on, but something naturally inborn, simply there when I wiped away all the dirt and grime of pain and fear.
This inner source of toughness fills my heart with strength and power. It’s not that it will protect me from every harm, but it has enabled me in these past two months to withstand great intensity:
- When a conductor glared right at me in the middle of the cello section, and I could mentally say “bring it on.”
- When having to make decisions that were the best for me, breaking the habit of trying to keep everyone happy.
- Sharing my feelings with vulnerability, knowing that I was risking disappointment (which actually turned out to be the best things I have ever done).
Someone mentioned a fierceness in me that hasn’t been present before. Perhaps this is from connecting my heart and feelings with this new found toughness and courage that fills my body with such energy, hope, intensity and expansion. I feel there is so much unexplored potential within me, within my heart. I have been asking myself “what else is possible?”
Now I ask “how much MORE is possible?” I know that the answer depends on how much I’m willing to observe, release, open and clear.
How much more is possible for you, my friend?