You know that line in the Taylor Swift song… Why you gotta be so mean?
That’s me. I can be mean.
Most people would think I’m delusional for saying that. I’m the nicest person they know, they say. I don’t have a mean bone in my body, they say. But I do. Rarely anyone sees this side of me, because I’ve learned to tame that baby dragon (with my Scorpio stinger), where she stays fed and watered in the basement of my heart.
But every once in a while, she comes out to play. It’s no longer a fire breathing death disaster as in days of the past. It’s now subtle. Like little backhanded comments, that jab at another right in their soft parts, leaving them wounded without even realizing they’ve been hurt. I’m that good. Don’t cross the Kirsten.
For a long time, I lived by the mantra of the ever cool Hugh Grant in About a Boy “I’m a bloody island, I’m bloody Ibitha,” proud of my strength and independence as a woman. It made me powerful, I thought. It made me courageous, I thought.
Most times we’re taught that being strong is powerful. And in order to be powerful, we must sacrifice our warmth; our heart. Movies and TV now show female heroines as tough as nails, rather than in touch with their emotions. It’s way cooler to be the wise-cracking sarcastic like Veronica Mars. It’s not safe to be vulnerable and real.
But herein lies the contradiction.
After the initial satisfaction of voicing something from deep down dark within, it feels terrible being mean. For me, my instinct is to heal rather than harm…. I’m a lover, not a fighter. But we all have that place in us that is capable of both…
Most of us spend our lives consumed with work, life, family, obligations, that we become too busy to look within and honor that tiny voice shouting at us to listen. And the more we ignore it, the more we become numb, on autopilot, where we feel distant from those around us, disconnected, and easily frustrated. Judging them and judging ourselves.
When I get this way, I am almost always living in my head, my ego self, disconnected from my heart, my true self. It’s usually an unconscious act of self-preservation because deep down, I’m hurt or sad. And I don’t feel safe or supported.
We are delicate beings. We put on tough fronts. We wear armor and hard shells, but our insides are squishy. And if we haven’t faced the source of our pain, we will inevitably close up shop around our hearts, build up a wall of armor, and hunker down in the fortress, eyes peeled for any impending danger, ready for attack.
This armor is what I call, “Hard Heartedness” or a Calcified Heart. When you think of a heart, you envision something soft, with blood flowing to and fro, giving life. It’s moveable, stretchable, squishable, and it will mostly pop back into shape if dropped, because muscles that are used have the confidence to roll with the punches. They are better equipped for a storm.
A calcified heart on the other hand is weak. It seems tough, strong, unbreakable, but if thrown against the wall? It would shatter into tiny pieces. It doesn’t have the tools, coping mechanisms or strength to withstand the trauma. It also doesn’t have the defenses to ward off illness and disease.
The more we disconnect from our true feelings, bury our emotions, or not allow ourselves to be seen and heard by others…. The more our heart becomes hardened. Even if we don’t feel like something is wrong, our bodies know the truth.
Recently at my Chinese Doctor for acupuncture, I was told my heart meridian was blocked. “Me?! I feel fine.” (You know, FINE… Fucked Up, Insecure, Neurotic, and Emotional.) “‘Fraid so, missy, now lie down and let the healing begin.”
Sometimes we think we’re stronger than we are. Meanwhile, our heart is crying out for help.
The students put in the first needle to relieve the blockage and it triggered such a pinching pain in my heart (emotions needing to be released) that I thought I was having a heart attack. Normally, I can do needles. You want to put 25 needles in my fingers?! Hells yeah, I can take it!
But today, one pesky needle in this specific spot triggered a whole flood of emotions. There I was, laying on the table in my underwear, sobbing, while my doctor, and her seven students, stood over me, assuring me I was gonna be okay. Unable to cover my face, I had to allow myself to be witnessed as I laid there, bare, raw, vulnerable. It was terribly humiliating and also freeing. Talk about being seen.
We have to feel safe to let people in. To be ourselves in all our messy glory.
We live in a world filled with communities. We are born into families for a reason. Because we can’t survive on our own. A lonely heart is also a calcified one.
By ignoring our feelings afraid to face them, or wanting to be viewed as cool, strong, or having it all together, shutting out others, we are actually only hurting ourselves.
When our heart is closed, our main central intelligence, our intuition, is also closed. We’ve shut down the wise, all-knowing, loving part of ourselves that connects us to our deeper truth, that compass that is there to steer us in the right direction.
We don’t have the resources to trust or feel safe, to follow our truth… because we’ve become ruled by our ego, which is ruled by fear.
We can so easily become the complacent heart. Numb.
Be wary the complacent heart.
Be wary the calcified heart.
We have to love ourselves enough to stay open. Even if that means having a good cry in front of strangers. I’ve done it a few times recently even if it wasn’t planned, and I feel really thankful for it. Both times, I felt true healing happen.
I’ve learned that the true strength and bravery comes from not shutting down. But staying open, no matter how afraid we are. No matter how much our wounding is triggered.
I need to know this as much as the next person. To remind myself to stay open and engage. To visit with family and friends. To reach out. To not be the island all the time. But instead a colony of mini islands co-existing next to each other, connected by the roots under the sea.
It was my mom today who guided me back to my heart. And reminded me when my defenses are up, I’m not strong. I’m weak. Thank you Mom for being extra squishy… and having the courage to call me out of my fortress. It brought me right back to the place where I love to be… in my heart.
Don’t shut down.
Be squishy. Be open. Be brave. Be love. Be really real. Even if it scares you.
Those in your life will thank you for it. And your healthy heart will thank you too.
Loving you and your dragons,