Open

The heart is a finicky organ. It has to be just the right size. Too big and you have a problem. Not big enough, still a problem. Missing a tiny valve equals major problems! It has to be just the right size. Keep her dormant, not good. Once in a while she needs a bit of cardio. Too much and she gets overworked.Finicky. And that’s just the physical stuff. We have not even gotten to the best part yet. The emotional side of her.

Lately, the phrase stay open has been coming to me. I am hearing it everywhere. In conversations. Seeing it everywhere too. Online. From my friends, heck I am saying it to other people. Encouraging them to stay open. Keep your heart open. Open. Open to what? Open how? Do you mean like open heart surgery? 

Open for me reads like vulnerability. The ability to let people or sometimes things in. Showing parts of myself that even I am scared to face. Scared to admit to myself. So the thought of sharing those parts of me with anyone else is daunting. I fear the repercussions of doing so. What if they get to see the real me? What if they don’t like what they see? Will they judge me harshly? Will they still want to be associated with me? Will they hate me for what I really am?But what if they do? Like what they see I mean? Does this mean I am likeable, loveable even? Why does the idea of that make me so uncomfortable? So why then would I want to be vulnerable? Stay open? Just to feel uncomfortable?

But the world needs us to stay open. How else would we live with other people? How else would we feel empathy? How else would we fall in love? Or know how to share our feelings? Can our feelings be overrated? Would we still be open if we felt all the feelings and shut down because the feelings are too overwhelming. Would that still mean we are open? Or would our openness cripple us close?

The heart is finicky. It does this thing where it shuts down, closes up to protect itself when it feels threatened or hurt. Or broken. It does the one thing it is best to protect itself. It is no longer open. When your heart breaks, does it really break? Do you lose a little bit of it? Maybe a tendon or a muscle or a valve closes up forever? It does feel like that sometimes, doesn’t it? Like actual physical pain. And then you start to rationalise with yourself. You start telling yourself all these things. To never fall in love again. To never let people in. To never be open. It is not your brain. It is your heart, closing up. Building a wall. Protecting itself. Not staying open.

Then time passes and the same heart starts to feel things. Things like loneliness. Things like wanting to be open again. Told you she was finicky. She starts asking to be let out. Making you feel things. Making you want to meet people. Making you want to open your mouth and use your words. It creeps up on you. First you speak to one person. Then you feel exposed. And rationalise that it is only one person. Rationalise that you did not overshare so technically you did not get vulnerable. You did not stay open. Then you share your thoughts with another person. Or go for a second date, or have a heart to heart conversation with another human being. Before you know it, she is open again. Finicky I tell ya!

I don’t do well with staying open. It makes me feel weak and not in control of my emotions. And for the longest time I took pride in not letting people in. It was my unspoken super power. The less people I let in, the less chance I have of being hurt. You can’t get to me if I don’t let you in. So I did everything in my power to keep people away. To keep people out. To not stay open. 

And this manifested in my life in various forms. I struggle to let people help me with things, because I don’t want to feel like I owe them. I process all my feelings internally. Rarely will I share if I am angry or sad or lonely while I am still experiencing the actual feeling. You will probably only know after the fact. If at all I choose to share.

The downside to living in this way is that the people around you assume you have your shit together. That even on your worst days, you will be fine. Because you got this covered. You mask it so well. Behind a smile. Behind an “I am fine”. Behind your resting bitch face. Behind the headphones that rarely leave your head. Behind the all black clothes you wear. Behind your uncanny ability to show up for others even when you are running on empty. And it is well, until you can’t hold it together anymore. And you desperately need to open up. But there’s no one there. You are all by yourself. Stuck in your head and in your hurt. Because your heart refused to stay open.

My therapist keeps telling me to put this muscle into practice. To practice sharing. To practice being open. And everytime they say it, I am left wondering, how open can I truly be? To how many people? Do I rely on staying open or do I ignore my instincts even when they are screaming at me to run? How do I tell that this  person is worth opening up to? That I can be vulnerable to them. How does it serve me to be open if I run the risk of getting hurt? Or trusting the wrong person? And their reasoning is, my therapist not the heart, is that maybe just maybe, it won’t always feel like I am carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders.

They believe that it will help me shed off the ‘superwoman’ tag I am desperate to get rid of. It will show me how to ask for help. Something I don’t do well. It will help me allow others to show up for me when I need them to. It will help those close to me know when I need help. Know how to help me when I need it. And not make me feel so alone.

Clearly, this is something I still need to practice. Ironically right now I feel so exposed. I just put out my biggest fears to all y’all. Very tempted to pull the plug on this piece. Probably will go into hiding for a bit after I hit publish. Maybe my therapist will read this and give me a gold star, who knows. All I know for sure is that the heart is finicky.

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