Life is full of disappointments. From very early on in life, we learn this inevitable truth. As children, we find out we cannot eat candy 24 hours a day. As adolescents, we learn the lasting scars of being chosen last for the team. As teenagers, we somehow survive the gut-wrenching anguish of losing our first love. As young adults, we experience a missed job advancement or failed financial venture. As young parents, we die a thousand deaths that first time we cannot take the pain away for our child. As experienced parents, our hearts shatter the first time our child yells in anger that they hate us.
Each time, with each newly experienced heartache, we shut down just a bit more. The human heart can only tolerate so much before the brain takes over, and instinct takes charge. In the battle between heart and mind, the heart will always lose – the brain is programmed to dominate every time – this is by design.
But the problem is that our hearts are unaware of our brains ‘survive at all cost’ mentality. Our hearts are stubborn, see. They are the ‘David’ in this story. They might be smaller and weaker, but don’t bother telling them that. Because next to the heart’s bathroom mirror is a mantra – a daily pep talk, if you will – ‘I can and I will.’ The feisty little heart refuses to understand that it’s delicate and fragile – disposable even.
Someone who suffers a trauma typically learns how to bypass the heart-brain circuit fairly quickly, for self-preservation purposes. Without this ability, the presentation of each new rejection is like reliving the trauma over and over again, regardless of what it was originally. The same mental anguish, self-loathing, personal disdain and downward spiral ensue with no ejection handle available.
This ‘heart bypass’ might look plastic in nature – with no real ability to attach to anyone or anything. In my case, I have become ‘Teflon Girl’ – able to leap huge piles of BS in a single bound, especially when spewed from the male species, without getting a speck of crap on me. It really is an art form, getting into and out of the suit so quickly, but I’ve noticed a few flaws in the design as of late. ‘Teflon Girl’ does not have hinged elbows – that is, she straight-arms all recent male relationships, careful to keep them far enough away from the cargo inside. While that’s great potential damage control, when and if you actually do want to let someone in, trusting that feeling is made all the more difficult.
Another flaw with ‘Teflon Girl’ – as in life, the coating has started to wear thin from overuse in a few areas, especially around the heart. And as much as the brain says “You didn’t hurt me. I’m Teflon.” the heart knows better. This heart is hypersensitive…it feels every beat – irregular, skipped, crushed, longing – nothing gets past this baby.
The last flaw I’ve noticed…there’s no helmet with the suit, leaving the brain completely exposed to all attacks. My brain, I would say, is my greatest asset, but also my greatest liability. It is a wealth of information, humor, personality, spunk, and gifts. But at the same time, my brain cannot leave a question unanswered, a puzzle unsolved, a problem unresolved or a stone unturned. My brain never stops running – ever. So when attacks come, which lately seem constant, my brain goes into hyper-drive; first, trying to fend off the assailant, protect at all costs, formulate a plan, and rearrange strategies and then after the attack, to assess the damage, replay the battle, and ponder the lesson gained.
And while this seems somewhat straightforward, it is exhausting. I have been working so very hard on me for the last 2+ years, trying to rebuild what I allowed to be torn down and demolished, and have made excellent headway. I have learned to distinguish happiness from façade, learned that I won’t fall completely apart if I’m not always black or white, and that I am strong but that doesn’t mean I cannot ask for help when I need it. There are still many areas that are works in progress: realizing what I am worth and not accepting less, being alone and being lonely are NOT the same, and listening to and trusting my inner voice.
So as I’ve observed these design flaws, in ‘Teflon Girl’ and myself, I’ve decided to give us both a break. Every superhero has their kryptonite. For me, I am absolutely my own harshest critic. The sooner I ease up on the negative self-talk and soul bashing, the sooner I can continue the rebuilding process. Maybe I’ll even use stainless steel…everything sticks to that!!