Surrounded {learning life lessons}

PSA: serious, wordy post ahead (this very well could be my longest post ever). If you are in the mood for rainbows and adorable fuzzy puppies please see this post instead. 😉

Clearly something has been going on with us lately. I’ve been all vague and weird about it. And as far as the world wide web is concerned, I plan to stay pretty vague about it. At least for now. If there comes a time when I’m ready to share so publicly, I will. But suffice it to say, I’ve had some medical stuff going on lately (don’t worry, I’m not dying – it’s nothing quite that drastic 😉 ). And we’re holding up well emotionally. Just an occasionally emotional day here and there. This week was a more difficult week. And we knew it would be.

So we have been slowly opening up to some people we trust to ask for their prayers and support during this time. And you guys, we have been overwhelmed. Completely and totally surrounded and embraced with love. I’ve always been on the other side of loving and supporting people, it’s so strange for me to be right in the middle of the figurative group hug. But I am loving it. I know that a lot of people  have been hurt by church and Christians, but I promise you that there is so much good there too. People are flawed and will make mistakes, but when the church is working like she’s supposed to, it’s a beautiful thing.

I’m speaking to myself here. Well, to Christopher and myself. We hold things really close to the chest when something serious or important is going on in our lives. For the longest time I had no idea why we were so private about serious stuff. But this whole thing has given me some time for introspection. And I realized why we are like this.

A small part of it for me is that I fear coming across as dramatic. Or “woe is me”. I am naturally a really sensitive person so when I was younger especially I erred on the side of theatrics. I got told often to quit being so dramatic. But in truth, I really did feel that way. As an adult when I see kids/teens who are like that my inclination is to roll my eyes because it is kind of annoying (thank you everyone who put up with me). But I don’t. I gently nurture those souls because I know that someday when they get past the adolescent/teenage hormones, they will be some of the most empathetic people out there. But those feelings of “don’t be dramatic” are still pretty deeply ingrained in me. So I fear that if I open up about serious stuff it will come across as me being dramatic.

A small part of it for Christopher is that he is just in general a private person. He is more interested in hearing about other people than he is in sharing about himself. This is why most of his coworkers have no idea how talented he is at basketball or as a wood worker. In fact, you guys know more about Christopher from my blog than the people who work with him every day. He doesn’t mind people knowing those mundane things if they ask, but it also doesn’t occur to him just to share.

But the biggest thing was something that happened a long time ago to both of us. During my sophomore year of college we shared everything with our group of besties. It’s a long, messy story (with hurt feelings on both sides), but by the end of it, we had been ostracized by the group. And that group took the private things we had shared to them in our vulnerability and twisted and warped the information so there was just a nugget of truth to it, but a lot of ugly lie as well. And then they spread those things through the rest of our friends. We were hurt and devastated. Christopher was quick to wash his hands of the group, but I tried (for far too long) to fix those relationships. It was a painful life lesson, but a good one for us to learn. A lot of good came out of that situation. We learned a lot about friendship and what it looks like and who to trust with our hearts. The friends that we made after this happened became our BEST friends from college. The ones who we still keep in touch with and get together with. So again, lots of good came out of this situation.

To be totally honest, I rarely ever think about this anymore and it doesn’t sting anymore when I do think about it. In so many ways I’m grateful for the lessons I learned and the friends I made afterward that I don’t think I could be bitter about it even if I wanted to be. It was so long ago and I’m not in touch with that group anymore. So it doesn’t occur to me that what happened back then might be influencing us in a small way even still today.

Today Christopher and I have a lot of friends. A small group of besties and then lots of good friends. But we have SUCH a hard time opening up about personal stuff. I think that part of us that was burned once before had dug down deep inside us. And put a fear in us of opening up. Because when you trust someone, when you open up to them, you leave yourself vulnerable. And once upon a time, when we did that, some of the worst things were said about us throughout our group of “friends”.

So I guess along the way we started sharing less and less of ourselves with people until we were SURE. Sure that we were going to be able to close on the house we wanted, sure that the medical issue wasn’t as serious as the blood work indicated, sure that the dog we had adopted would be a good fit for us, sure that higher education was the right choice (remember that one time when almost no one knew that Christopher was in graduate school until just before he graduated? Prime example).

And there’s nothing wrong with this. But it does rob those who love you of the chance to really support you through difficult things. It’s not that we don’t share the difficult things ever. We always do. We just wait to share until after the difficult thing/decision has been resolved. We protect ourselves that way. But we also isolate ourselves in difficult times. I think this is part of why Christopher and I have such great communication. For most of our relationship we have been all the other has for support during difficult things. Which is awesome for our marriage. But again, we isolate ourselves from others. Isolate ourselves together, I guess.

I’ll  be honest with you, Christopher is still a little unsure about this whole opening up thing. He was the one who kept saying that we should open up to people about what’s going on right now (because he felt like I really needed the support), but he isn’t positive that we won’t still get burned down the road. Just a few minutes ago I was talking to him about how I was writing this post and getting his feedback on it. He really likes how people are coming to stand beside us in this and supporting us, but he also is still wary. Especially as we open up to more people. And you know what, he might be right. We might share too much with the wrong person and end up hurt because of it.

For me personally, I understand Christopher’s feelings because I’ve felt them before. But I also know that we have changed our criteria for friendships and the people who we are close with today are very different from the group we were close with those early years of college. I really do think that opening up to people we trust is going to be the right decision in the long run. 🙂 And if I’m wrong, well, we survived it last time and it made us better, smarter people so it’s only more life lessons to learn. 😉

It’s super weird for me to write this blog post now instead of waiting 6 months or a year to prove that it was the right choice to open up. But then I wouldn’t exactly be authentic to the lesson I’m trying to learn, now would I? 😉 For now at least, we have truly been surrounded and embraced by family and friends throughout all of this (well ever since we opened up to the first person). We are surprised, overwhelmed, and grateful. 🙂

If you made it this far, pat yourself on the back. You’re a rock star! 🙂

Do you open up and share personal things easily?

If you don’t mind sharing, tell me about a time when you shared too much with the wrong person. Or were hurt by someone after being vulnerable with them. I want to hear about the lessons you learned and how you deal with opening up to people now. Obviously this is a pretty personal question so feel free to email me instead of leaving it in the comments below. 🙂

Love Rach

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40 responses to “Surrounded {learning life lessons}

  1. It’s always a risk to open up and share, but everything we do is a risk. No one should go through anything alone, or without extra support if it’s there. But at the same time, it’s 100% fine to share only what YOU are comfortable with. You can take baby steps, no need to open up 100% right away. I’m sure whatever choice you make will work for your family!

  2. oh sweet girl. i can relate on being sensitive and so when you share it comes across dramatic because you’re *actually* feeling the experience so acutely. some people will understand, and others just won’t. that’s okay though, because the people that do understand will be able to comfort and support you so much better. you make a good point about that too – about opening up so that people are able to support you and be there for you. the first time i got pregnant, everyone told me to keep a secret until 12 weeks to make sure the pregnancy was viable. i went ahead and told all our family and friends (not the internet) anyway. 3 months later, i had to tell them that we had lost the baby. making the calls and feeling vulnerable and opening up was incredibly difficult, but i felt more love in those few days than i had since our wedding. the best part of sharing bad experiences, in my opinion, is being able to conntect/relate to people who have something similar going on in their lives. i think brene brown writes about this? anyway, longest comment ever and definitely a ramble, but i just had all this running through my head. okay, i’ll stop, but know that i’ll keep you in my prayers and hope that you find the peace and community that you need ❤

    • I love your longest comment ever! Thanks for sharing your heart with me, sweet friend! And thanks for sharing your story with me. A dear friend of mine has lost three babies in a row and she told me that she is so grateful that she opened up to close friends and family about her pregnancies. For one thing it gave her a community to celebrate with and as importantly, it gave her a community to grieve with during each loss. She has been a big part of me learning to open up more *during *the hard times instead of just waiting until everything is resolved. So your story really touches my heart because it’s one that reiterates the truth I’m learning. Thanks, sweet lady!

  3. I can relate to the being sensitive thing, too. Being sensitive is a gift, but it can be hard, especially if you don’t have others that understand. As I read this post, I was reminded of a quote I heard a few years ago – “A sorrow shared is but half a trouble, but a joy that’s shared is a joy made double.” I think letting those friends and those you trust share your sorrow or pain is so important because somehow it really can lessen the load. ❤

    ~Kelly
    http://www.leafynotbeefy.com

  4. I have a few close close friends that I share just about everything with. And even sometimes I am hurt but not deeply. Sometimes you open up and just need someone to listen and end up getting a remark that you aren’t prepared for. That has happened to me too. Some friends aren’t as sensitive and I have learned who to open up to about certain things. It’s more of a personality thing than anything else. I think the last time I have been truly truly hurt was many years ago. I have grown a lot since then and feel like I open up to just the right people now. But a part of me will always be afraid in a sense. Still sending thoughts and prayers for you no matter the situation though!

    • I think I am still learning this part. There’s a part of me that feels like “well, if we tell so-and-so, then we have to tell this other person as well…” even though I’m afraid that other person might not be as supportive. Since we’ve started opening up, I’ve found that to be the case with just a couple of people. Most everyone has been so sweet, so concerned, and so supportive. Which has been exactly what we’ve needed. I think I need to be better about only sharing with the people I really want to share with without worrying about “well, if we tell them, then we should probably tell these other people too…” Thank you so much for your prayers! We appreciate them!

  5. Praying for you and Christopher, Rach, whatever it may be. 🙂 ♥

    -Tia

  6. I don’t open up easily.. and I’m always scared when I do! I hope all is well with you and your family.. medical issues scare me!! – http://www.domesticgeekgirl.com

  7. I think your sentence “it does rob those who love you of the chance to really support you through difficult things” is really key. It sucks that you’ve had that experience of deep betrayal. That would understandably not make it easy to trust people again. I don’t view myself as that much of a sharer, but I do prioritize being open in appropriate situations and honestly answering questions. In the lives of people very close to me–I’ve seen what decades of acting like everything is just fine can do..and I don’t like it. Being open, and not treating certain areas of life as “untouchable” or “we can’t/don’t talk about this”–I believe that will truly help in building closeness and relationships. Of course, the caveat “With the right people” must be added.

    • You’re so right! I don’t ever want to be that person who pretends everything is okay when it’s not. Like you, I’ve seen what that does to individuals and families. I think for us we haven’t had to deal with this a lot because for the most part, our lives have been so so so good. And even in the midst of this situation, we are still good. But there are difficult days and on those days, I don’t want to be the person who pretends everything is okay. It’s just hard for me to make really good decisions about who to trust. I mean, some people are easy and obvious, but past those people it’s hard to decide. Anyway, I’m rambling now, haha! Thanks for your input. I think you are spot on!

  8. This is a timely post for me as I was JUST thinking about how bad I am at opening up for people, even my closest friends, and how I really should work on that. My hubby is also the only person who knows everything about me, so I can definitely relate to that. 😉 Hugs and prayers heading your way, sweet friend!

    • You and your Robby remind me so much of Christopher and me. At least the way that you guys love and support and communicate with each other. I’m glad you get where I’m coming from. If you ever need a listening ear to practice your opening up with, I’m here for you!

  9. Why is there a winky face there?! No winky face! Serious matters! Seriously, I forever fail at commenting on your page.

  10. Rachel,
    So sorry to hear you are going through a difficult medical situation. Praying that you start feeling better soon! I completely understand the difficulty in opening up. Right now, I work for a church and everyone is always super open about difficulties they are facing so we can pray for each other, but it is always hard for me to do. I always feel like I am burdening people with problems that aren’t as big as other people’s problems. However, the more I have begun to open up, the closer we have become. It is still hard to do it, but it is definitely becoming easier.

    • That is so awesome that your church is so open like that! What an amazing display of Christian family! I definitely understand the feeling of not wanting to burden others with your own stuff. I have for sure felt that way! I’m glad you’ve started opening up, though! You’re so right about how that brings people closer!

  11. So, it probably won’t surprise you to know that I don’t usually have a hard time being open about personal things. In fact, sometimes later I’m like, “Well you didn’t have to go off and tell your whole life story. Sheesh, Amanda.” I don’t consider too much TMI, and if someone asks, I’m happy to share. I think it’s probably because I haven’t been hurt by a friend in the way you describe. I have had friends drift away for various reasons, and a few of those have been really hurtful, but I haven’t had someone take something I told them in private and add lies and spread it around. It took us a long time to open up to people about trying to have kids, and that was scary to be so vulnerable. But you’re right: it’s amazing how awesome it feels to let people in and have them comfort you and pray for you. I’m glad you felt that too!

    • I used to be the worst about over sharing! I still do when I’m tired and it’s late at night. Thankfully most people seem to find it endearing. 🙂 Before all this stuff in college happened, I really did share my while life story with pretty much anyone who would listen, haha! I still do share most details about my life with people who are interested, but I have a terrible time sharing in the midst of when difficult things are happening. I’m happy to fill people in on all the details once it’s all resolved, but it’s hard for me during the figuring-it-out part.

      I’m so glad you guys have had such a great experience with sharing about the wait for baby bum! It’s so so good to have that support!

  12. I think this post is just great. So authentic. As a fellow sensitive gal, I can definitely appreciate where you are coming from. Know that you are so good and so kind and so engaging that people are completely drawn to you. There are some bad eggs out there, but most humans are going to support and comfort and love others through good and bad. I’m definitely a private person. It is usually quite hard for me to share the challenging stuff.

    • You are so sweet! Good quality people are drawn to us… Like YOU! 🙂 I just got your precious card in the mail and it made my day! That card was adorable by the way. Even Christopher said the giraffes were adorable! 🙂 Thanks for being such a sweet friend! And you know… If you ever want to practice sharing tough stuff, I’m here for ya! 🙂

  13. I think it’s normal to keep some things close to the chest, especially if you have been hurt before. Sometimes I actually think it’s easier to share things online than in person with someone because you have the chance to tell your whole story with no interruption and just the way you prefer. Also, there’s something different about sharing with strangers compared to people you actually know. I shared my pregnancy on my blog long before I did on Facebook, for example. I have had mostly all positive experiences sharing my stories, however personal, on my blog and doing so has helped me to confirm my suspicion that there is always someone out there thinking “me too”. All of this is to say, I understand and I’m thinking of you. I hope you feel better soon and good luck with your decision to share.

    • Oh.my.goodness. YES! I was just saying this to Christopher the other day. We were talking about telling some of our friends here in Memphis what was going on and I told him that I almost would rather email them the information for all the reasons you list! We ended up telling them in person because it just felt too weird to email them when we see them multiple times a week, haha! But I still definitely prefer to be able to write it all out and share it in the order and way I want without interruption. It’s crazy how spot on you were with that! One more example of the “me too” thinking!

  14. I think it’s good that you feel you can open up a bit more with us. I understand that the experience you had in college has obviously made you both more guarded, but sometimes we need to open up to others to realize how much we need that extra outside support.

    It’s actually funny that I’m saying this because while I believe it is a good way to live your life, I find that I don’t open up much anymore. I would say that most people, my friends and family back in the United States don’t even know half of things I have gone through since I’ve moved here. It’s not that I’ve ever had a bad experience about sharing something with someone, I just feel that I don’t want to “burden” anyone with anything, or be a “downer”. Also, being so far away, people tend to worry more about you, since they can’t really see or know how you are feeling when something maybe doesn’t go right.

    Knowing you (through the internet, of course haha) and knowing your values, I’m sure that you surround yourself with some really good people, and I can’t imagine that anyone would try to purposely hurt you. That being said, it is hard to understand why humans do the things they do, and why people hurt one another.

    I hope you and Christopher continue to stay strong during the tough times you are going through, and be open to all of the support you are receiving from others! It really helps!

    • Yeah, I understand that feeling of not wanting to be a burden. It’s funny how you can know something in theory (like that it’s good to open up and share), but then have a hard time with it in practice. But hey, if you ever need someone to talk to and want to practice that whole opening up thing, I’m here for you!

  15. Thank you SO much for sharing!! I know how scary it is. I honestly don’t have too much trouble opening up on my blog, BUT it’s because I’ve kept my blog mostly a secret from people I know personally. Only my immediate family and a few close friends read it (although I’ve started to open up to more people about the fact that I do blog). And then I’ve felt free to share more of life’s experiences – good and bad – on the blog. That has been my safety measure though, because I too try to play it safe. And I know how scary / ‘dangerous’ it can be to make your true self known sometimes.
    I remember when Nate and I were first engaged, I was worried about finances, because he managed a KFC and didn’t make much money. And I knew that I wanted to be a stay at home mom someday, and it didn’t look as though it’d work out for us. And quite frankly, I’d never had to share finances with someone before. I trusted him, but – still – it was scary for me to realize that now I’d have a man to share money with when I had played it safe for so long. But anyway, I shared with a ‘friend’ about how worried and freaked out I was. Her reply? “Nicole, you’re stressing me out just listening to you!” And then she laughed. I was beyond shocked… then went home and cried a bit. Since then, I feel as though I’ve been afraid of the same reaction, and so I’ve put on a brave face when talking to people I know personally.
    So I completely understand! And it’s not necessarily a bad thing to be wise about what you share and who you share it with, obviously. But at the same time, there are times when it’s healthy for us to share with each other, so that we all realize that we’re not alone. The struggle is real! But we serve a God who is so much bigger.
    Sorry for the long comment. Ha, ha! 🙂 All that to say, I completely understand where you’re coming from!!

    • Girl! I love your long comments! 🙂 I’m so glad you understand where I’m coming from with all of this. It’s funny, but I was thinking recently about what it would be like if my blog were a secret from everyone I knew in person and how much more free I would feel to share. For the most part I’m glad that my blog is public knowledge among people who know me, but all of this lately has made me wonder what it would be like to be a little more anonymous and if I’d share more.

      Also, oh my goodness! I can’t believe she said that she then LAUGHED! Yeeesh! Some people really missed the boat on sensitivity. I’ve had something really similar happen with a family member a couple of times and now I just don’t share anything personal with her. I am slowly learning which people I can trust not only to keep a confidence, but also to be kind and supportive and to not downplay what I’m sharing.

  16. I get the privacy thing. In a couple of weeks, I’ve been asked to share my testimony with our new small group Bible study here in Knoxville. I keep debating how much of the gritty details I would like to share! I know that’s terrible, because my testimony is for the glory of God–not for me! And I shouldn’t be hiding it or ashamed of things in my past. But it’s really tough to share, and I don’t want anyone to change their opinion of me or shun me or anything (because that has happened before, especially–primarily–amongst Christians who are SUPPOSED to be loving and merciful. Why is that?!?). I’m so sorry that you’ve been through something similar!

    On Fri, May 1, 2015 at 11:36 AM, WordPress.com wrote:

    > Rach @ This Italian Family posted: “PSA: serious, wordy post ahead > (this very well could be my longest post ever). If you are in the mood for > rainbows and adorable fuzzy puppies please see this post instead. 😉 > Clearly something has been going on with us lately. I’ve been all vague and > wei”

    • Oh my gracious! That’s terrible that Christians have done that to you! It would be so easy to never open up again after something like that. I love Jesus and I love His people, but sometimes we Christians really let our flawed sides show. Good for you for sharing your testimony no matter how much you choose to share! Speaking of, if you need to practice, I’d love to hear it!

  17. I would say generally I am a bit more private and have harder times opening up to people about my issues too. But I’m praying for you guys, whatever you’re going through! I hope you find the support you guys need!

  18. Honestly, we’ve never had anything big happen to us that we’d be apprehensive about sharing. If we did, we wouldn’t feel pressured to share because it’s no one’s business and we just like to deal with things and move on. However, we do tend to want to share things in general to get advice or show others how we get through. All that matters is that you do what works for you two! I hope all of this works out, and I’m always here for ya!

  19. Oh girl, I totally understand everything you’re saying here, and can totally relate! I’m the exact same way…I love being able to share stories with a beginning, middle, and end, but I’m usually really cautious about sharing when I’m still in the “middle” of it. For me, it’s less about being afraid of being hurt (although there’s definitely a bit of that), and more a fear of letting go of my “perfect” image, which is ridiculous, because no one is ever fooled by fake perfection. I just really prefer to be on the outside of the metaphorical group hug you mentioned most of the time, because it’s more comfortable. Lately, I’ve kind of been forced to learn that no one thinks less of me for going through hard things, and that it’s nice to have prayers and support. I’m so glad the friends and family you’re opening up to now are loving and supportive!!

    • Yes! I definitely understand wanting to be on the outside of the metaphorical group hug. It’s definitely more comfortable that way. And there is definitely an element of wanting to protect my image with being careful about what I share and how it’s shared. If people only hear a part of the story, they might not realize what I’m trying to say and it might make me look bad. I’ve definitely had that feeling. I’m so glad you understand where I’m coming from!

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