Peacefully loading the dishwasher with hamburger browning on the stove next to a sputtering pot of boiling water, a shout of pain pierced my world. Not the kind that means his big sister poked him or he's frustrated with some toy or another. The kind that makes you drop the slippery plate in your hand and run. Lip torn and bleeding, he recounted his tale of how he bit himself. His cries turned to whimpers as the flow slowed to a trickle. My heart ached as he got up and trudged back to his toys, still sniffling with a paper towel clinging to his perfect little mouth. Makeshift first aid for the win! The blood has stopped, but the pain is still there.
Casually texting, a woman who runs the world confides her deepest insecurity. It makes me pause. She's one of those amazing women who hangs the stars, even though she doesn't know it, and she's hurting. Through the phone I feel it too. My heart aches as I type in all caps, shouting her insecure thoughts down like a ruffian taunting a downed opponent. I know the pain is within her still - it's still in me too - but maybe it's quieter or kinder or can't be heard over the laughter.
Because one thing I can't abide by is the people I love being in pain. I become Buffy the Vampire the Slayer - a Terminator - or better yet a Dalek! EX-TER-MIN-ATE! EX-TER-MIN-ATE!
I'm willing to wager a bet: most of you are like that too. Pain assassins. But...deep down, you refuse to acknowledge your own. Push it into a fire-proof safe and lock it tightly away.
Because you can deal with it later.
Maybe you don't feel entitled to it.
Maybe you feel like it's not yours to have or it should be long gone.
But it's not. It revisits in the night when you hear the even breath of the one slumbering next to you. It revisits when you forget to keep your armor on. It picks at the corners of your mind keeping the wound fresh when your inner monologue runs amok.
We've convinced ourselves that we are brave in putting it aside. Strong in refusing to acknowledge our own struggles while accepting little pieces of others' to help them carry the load of life day after day. Are we?
In giving away little pieces of our pain, power fills the void. By breaking off a piece of the mass and having someone else there saying, "You just give that to me. You have enough.", you start to feel the ability to breathe - to heal - to be powerful enough to break the whole wall apart brick by brick, claw mark by claw mark, like in Berlin, until it is completely down and you am united again.
I hope you have someone in your life who has their hand out - poised and ready to shout down your pain, to take it from you and let that space be filled with power and love. If you don't, I am here. A stranger, yes. But a stranger who has her hand out. A stranger who is ready to help you rip chunks away and patch the holes with empowerment and encouragement. Simply a keystroke away.
Mandy Peterson is the author of "Before I Shatter". She is also a mother, wife, librarian, book reviewer, and self-proclaimed chocolate connoisseur.