Gentleness

Recently, I drove an hour across the bridge in the gloomy rain to Easton. I was meeting up with my new dear friend Annie to take some pictures at a foggy farm. The challenge of the day was articulating trauma and anxiety. Annie asked me before I came to think about all the things I no longer need to mentally carry, and to burn them away when I got there. With anxiety, that's a lengthy list.

I've had anxiety for as long as I've known. My parents got divorced literally on my eighteenth birthday, and while part of me realized this was a chance I had to distance myself from my mom and that toxic relationship, I couldn't help but feel like I had more reasons to be nervous.

All of my life, I've tried to take care of everyone around me. The abuse I experienced, I took on alone. When my dad or sister needed me, there was nothing I wouldn't give up to help. I think this is one of my greatest strengths: being there for people when they need someone, healing them however I can. But it also makes me feel very vulnerable sometimes. My circumstances growing up have instilled in me a nervousness of people leaving me -- because I'm not enough for them, or not worth the trouble, or not someone who deserves their love. My mom put that fear in me. It's hard to quiet it.

    

I'm very lucky to be living a much different life now. I am with someone who makes me feel, everyday, loved and like I am good enough, strong enough, more than capable enough. When I was little, I never thought my life could be so gentle. In dealing with the trauma that comes from growing up with abuse, I've learned that anger, violence and fear is the last thing I want to be associated with. Rather, I want to give out love, understanding and warmth.

Every day I tackle that voice in my head that tries to drag me out of the present and convince me I'm not worth the effort of love or the trouble my anxiety sometimes brings. I must remind myself that I am enough. Again, I'm lucky to have someone by my side to help me remember that when I'm having a hard time with the PTSD that comes from almost 20 years of abuse. Even if it doesn't always feel true, or even if it isn't true for everyone, I am allowed love and gentleness.

That's one thing I can let go of: needing approval from people who don't deserve mine. I'm growing, and learning to accept the parts of me that have callused over. Some days are harder than others but in the cold, in the rain, there's always warmth to be found. Even flowers grow in winter.

So how do I find peace during difficult times? I return to nature, love -- to gentle kindness and happiness. I return to Peter, who is all of these things to me. In a world that is often so harsh and abrasive, one of my greatest personal triumphs is always finding the time, room, and energy for kindness. I take heart in that and know that no matter what, I'm going to make a beautiful life for myself. I'm going to leave my campsite cleaner than I found it.

Compassion is such an underrated attribute that we nearly dismiss it altogether. Imagine if we paid better attention to sympathy and grace. What would happen if we all tried a little harder to be soft? I think the world would be a much nicer place if we valued gentleness as the strength it truly is.
"Nothing is so strong as gentleness, nothing so gentle as real strength."

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