Surprises: They can be startling or amusing, and worthy of tears or laughter. The thing about surprises is that they are dependent on catching someone unaware. It is not a surprise if someone sees it coming, right?
I am not good with surprises. Why? I almost always see them coming. Some might describe this as being perceptive, others as having trust issues. Honestly, it is probably both.
I was always the perceptive and creative kid. I was the kid who would sit quietly during a 7+ hour car ride and watch the mountains swing by, imagining that dinosaurs being buried under dirt was how the mountains got their size and shape. I would notice the clear blue sky and the different kinds of cotton ball clouds, the variety of fields and the way each crop danced and shimmied in the summer breeze, and finally the odor of the cows and horses that would reach my nose far before the sight of them reached my eyes.
When the adults were making conversation I would sit quietly and listen. I would try to learn their tactful and witty way of speaking. Once in awhile they would turn their attention towards me, and I would delight in getting a chance to share what I had learned. These words were my first wobbly and awkward steps into meaningful discourse. Basically, there was not a thing I did not notice and learn from.
It was a gift, but I became unsure of that when I got older. I felt like I knew things I did not want to know. How much I could glean about someone else’s mind and history from a moment of conversation or observation became a burden.
It was too much knowledge and a source of paranoia at times. During one of the lowest points in my life, this paranoia would fester into social anxiety that would grip not just my mind, but my body. As I anxiously breathed in whispers I built my walls sky high. Of course, I was not always that guarded.
“I thought being tough was being strong, and to be tough meant to build walls”
As a young girl, I did not necessarily have one specific role model, but I did have certain traits that I desired. These desired traits can be summarized as a fiercely independent woman. In other words I wanted to be strong, beautiful, and warm.
Being warm and open came naturally to me, but somewhere along the line I began to perceive my compassion as weakness. My innate desire to love became an obstacle on the road to becoming the strong woman that no one would dare mess with. More than anything, I wanted to become a woman people would respect almost to the point of fear. All the while, I wanted this same respect to be a reason for others to want me in their life. This is when I started to build my walls.
I felt that so many things had happened out of my own weakness, and I was done with it. I wanted to be able to defend others, and often I thought the best way of doing this might be to defend them from myself. I was the monster they needed protection from, and part of doing that was defending myself from becoming more of a monster.
Yes, I really did feel and think this way at a young age (will post on one of the early life experiences that factored into this thought process in the future). In other words, I had a distrust of the world and this led me to want to protect whoever I could by being tough. I thought being tough was being strong, and to be tough meant to build walls.
“I came to see surprises as a sort of best friend; they held me accountable with unwavering candor”
I poured a lot of energy into this endeavor of building walls, which I thought was a worthy one at the time. That is, until I came to the realization that the walls I built thinking they would help, were actually becoming obstacles. I began to understand that the surprises and hurt I intended to shut out by building walls were actually getting trapped inside those very walls. They bounced off the walls rearing to get out, echoing uncontrollably and I felt as if it would never be quiet again. This is when life reintroduced me to surprise.
I hated surprises at that point in my life because I only saw them as harbingers of pain. I would unexpectedly be triggered by simple things like a conversation with a friend, hearing a man’s voice, and in receiving hugs. All the things I had been running away from began to catch up to me all at once. It was overwhelming and definitely not fun.
“taking cues from my reaction to surprises has helped me to be more honest with myself”
Still, life went on, and in a few years’ time I began to appreciate surprises more and more. I came to see surprises as a sort of best friend; they held me accountable with unwavering candor.
In other words, surprises became the best friend that would always be real with me when the rest of the world would not.
I learned that the reaction that surprises would provoke from me were an insight into the state of my soul. I stopped shutting out the pain provoked by surprises, and began to take it as the marker that would point me towards the road to healing. Like following the sound of music back to its source, I would follow my emotional trail back to where it began.
It was an unpleasant process, and still is, but through this process is how I found a great deal of peace and quiet in my life. With that said, not all reactions to surprises are painful.
Surprises can also be the source of delight. They can be a YouTube© discovery that leads you to your new favorite song, or maybe even your gut reaction to finding out someone likes you. Whether positive, negative, or neutral, taking cues from my reaction to surprises has helped me to be more honest with myself and to learn more about myself.
Have you had any big surprises in your life? How did you react to them? Did you learn something new from the surprise? Were you reminded of something you already knew about yourself? Share your answers and thoughts in the comments below!