I went to Bossed Up Power Hour earlier this week. One woman grabbed me. Literally.
Jess, I need a hug. I’m going to stand next to you. I’m going to soak you in.
Then she took me by my elbows and I realized that she was going to unleash. I ground in, literally feeling my feet on the hard floor, and took an inhale and an exhale. I turned toward her, because these times require direct seeing and holding space.
Jess, my heart is breaking. It’s just blowing up. I get up, I go to work, I don’t let people know that I’m hurting. I’m hurting more than I’ve ever been hurting, and we weren’t together that long.
Break-ups are hard and the world expects us to show up fierce and pretend like it doesn’t hurt.
I know because I’m going through one right now.
I had done a lot of meditation, writing, and processing that day and was ready to show up Fierce in that room of bosses. But, as it happens, sometimes life has other plans. Fierce, in a room of Bossed Up sisters, is not what was needed.
We needed Tender.
“When is a good time to talk about 2017?” he said.
I paused with my pen in hand over my journal. “Now seems good,” I said as I picked up my coffee.. fortifying myself.
“You told me that you wanted to marry me last week and have kids. I realized that I’m never going to ask you and that I have to tell you that. I love you and I don’t want to be with you.”
I’ve spent the last couple of years watching women unveil their truth to themselves and to the world. Often, it drops like a bomb. The room is silent. Suspended. But the release that comes with the reveal causes one’s body to calm, settle, and then watch and see what happens.
I could feel that truth bomb drop. Deeply, because as much as my heart shattered in that moment, I’m intimately familiar with that one. I’ve heard it before.
Shortly after The Talk, I found myself at a meditation, being present with my grief about this ending.
Sometimes, there is no fixing to be had. There is just presence.
The teacher told us to let our awareness sink down into our bodies. Lower. Lower. Lower. Because I felt heavy already, I let myself sink into the pit, into the darkness.
What emerged was Tender. I cried. This inner Tender is like a baby in the NICU. Her skin seems fragile to the touch. When you look at her, you might think that she is too fragile to survive the outside world.
At some point, I buried this Tender. Somewhere, I ingested the belief that you were less strong if you wore your heart on your sleeve. You can not be tender and live.
The brain translates that message to if you are tender, you will die.
In order to survive, I made it a habit to practice my Fierce. Fierce pushed me through break-ups, surgeries, and moves. Fake it, ’til you make it.
Momma Bear Fierce will keep you alive, but that is all. If you turn Fierce on too long, her fire burns out. You get sick. You find yourself in a pit of depression, because there is no more energy.
Fierce is powerful, but we can’t live from fierce alone.
You see, Fierce kept me from being in intimate relationships through most of my 20s. Don’t allow yourself to be hurt. Tender was buried so deep that I couldn’t find her. If I got past Fierce, I felt numb or darkness or anxious.
It took this heartache for me to finally, meet Tender again.
Here’s the thing: Tender just is. She can. She has. She will. She may appear fragile, but she is not. She’s not a baby in the NICU. She has no things to fight for.
She is. She feels and she will not die, no matter what happens.
We will not die because our tender has been exposed. In fact, it is living more deeply, loving him, loving myself, and exposing vulnerably my Tender, that has allowed me to anchor myself in my life, for perhaps the first time.
Instead of blockading all the things with our Fierce, we must let our Fierce protect and serve our Tender.
Ruby Sales, an African-American social activist is known for asking the question, “Where does it hurt?” (check out On Being’s podcast interview with her!)
If we were unafraid of this, we might see that sometimes our deepest hurts hold our greatest gifts. On the other side of the hurt is Tender.
Our Tender connects us to ourselves and so connects us to our greater purpose, the humans around us, and the earth.
When our Fierce serves our Tender, she makes us go to bed earlier, do things that nourish our souls, call the Senate and the House on repeat to stand up against Betsy DeVos….and rest when it is time, so that we can show up Tender, all over again.
These times, these heart breaks, they will not break you. Your Tender cannot be broken. It will recalibrate you, if you let it.
Let your Tender up + out,
P.S. When he and I finished that conversation, I didn’t dry my eyes. I texted boss babes, my therapist, my coach, and my breath teacher. I asked for hugs, love, and a place to stay. Shame lives in isolation. Reach out, let your Tender be seen and get supported. There are plenty that can and will hold Her.
P.P.S. Pass this on to boss babe going through it right now, and if you are one, I am so very sorry, love. Please reply and tell me about your heart.