You know the little girl on the playground that keeps innocently lifting up her dress to show all the other little kids on the playground her under things? We've all seen her. Her mom is blushing in the background saying, "Sweetie! Put your dress down. We don't show everyone our private parts!"
That little girl is me. Except it's not my dress I lift to expose my outer body. It's my chest I crack open to expose my inner soul.
I'm the little girl running around showing her most private parts to everyone. Splitting my body open for people who don't really want to see all of that. Opening and exposing myself to people who have no place seeing those pieces of me.
My heart lives out in the open.
I love this about myself, and I also hate it. But the fact is, I have a heart that is worn. It's fragile. It's been bruised and broken for a long time.
It's healing and getting stronger, but I'm learning that in order to really let something heal, sometimes you have to cover it up.
When you break a limb, they immobilize it. They cast it. You don't use it. It gets put out of commission and covered up until it becomes strong enough to be exposed again. Typically, even after the cast is ready to come off, the broken limb is still weak.
It requires rehab and strength training to get it back to what it was before.
You can't break your leg and then immediately start trying to run right after you get the cast taken off.
You're just going to break it again.
I'm slowly learning to sit in the space of healing. But I'll be honest with you. I don't like it.
But with matters of the heart, I've started to question how heroic it really is to just shove a wounded heart right back out into the open. I'm beginning to think that maybe it's just a little bit braver to keep it covered a while.
When you have a heart that's most comfortable outside the body, the discomfort comes from keeping it hidden. The growing pains are in learning to protect it better.
For people who are naturally guarded, their growing pains are in trying to learn vulnerability.
We're all different, and that's good.
Lately, I've had some experiences that put me in a weird emotional space. I started to fall into old patterns a little bit.
I woke up the other morning feeling a little bit broken and bruised again. A little bit foolish and insignificant. A little bit like that same stupid little girl, figuratively running around the playground with her dress up, wondering why people keep looking away.
As I got ready for the day that morning, I looked in the mirror and had the thought, "Put your heart away. People don't want to see all that."
But then something sort of miraculous happened.
In the midst of beginning to question everything about myself and wondering if the problem really is just that who I am is a problem, I figured out that I am exactly how I'm supposed to be.
The problem isn't my heart or the fact that it feels comfortable being exposed. The problem is who I trust with those valuable pieces of myself.
The thing is there are appropriate places to expose yourself and there are places where it's a bit less appropriate. Learning the difference is challenging sometimes, but it's necessary for protection.
Just as the broken limb needs covering and time to heal, so does the heart.
But that doesn't mean it has to stay covered forever.
As time goes on, it will get stronger. As it gets stronger, you will learn who is worthy of seeing what's under your dress and inside your chest. And as you discover your safe places and people, you'll learn to be yourself.
Unashamed and uncovered, but at the right times.
The mom encouraging her daughter to put her dress down on the playground isn't doing that to shame her or keep her hidden forever. She's just teaching her appropriate boundaries and how to keep herself safe.
Same thing for this heart.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on Three Boys and a Mom. It has been modified and republished here with permission.
Rachael is the proud single mama of three wild angels. She learned the hard way to never say never but believes firmly that our messes make us beautiful. She has her Master's Degree in Social Work and works full time as an Oncology Social Worker. She spends her "spare time" loving on her boys and enjoying life, one moment at a time. Rachael is also a contributor to sites including The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, DivorcedMoms.com, For Every Mom and many others. Join her in her crazy, messy, beautiful journey and follow her on her blog.