Personal
Comments 47

On Being Emotionally Available

We sat in a restaurant with nothing more than a candle, dessert, and inescapable tension between us. Playing air hockey with our conversation, light and sharp, I watched our dialogue ricochet off of the the walls, off of the windows, off my chest, off my chest, off my chest. Each time falling into my lap. Each time, the scoreboard changing in his favor.

“I’m just not emotionally available right now.”

Game over.

Next thing I knew I was stepping into a cab in the Lower East Side trying to make sense of the past hour and a half of cliche excuses for why the human across from me was no longer available. With his emotions. Maybe it was the pie? Nope. That pie was the bomb. It had to be me. But…Emotionally unavailable? To whom? Just me? The world? Come ON dude. When you start to feel emotions you don’t want to feel does the Windows ERROR screen pop up and send you into safe mode? Please advise.

error-screen

For weeks, I stirred over that phrase. Emotionally unavailable. That’s dark. I thought perhaps I had been too honest with my words, or too clumsy with my heart. I spill, drop, and trip over everything within a five foot radius of my existence. Perhaps I had been too vulnerable by simply offering to lie next to him and see him for who he was. Perhaps he had been too vulnerable for showing me. Perhaps I had been “TOO Carley”, as if I have dials and knobs and switches to turn down when people start to unzip their suitcases, unpacking and sorting their baggage in front of me.

Eventually, it dawned on me that it had nothing to do with me. Emotional pain, heartache specifically, registers in the brain in the same way that physical pain does. Place your hand on a hot stove and get burned, you probably won’t be quick to touch another hot stove. That pain not only burns into our hand, but our memory as well.

So we learn to be more careful around stoves, but do we avoid cooking all together?

It’s easy to feel fragile when you know you’re precious cargo. But please, reader, stranger, friend, if there’s one thing you take away from this blog, let it be this, because this is THE ONLY reason I’m here. This is the reason I started:

Be emotionally available, to all of it.

Be emotionally available to the people who prove themselves brave enough to open their hearts, or minds, or faced up palms across the table to you. That’s the biggest form of bravery there is. There are people out there crazy enough to love us for the terrifying creatures that we are, capable taking down the things we are supposed to love the most. When our emotions short circuit, we often burn everything in our paths. It isn’t until we’re staring at the ashes, that we see the beauty of what once existed, and the gaping hole of what is missing.

It is the most tragic human condition there is.

Be emotionally available to hurt. To rejection. To failure. Be unapologetically open to whatever narrative you’re staring into. Open the sutures. Let your leftover wounds air out. Anyone can bleed. It’s not particularly special or impressive. To feel is a different beast, one we spend our entire lives running and hiding from.

It’s SUPPOSED to hurt when you realize the work you’re doing isn’t work that you love. There’s no fancy panoramic penthouse apartment in the world that’s big enough to hide you from that monster. It’s the kind of realization that hopefully wakes you the fuck up and causes you to put your passions under the microscope. You can either be open and available to that self reflective crap you’re afraid of, or you can be a shallow shell aimlessly passing through the various stages of life.

It’s SUPPOSED to hurt when you realize that your body’s in Omaha, or Augusta, or Portland, but your mind is in New York City, or your heart is in London, or your soul is in Sydney. The moment you needed to leave was the moment you realized “there were roads willing to take you anywhere you wanted to go”. That was the moment you should have packed your bags. Every day that you stay will be another day you wonder why you haven’t gone already.

It’s SUPPOSED to hurt when you realize you treated your feelings like appliances. When you couldn’t compartmentalize them neatly into their drawers you dismissed them as broken. You’ll pass fragments of her on the street, and in the subway, and in that song you always skip through. They’ll slip through the gaps in your fingers that her hands used to fill as you clumsily try to piece them together. You’ll fail. Know that whenever that song comes on, you’ll instantly be wherever you were the first time the two of you heard it. There will be no skip button. The day you met her was the day you stopped thinking about anyone else.

So if anything’s going to take you from 0 to 200 in 3.5 seconds, let it be THOSE things.

Fight through the urge to abandon them.

Make the call when you need to hear their voice.
Play the song when you’re afraid to remember.
Accept the job you don’t think you’re cut out for.
Send the letter when their words weren’t enough.
Move when you’re feeling restless.

In the name of bravery, when a moment grabs you (because that’s all you’ll get), let it. When it pulses through you like static shock, reminding you that for an instant you foolishly thought grabbing a metal door handle, or your own heart, couldn’t hurt you, let it shock you. Then, go straight to the doorstep of the person you can’t stop thinking about, or the friend you lost touch with, or the dream you’ve been meaning to ring. Stop putting it off, because with every passing day, he, she, and it only gets further away.

Be emotionally available to the notion that you’re right, it might NOT work out.

But what if it did?

goafterher

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47 Comments

  1. The posts that I’ve missed and the words that I wish I could write as well as you do. Keep writing, Carley – it touches us and reminds us.

    I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving.

    • Thanks so much for continuing to read and follow along! This journey is just as much yours as it is mine! Happy Thanksgiving to you, as well!

  2. So interesting. I agree with so much of this. It’s important to let ourselves be, and even strive to be vulnerable and open to the possibility of love whenever we can, but I also think it can be a really brave and responsible thing to look at ourselves honestly and acknowledge that we are just not there right now, that we need time to heal before we’re capable of letting someone in. It’s a really hard thing to say to someone.

    There’s bravery in vulnerability but there’s bravery (and honour) in honesty too.

    • Super thoughtful! And I 100% agree, if you’re still hurt from something, jumping into something new is almost never the answer! And while this piece used a personal experience as a jumping off point, it definitely isn’t limited to dating. It’s about the conscious decision to just feel things all the way. To commit to the possibility of something hurting you, or healing you, depending how you look at it.

      And whether it’s a job, or a relationship, or moving across the country, the people I’ve known (myself included) who have grown the most, are the ones who have opened themselves up to the possibility of being hurt in exchange for an experience that will prove to be far greater.

      Thanks so much for your thoughts! Always love reading them. 🙂

  3. WOW. this is the first post i’ve seen in so long that i felt compelled to comment on because you are hitting it right on the head, and i think this is one of the most important lessons i’ve learned as i’ve gone through my twenties (and am still learning, for sure). i came here via kate (@heyescapist) – it’s lovely to meet you.

  4. Carley: Nice writing. This piece reminds me of a very powerful TED video by Brene Brown, ‘The Power of Vulnerability.” I just found one of her books at BJ’s that I just started to read — just as powerful and I recommend buying a copy and reading it immediately, The Gift of Imperfection. Being vulnerable is so against American culture: but to learn how to live wholeheartedly requires one to be vulnerable. Life is way too short to live avoiding all things that may or may not cause pain. Hugs Suzanne

  5. Caitlin says

    THIS is why I love your blog! When you open up and write emotional, heart wrenching posts like this one, you reach out of your computer through to mine and grab me. It’s everything that runs through my mind written so eloquently by you.

    You’re not alone in this world, girl. Thanks again for opening up my heart and mind. Keep chasing your dream and writing down your soul.

    • Ah yes, the heart wrenching posts! Though – I do like to switch it up with some light hearted stuff here and there, otherwise I think the heart wrenching stuff wouldn’t be as…well…genuine? So lovely to know I’m not alone, and that you guys aren’t alone either! Thanks so much, as always, for reading!

  6. Mrs. P says

    There is nothing sadder than living a life that is emotionally numb…a life of apathy…of being stuck. On the other side of the spectrum, life can be very exhilarating when you allow yourself to experience it…uncensored and raw. Sure there can be moments when life is so wonderful your feet don’t touch the floor but there is just as much beauty in experiencing gut wrenching sorrow. They trick is learning how to experience…without getting stuck. And when you can do that…you are headed for an amazing rocket ride called…living life – hard…fast and to the fullest…and man…do you ever feel alive!

    • Sad, indeed! I think we’re quick to kill off possibilities at the thought of them not working out, and sometimes the most growth lies in the largest leaps. I’ve realized in the moments I’ve been the saddest, or most fearful, that I was devoting more time and energy trying to fight the sadness and fear than I was to just feeling it, letting it un through me, and then learning from it.

      • Mrs. P says

        Yes, fear freezes us in time and space…overcoming fear opens the door to achieving the most seemingly impossible dreams… and that is the rocket ride I mentioned.

  7. Really beautifully put. Thanks for putting that out there—we all need to hear these words: Be Emotionally Available to All of It!—from time to time.

  8. Thank you, Carly, for saying all the things many of us have felt,but have never phrased! To live life without ever being wiling to be hurt or damaged is to not live life at all, in a way.

  9. Great reminder for all of us, Carley. Vulnerability is tough for me…I always thought I was an open book, but I have started to see that it is not the same thing as being vulnerable. I keep people at arm’s length a lot. I’m human and I’m scared of losing, rejection, and hurt. Every morning in my yoga practice I work on opening myself and trusting myself–I think trust is also a huge piece.

    Thank you for so eloquently expressing this! I’m so glad you are able to see that, whoever this guy is, his problem is not a reflection of you. You are so strong and lovely! xx

    • So, so human! It’s super tough, even for myself sometimes. I know I wrote this piece, but I certainly have faced my own struggles with accepting to just feel things, even when they are sucky. I try to remind myself that feeling sad, or scared, won’t last forever. It couldn’t possibly! But learning to embrace the fear, pain, uncertainty, chaos, etc, can sometimes be a gateway to immense growth. It can even help you love bigger and braver later down the road to be able to say, “Look at that thing I faced”

      And so sweet of you to say. I have nothing but wonderful things to say about the person who inspired this piece.

  10. I cannot express how true this post rings for me or how beautiful I thought it was. It’s a precious reminder to live and be present which we do tend to forget sometimes. Thanks for sharing these words.

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  12. “Be emotionally available to the notion that you’re right, it might NOT work out.

    But what if it did?”

    That is deep. I’ve been throwing around the “I’m emotionally unavailable” card quite a lot lately. And the notion that keeps banging against my head is what if it might not work out coz honestly there is no life left for the trial and error. Once you’ve been there and done that you don’t want it anymore. But sometimes a frail whisper does ask me, what if it did? So what do you listen to? The adamant rigid thought that says it wouldn’t, or the frail whisper of hope or doubt that says, what if it might work out, what if it fell into place, what if the pieces you didn’t expect do fall together? What if?

  13. Carley,

    I was on Tweetdeck, saw you pass through my feed, and realized I haven’t visited in awhile. I righted that wrong immediately.

    And, I’m so glad I did.

    I found myself giving you a virtual high-five after every paragraph … and then remembering that one time I proclaimed myself emotionally unavailable. It was honest and it was said to protect her, not me. But still, those things have a way of lingering WAY past closing time.

    I hope others take your words of wisdom to heart … even if it’s just to drop everything for a minute to comment on a blog post that grabs you.

    Thanks for this,
    Chris

    • Ah, Chris! Being that you are one of my favorite readers/commenters, I MUST call bullshit on “trying to protect her, not me.” I think you probably know you were trying to protect yourself or you wouldn’t be here.

      And I assure you, on behalf of every woman or fool who chooses to open their hearts up – whoever this lovely girl was, she did not need protecting. 🙂

      Please come back soon, always love your thoughts!

      Carley

  14. Well, on reread I see this is a Girls-only , mostly, blog, so Ima tread lightly. But seriously. That much pain at only 25 . . . whatcha gonna do when you’re 50??

    But you lay down some righteously powerful prose.

    Rock on!

    • I have plenty of male readers, friend! Most of them hang out on Medium, where this post also lives. That said, I don’t think this human experience is gender specific, as this was not a relationship piece. This isn’t a sorry chapter in “He’s Just Not That Into You.” The initial experience was simply a catalyst for me writing it.

      Every big growth period in my life has come from doing things that scared the shit out of me. (Moving to Australia, moving to NYC, quitting a job I wasn’t passionate about with no backup plan, starting my career over). I guess you could say I’ve made more game changing decisions than the average 25 year old, but I’m not otherwise seeing a lot of pain in this piece.

      Sometimes, you have an opportunity to change your own life. It’s up to you whether or not you want to take the opportunity.

  15. Beautiful prose, thank you for sharing.

    I have a friend who claims to have been celibate for 17 months, and I can’t quite tell when she says it if she’s proud of it or not. Granted, she’s been through some TERRIBLE relationships, including one with events that years later are still waiting to be “resolved” in a court of law. But I hope she can find a way to get back into the state of vulnerability required to love unconditionally. Come to think of it, I wonder if most people *really* have no conditions attached to their affections.

    Further to your comment above, I struggled terribly with my final year of uni, hating the work and not seeing a future in my industry. My girlfriend did her best to support me, but because I didn’t want to unburden myself on her (i.e. feel more vulnerable), I bottled it up until I was a fool and cheated on her. I quit uni the very next day, though it was another month before I told her what I’d done. And funnily enough, I’m pretty sure the keeping my infidelity a secret hurt both of us more overall than the coming clean. We’re good again now, though I obviously still wish I’d decided to leave uni that one day earlier, rather than needing a catalyst of my own like that, but I guess it’s how you learn life’s lessons.

    Anyway, thanks again and congratulations – you’ve earned another male Follower.

    Adam

  16. Laura says

    Carly what a beautiful post! You have a real gift for writing and putting emotions into words that we all struggle to find. As someone who is currently in a long distance relationship and closely followed your unique and inspiring relationship, would you mind me asking what caused the distance between the two of you? You were both able to overcome the physical distance that stood between you but once you were side by side did things change?

    • HI!! Sorry for the delay, I took a blog hiatus and am in the middle of a rebrand, so I’ll be back soon with more words!! That said, THIS particular piece wasn’t about Blake! (But I’m always so touched when people ask about him because he was indeed very special) we just grew apart in New York and he missed Australia deeply (as anyone would, it’s the greatest place in the world!)

      Come back soon! xoxo

  17. This is one of the best and most honest and real blog posts I have ever read. I am so happy to have stumbled across your blog and I can’t wait to read more of your stuff. Thanks for reminding me to stay open in life, sometimes it can be so hard but it;s always worth it.

    Happy New Year!

  18. I hope you don’t mind my sharing this on my Twitter. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with the blog world 🙂

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  20. Loved this article! Thanks for the reminder that being honest, open, and daring is the best way to be happy.

  21. Hey! Woah I never saw this comment, but it’s never too late to respond, eh? I DID get the whole “not feeling much for you right now”. Thank you! I thought I took care of that when I said, “that was evident.” That said, the kind of person who says “I’m just not emotionally available right now” (in response to the question, “So what’s eating at you?”) is the kind of person who was sitting across from me at this table.

    I didn’t miss the point, love. I just turned it into fodder.

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