Learning to Feel More Fully

“Even the deepest pain eventually loses its edge in the more vivid reality of the present; then, what once was unbearable becomes strangely familiar. And after much familiarity, it assumes themanwomandifferences insignificance of just another milestone, ever marking the journey to higher ground.” – N. Maria Kwami

A popular picture circled the Internet a few years ago. It shows two versions of a radio receiver. One is labelled “the man” and has a single on/off switch. The other, labeled “the woman,” is covered with a complexity of colored dials.

If you disregard the innuendo about the one thing on masculine minds (smile) – there’s another message. We men too often learn to repress or deny our feelings. Our emotional palettes are limited, while many of the women in our lives can paint with rainbows of subtle shades.

We could debate nature vs. nurture. I’m not interested in that. I simply want to share a message of hope and healing. It comes from the process of my recovery from addiction and, more importantly, from patterns of thinking ingrained in me through our culture.

Recently, this evolution became clear as I viewed a single photograph.

It’s from a family reunion a few years ago. My two brothers and I stand with my father on the porch of his home in southern California. We are smiling, arms draped over each other’s shoulders. On the surface, it’s an image of joyous fellowship. But it set off a complex set of emotions that were almost overpowering, and this time I could actually identify them.

Love based on a richness of memories. Sadness at the infrequency of our contact. Melancholy about the passage of time. Resentment at the estranging actions of one brother; compassion for the struggles of another. A longing to make things right that will never be rectified, especially with my father. Tinges of regret and grief. A touch of resignation reaching for peace, like a sprout through soil.

This fusion of feelings hurt. For so many years I would have denied, avoided, or numbed them. I would have rededicated myself to masculine action based on resolution, the rallying cry of good codependents everywhere.

Instead, I simply sat and let these reactions wash over and through me. I absorbed them like wind and sunlight on a day in an open field. They slowly morphed into something else. An awareness of vivid, gracious Presence.

If you’ve ever had an injury that included nerve damage, you know that when dendrites begin to heal, there is pain involved. The same is often true when we let new emotions entwine themselves with others and emerge.

The women (or more advanced men) reading this might chuckle, but I’m finally able to feel more fully. It is making me increasingly sensitive to others. It is deepening my appreciation for the way God created us. It continues to teach me the truth of these words in Niebhur’s extended version of The Serenity Prayer.

Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as the pathway to peace…

Go back to the beginning of this post and read, once again, the words by Ghanaian author N. Maria Kwami.

Higher ground. Truth….

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