“Hope is not about proving anything. It's about choosing to believe this one thing, that love is bigger than any grim, bleak shit anyone can throw at us.” ~ Anne Lamott

Both in the same year, my father passed away and I ended my deepest romantic relationship yet. I know the statistics of people who fall off the deep end with two major life-altering griefs in the same year, and I don’t want to be one. Depression is easy for me to fall into, and I have already wrestled mightily (and succumbed to it) this summer. I don’t want these two ridiculously painful experiences to define me for years to come. So the only way through them is to feel them. And yes, feeling every moment, sucks.

Four years ago, the first time I got my heart utterly shattered, I knew I had a choice in the moment it all fell apart. I remember laying numb, in a little ball on my kitchen floor and I knew my options clearly: I could either run from it, and push it deep down into the farthest places inside of myself, or I could face it, and feel it. Feel every part, every hellish feeling, every night that I sobbed to sleep, every time I wanted to die, every time I wanted to give up, every time I wanted to numb the pain and drink myself into oblivion or rebound to the next man to fill that void, but didn’t. Actually choose, with the fragmented pieces of myself, to feel it. For as long as it lasted.

And I made a choice.

I would feel it. And god it hurt. For months. But little by little I healed, and stayed true to my own heart. I didn’t turn my emotions off, I didn’t turn my heart off, I didn’t become someone else or a shell of myself. I bloomed. And healed. And found hope again. And got every splintered piece of that heartbreak out of my soul.

Four years later, in the middle of another even worse heartbreak, that choice is being presented to me again. Run, or feel. And I’m still in it, choosing daily to feel, even when everything in me wants to run. I know the only way out is through. So through I go. Through the sleepless nights, through the hopelessness, utter desperation, fear, through the sorrow and pain; through every moment, every wave of grief.  The little voice in my spirit whispering, “ feel feel feel feel feel.”

I refuse to let the world, heartbreak, loss, failure, selfishness and utter pain, make me hardened. I want to walk out on the other side and say, “ I never shut my heart down, I never closed myself off from beauty and yes, from pain, I never gave up on my own soul, even when I thought I was going to die from so much raw pain.”

I don’t think the world, as a whole knows how to handle pain. My answers when people ask aren’t the typical answers. They’re more like, “I’m out with lanterns looking for myself," or  "I’m spending my savings to drink in the flowers and beauty and healing that I have been dying without." Adult answers don’t make sense right now. Job, plan, life; none make sense. I’m out running with horses and looking over mountains and eating good foods and copious amounts of South American wines and crying and reading and laughing hard. I’d empty out my bank account to come out the other side with a whole heart again.

I’m going recklessly out into adventure and to recapture the dreams and desires that were so deeply shattered. I’m out fighting for the heart inside of me. Letting life and beauty wash me from the dirt and grime of grief and despair.

Sometimes you cry in the beauty, sometimes you laugh inside the sorrow. All you want to do is run. Fill the void, with whatever you can, you want to feverishly, frantically fill the massive hole that feels endless inside your chest. But don’t. Feel it. God, you have to feel every inch of it. No matter how much you don’t want to. The times the memories come, the times the sadness feels so heavy you cannot breathe, you have to feel it. Feel the jagged sides of the pain, feel the splintered pieces of hope that lay carelessly inside. Look at it, feel it and refuse to run. Even if your knees are shaking, even if you have nothing but tears streaming down, even if you close your eyes and cry out in agonizing pain, don’t run. Stand in the middle of the hell of your own heart and feel it. Feel the memories you want to forget, feel the words your heart is screaming, feel the grief. Feel it and find freedom in the pain, feel it and then release it. Feel it so it doesn’t stay trapped inside of you forever.

Feel it, over and over and over until it isn’t a part of you anymore. When you run from it, it stays in you. The man I end up with will be worth me feeling all the present sorrow so I can get it out of me. So I will not be defined by pain. I don’t want fragments to remain inside of me, to cut and hurt people in the future. Hiding in the corners of your mind and soul, hiding in memories, lingering behind your eyes. So now, feel what you need to, and release it.

Sometimes (especially) the beauty hurts. It’s so vulnerable. It tugs at things inside of us that we don’t want to look at because beauty reveals so many deep longings that we don’t know how to keep wanting. But to feel the beauty, drink in the beauty, hold the beauty and embrace the beauty is the only way we’ll survive.

I will feel. I will soak in the moments of beauty, and I will walk through the moments of pain. And I will continue to believe I will walk out on the other side, a braver, more vulnerable, graceful, tender woman who has sat in the shit of her own soul, over and over and over again, and refused to throw in the towel to numbness.

I extend my arms out to you, wherever you are in your journey, if you are in the middle of grief, loss or sadness. I know its terrifying, and risky, but feel. Your heart is worth so much more than numbing. Your heart is worth all the feelings you need to feel so you can release them and heal and be whole. Come on this journey with me of feeling. Put your stake in the ground and say, “I will feel. I will protect my heart in this most counterintuitive of ways; by experiencing all of its pain. Numbness is death. And I choose life.  I choose, each day, each moment, to feel.  And to hope.