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June Converse

Thriving After Trauma - Author and Writing Coach

The “Joy” That Wasn’t: Can Your Emotional Tank Run Empty?

I’ve been struggling to write this blog for several weeks. Not because I don’t want to share but because:

  • I’m not sure I can get the message across
  • I know I’m wrong and that I should feel differently. I also know that I don’t believe in the “should”. Readers will judge me. I judge myself.
  • I can’t tell you everything because it would violate someone else’s privacy.

So, bear (or is it bare?) with me and know I’ll likely miss the mark.

It was a Sunday and a few friends were hanging out when a gift bag was placed in our laps. It wasn’t a holiday or a birthday. The people who provided the bags were staring at us with huge eyes and one was biting his nails. As a writer, I recognized the body language and should have prepared myself. Instead, I yanked the pretty tissue paper from its nest.

The Gift

Inside the pretty little bag were three onesies. Tiny little outfits, each with a different Star Wars theme. They were very cute. Until I realized the meaning. This couple was announcing a pregnancy. Others in the room clapped and hugged and started all of the rah-rah you’d expect. But me? The last of my emotions for this person drained away. I was empty of emotion. Empty of platitudes. Empty.

My Truth

This couple is not in a place where I could welcome a new child. They can “afford” a baby. They have “stable” jobs. They get along well. The decision to get pregnant (and yes it was a choice) is, in my opinion, poorly timed for reasons I wish I could tell you without violating privacy. Trust me, you would agree. I stood there trying to decide what to say to be authentic and not condemning. Those scared eyes turned to me (as it was my opinion that mattered most).

What would you have said? Pretended to be excited for their sake? Decide “it is what it is” and therefore accept and be happy? Would you have said what the world says you “should” say? Would you have said the “right” words to avoid judgment? I almost obeyed society’s rules, but I think those rules are what keep us from being real and by not being real, we shame those who hurt. I needed to find that perfect balance. I said, “It’s going to take me a while to get used to this idea. I’m not ready to share your joy. Give me time.”

I’m proud of my response. The couple understood and I think appreciated both the truth and my willingness to eventually find a path to joy.

Over the last many weeks, I kept expecting emotion to crash and crush. Nothing. I began to worry – to fear -- that whatever emotion finally landed would be difficult to handle. But still nothing.

The Silos

I’ve started to wonder if we have a limited amount of emotion for the important people and situations in our lives. I imagine a field of silos. Each person I care about has a designated silo. Inside the silo is corn and when you first start to care about this person, the silo is brimming with corn. I imagine “good” experiences add corn. “Bad” experiences drain corn. The better the experience, the more added. The worse the experience, the more drained. Am I making any sense?

Can the silo finally run dry? Can your emotional tank just hit empty? Can you finally just feel “nothing”?

We don’t just have silos for people. We have silos for careers and projects or causes. Have you ever gone to work and thought, “I’m over this. It’s time to move on.” I think that might be an empty tank. Have you ever started a project and then said, “This isn’t fun anymore. Why do I keep spending my time on this?” An empty silo?

It’s not that I’m angry – anger requires corn and lots of it. I turn the siphon and all I get is dust. I peer into the tank and it’s dark. Not a scary, menacing dark. More the dark of a cavernous space.

Refilling the Silo

Can you refill the silo? I said above that “good” experiences add corn. If I spend quality time with this couple and see evidence they are ready, will I add corn? Will the baby be one big load of corn and fill the silo to the brim? As I see this couple love the baby and work on loving each other, will corn drip in? Note: the baby will have his or her own silo and it will be full full full!

Am I crazy and I’m simply pushing down emotions that will choke me? Am I using the silo analogy to excuse myself from not digging deeper? I have no idea, but if I start to feel, I’ll let you know.

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June Converse with purple hair
Choosing to rebuild a life after a breakdown has been a challenge. I became an author and a blogger who openly shares...
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