My husband and I saved our wounded marriage this year. Several of my closest friends dissolved their own. Each one of us is in a much healthier, happier, more authentic, and more empowered place than we were a few years ago, and each one of our healing journeys began with roughly the same realization:
Sweeping it under the rug is no longer working for me.
Many of my clients have created powerful change in their lives during our time together. They’ve breathed new life into struggling businesses, overcome limiting beliefs, crawled out from beneath oppressive relationships, engaged in courageous conversations, formed empowering new habits, learned to communicate in ways that helped them feel heard and understood, discovered gifts they didn’t know they had, braved bold career moves, traded guilt for self-awareness and compassion, and connected more deeply with their children. Each one of their life-changing journeys began with roughly the same realization:
Sweeping it under the rug is no longer working for me.
“It” can mean any number of things that we tend to keep hidden: hurt, shame, resentments, dreams, disappointments, self-doubt, fears, needs, longings, truths, or desires. Most of us began our sweeping habits when we were young, as unconscious efforts to feel accepted, loved, and approved of. As our lives have unfolded, this habit (whether it’s served us well or not) still often feels safer, easier, and less messy in the moment than any alternative.
But because truth doesn’t belong under rugs, and playing it safe means playing small, the more unexamined stories we accumulate, the more disempowered, disconnected, confused, and limited we tend to feel.
Though our stories and challenges vary greatly, our turning points often look the same. The circumstances of our lives reach a critical mass, push us to the edge of our edges, and awaken something deep within us. This something; this tiny, most timid of truths, whispers to us in the form of a feeling:
It matters, because I matter.
Whether we want them to or not, truths don’t just go away, and until they are given their proper place in the light, they cause us pain, drain our energy, and keep us longing. To deny the truth of our needs, desires, hurts, disappointments, and dreams is to abandon ourselves. And self-abandonment is among the most intimate forms of pain we’ll ever know.
No matter how beautiful a rug we’ve woven, how good we are at tidying around it, or how tucked away we’ve managed to keep it, the things we’ve swept beneath it affect us every day, in subtle, and not-so-subtle ways. As much as I wish it weren’t true, they also affect those we love.
We’re not often encouraged to sort the messier aspects of our lives in the light. We may never have been given permission to own the fullness of our stories. But as Brené Brown explains so beautifully, “The irony is that we attempt to disown our difficult stories to appear more whole or more acceptable, but our wholeness – even our wholeheartedness – actually depends on the integration of all of our experiences.”
I was given many opportunities to tell the full truth about my dissatisfaction in my marriage. For years I settled for partial truths because I wasn’t ready to face the potential consequences of saying, “This isn’t working for me.” But the more I grew to know myself, respect myself, and eventually love myself, the less capable I was of partial truth telling.
It was either shake out the rug, or live in utter misery, and a miserable existence is not the choice I make for those I love.
I don’t know what you’re going through. I don’t know what you’ve hidden, how long it’s been there, or where you store your most tender, vulnerable truths. But I do know the following:
Those three women at the top of the page? Not one of us knew what we were getting into when we decided to stop denying our pain, needs and desires. My dear, brave Carly didn’t say, “Sign me up for single parenting!” She said, “My heart can’t take this anymore,” and slowly shown light into the shadows.
Carly found her power in those shadows.
My dear, determined Anna didn’t say, “I’ve got it all figured out.” She simply said, “This isn’t how my story goes,” and slowly stepped her way back to thriving.
Anna took her joy back from those shadows.
And though healing together was our fate, Hunter and I didn’t know that when we said, “No more partial truths,” and “This version of us ends here.” Risking the marriage was the only way to save the marriage.
We rescued our tattered hearts from those shadows.
For all the challenges these past few years have brought me, the gifts have been just as many: friendships deepened to crazy-beautiful depths, work that feeds me to my core, self-awareness, connection, peace, joy, and yes, a marriage I’m finally comfortable leaning into. But of all the gifts I’ve been given, the one I treasure most is an awareness that began with a whisper:
My heart knows the way and can be trusted.
It just doesn’t see well in the dark.
You’re welcome, Taryn. Thank you for reading!
Your blog posts and life path so often parallel my own. This one is right on time, as my husband and I are in the midst of deep truth-telling work. Thank you so much for articulating the process as we search for the light.
Many blessings to you, Leenie, as you do the work. May the light grow stronger with every truth revealed.
Tears running down my face, im writing down your numbered list, thank you.
Thank you for letting me know my words resonated, Melissa. Sending love and light to you, wherever you are.
Your words of wisdom far transcend the truth. You are your own truth and so eloquently shared. Thank you!
I went through a very dark year and through frustration, fear, anger and pain I arrived to now. We need to breath and know we only have this moment in time!
Thank you, April. Here’s to a lifetime of beautiful, light-filled nows.
Thank you. Facing hard choices to do with work and home life these truths are so valuable. Be true to oneself, I think you are saying. Lovely words.
Thank you, Sarah, and may your challenges lead to growth and peace.
This is beautiful
Thank you, Zander. I appreciate you saying so.
The past can’t be outrun or hid from. You have to allow it to catch you. Muster up the courage and skill to lower your arms and become fully vulnerable to the punches from your past, or at least become vulnerable to the way the present is hitting you. The journey you hoped was that you could change the past, sweep it under the rug. The hope you want is that the past will wisen you to not repeat it in the present. You heart won’t take that anymore. That is transformation. Transformation happens when you see the lessons of the past living in the present. It develops in you as a result of your journey. Transformation happens after you walk the trails to their bitter end. When all your thoughts and distractions fail to clear the path. Every trick of your old perspective fails to move you another inch. Sweeping all this under the rug becomes impossible, and that is the moment you surrender to the true you. The trail of life you constructed has now become the maze you needed in order to transform yourself.
I agree, Jonathan, that transformation starts when the heart steps in and says, “No, no more of this.” I also really like what you said about our thoughts and distractions no longer clearing the path. Thank you for sharing your perspective, and all my best to you as you navigate the maze.
Wow what a great posting. It was exactly what I needed to read and hear reverberating in my head. It’s very powerful. Thanks for sharing your truth…it rings true for me as well and I just recently have discovered that it’s very dirty under my rug! It is difficult yet powerful when you open up your heart and are willing to truly look at and take responsibility for your own happiness instead of waiting for others to behave a certain way to make you happy.
Thank you all.
Thank you, Coleen. I wholeheartedly agree with you on this one:
“It is difficult yet powerful when you open up your heart and are willing to truly look at and take responsibility for your own happiness instead of waiting for others to behave a certain way to make you happy.”
Blessings to you as you face the world with an open heart. Such a gift to so many.
Beth, you are so amazing and filled with wisdom! Thanks for sharing. Xoxo
Thank you, Kim, and much love to you and yours. <3
I was just reading through your old blog posts and got a glimpse out of the corner of my screen that one of your favorite blogs is Clean. You, Beth, and Rachel (lusasorganics Clean.) are so much of an inspiration!
Sending lots and lots of love and light to you and your family from California!
Happy thanksgiving. (And thank you, so much.)
I just happened upon your blog because of an article a friend posted. I just read this one and it’s as if you read what’s in my head…but I’ve been afraid to admit to MYSELF that I am tired. Beyond tired. Yet I still shove my heart aside and operate in daily numbness. Yep, that’s what it is: numbness. The only time I am not numb is with my child. But with my spouse (whom I’ve been calling roommate for more than a year)…I feel nothing. I am afraid to admit “this isn’t working.” It seems like failure and I can’t face that…not yet. But I have to one day.
It’s 2021, your posts are great!
Lots of love 🙂