This year has truly been a year of trouble and strife. One crisis after another, throwing me into this journey of personal discovery and emotional liberation. Throughout the year I have bumped and bruised my way through a battery of hiccups. I decided that I would control my way through these crises with my predictable tough-girl nature. As the hits kept coming, I began to melt down into a slightly softer version of that tough-girl, really just protecting and numbing myself from feeling any of the struggles. Today, I’m still foraging for that last morsel of courage. I am so close to accepting and appreciating how a full cup of emotions is a critical ingredient in this recipe of LIFE.

This personal revolution and liberation would not have been possible without the courageous conversations that I have had the privilege of experiencing with the team of heroes around me. If you’re on my team, you know who you are 😉 and I am eternally grateful for the listening ear, the empathy, and the push to grow that came from each one of you.

This post is not about me trying to convince you or to gain sympathy for my, Year of Crises. Instead, it is my final push towards courage. Face-to-face, courage is tough. Shedding that shiny, steely nature is painstaking when you’ve worn it like an Olympic medal. Life should not be about seeking sympathy when the going gets tough. Life should be about sharing your vulnerable moments, listening and showing empathy towards others who need you, and connect with how you really feel. When we practice this we feel alive (even though it might hurt like crazy).

As life delivers its punches, some of us take a hit, fall hard, then launch ourselves up, unaffected by the experience. We all have that friend or family member who can weather the storm. I and many of you, have probably admired or leaned on these people. After all, they are the strongest, most resilient people we know. We lean on them when we need them…then we PUFF and PAD them up when they need us. Perhaps you’ve had conversations like these.
“Wow Sue, that is really tough to swallow. You are always so strong, you’ll get through this.”
“Not to worry Joe, you’re the toughest guy I know. You’ll sail through this one like all those other crises you’ve endured.”

If you know somebody who weather’s the storm each and every time it hits, try something different. Try listening without speaking or advising, show empathy. Ask questions, dig deeper, and validate the person’s struggle. Sometimes the tough cookies in our world just don’t want you to see their cookie is crumbling, because that feels like weakness. Perhaps they feel as though the real emotion might get in the way of coping. Whatever, the case…we are all human. We all have limits to what we can handle without getting the compassion and empathy that we truly need, even when we can’t ask for it. Reassure that tough cookie that it’s okay to feel sad, disappointed, hurt, or overwhelmed. Thank your tough cookie for sharing this difficult moment with you.

When you think about it, humankind spends a ton if money on the films, theatre, games and books. Here are the industries that seek and invest in solving the equation of entertainment, using human emotion and vulnerability as its variables. Film, theatre, gaming, and print create story lines that tap into our deepest emotions stirring up fear, sadness, loss, and terror. Think of the capital invested in human emotion for the purposes of entertainment. We all love how a stories affect us. Feeling is entertaining! We feel alive!

How ironic it is then, that our society and culture muffles human emotions in the real world. It must be because human emotion gets in the way of deadlines, contracts, tenders, stocks, inventions, discoveries, and knowledge.

Let’s face it. Friendships, relationships, and connections make the world go ’round. When you go away from this post, remember that friend of yours who is a tough cookie. Next time when he or she gets hit with a struggle, he or she might secretly long for someone to show empathy and compassion so they can just feel, rather than numb it away.

Human strength comes in many forms. It would behoove our society to embrace the wonderful array of emotions that we as humans get to experience. The Human Strength Award should not go to those who weather the storm EVERY single time that tornado comes tearing through (be suspicious of that person’s coping). The Human Strength Award should go to those who show the courage to show their full emotional experience. Strength is when you let the tears roll down your face after your friend tells you she’s been diagnosed with cancer. Strength is when you have the courage to tell your spouse that you’re sad and you need him/her to just listen and hold you. Strength is when you hold your child and feel the disappointment with them, as they share that recess tiff with a friend. Strength is letting the laughter out when you hear a funny story or a friend plays a practical joke on you.

The final blow of 2011 came on Boxing Day when we found out my husband’s sister has been diagnosed with stage two cancer. It really was the last thing we had expected after all that 2011 had already delivered. What to do with the news? Well, first I better sit and feel it….I am truly sad that my sister-in-law has to embark on this long, arduous journey through treatment. I am worried for her son and her husband who have to watch her go through the pain. I am scared for her and for all of us. I think it’s okay to be scared of cancer…at first. Some people might think that being scared of cancer means you’re not fighting it. Well, if you’re not scared of cancer, you’re probably just numbing the fear…and that’s not overcoming fear or cancer…that’s hiding from it.

So, it is this kind of realization that liberates me. But, I’m still trying to find that courage to share the soft, vulnerable feelings when in the face of a friend who would gladly support me. In 2012, I pledge to stop the numbing. I pledge to share, listen, feel and connect. These are the ingredients to this recipe of life.

It’s time to say so long to 2011, and thank goodness for that! I look forward to LIVING and perhaps even FEELING 2012! I hope that all of you do too.