By Chinenye Opeodu
“How is your heart?”
Very strange question, right? Certainly not the best conversation starter by any chance. However, this was the question a very close friend asked me randomly that left me perplexed. Whatever happened to the basic “how are you?” With that, you’re permitted to offer the perfunctory answer, which doesn’t give any allowance for further probing. As confused as I was by my friend’s inquiry, I understood that it was asked so I could burrow deep and really take stock of how I was feeling.
At the start of 2020, I was as excited as everyone else to finally be in the new year. For one reason or the other, this year had been greatly anticipated by everyone, particularly me. I was, at last, turning 30 and I was planning to turn up in a major way. I was going to go on a fancy get-away with my friends, with a nice dinner party afterward. I had planned this for a long time. There was absolutely no way to predict that on this landmark birthday, my husband and I would be recuperating from COVID-19 (who would have thought?). With that, clearly my plans had to fly out the window.
I took it in great stride while handling being out of a job at the same time. I had to soldier on somehow and not allow myself indulge in a pity-party that would have done me no good when there were a gazillion other urgent things to attend to. All these occurred alongside a great host of upheavals, yet I powered on, not acknowledging the full effect they had on me. Throughout this period, I insisted to all who asked that I was doing okay.
A couple of days after my friend posed this question, someone else hinted that I looked stressed. I went on the defensive and gave a detailed explanation of why I seemed that way. I stopped myself mid-conversation when it registered that in my bid to prove I was good, I had unintentionally convinced this person that something was definitely not right with me. I resolved that I may not actually be as good as I thought.
In my quiet time, I sat still and tuned in to what my body had attempted to break to me. As I began to feel all the feels, I felt tears slipping out. I allowed all the suppressed emotions to finally make an appearance. Right then was my moment of truth; I understood the degree of emotions I had bottled up.
“How was my heart?”
My inner-self wasn’t good. I was struggling and on the verge of a breakdown if I didn’t catch myself on time. I was lashing out at the people closest to me and had withdrawn from my friends and family. I was a long way from okay and my body had started to show the strain I was under.
Do you know that you exhaust a ton of energy into being functionally fine without actually being fine, which, at some point in the future, you may need to pay for?
I’m discovering that it is alright to be strong when it is needed. In addition, come face-to-face with all the negative feelings like anxiety, bitterness, fear, and anger that we try so hard not to deal with. The more we dismiss an emotion, the more it grows into a huge mountain that will require a mighty bulldozer to level.
Self-awareness is basically the capacity to see yourself plainly and impartially through reflection and contemplation.
The moment I could move away from everything else and deal with myself properly, then I truly started to feel and look better. I could finally refocus and see through clearer lenses.
For some people, they wake up and realize they’re in a funky mood and can’t pinpoint precisely why they feel that way. For others, it could be them over-reacting to a simple statement, and apologizing for that behavior afterward. It manifests in various ways.
A lot of times, people shy away from practicing self-awareness due to the effort, and in some cases, pain it takes to strip off all the layers we conceal our true selves under. Whatever your struggles or victories look like, set time apart to reflect on how you feel. Make connecting with your inner-self a priority.
As always, I have to take this back to my parenting. In retrospect, with all my stifled emotions over the past few months, I realized I was not giving my children the best part of me. In that period, they probably concluded that mummy was easily irritable. Imagine if I didn’t check myself before I caused any serious damage. Truly, you can’t pour from an empty cup.
The point is that you can fill your life with nice things and activities, but these things don’t do a good job of filling the hole in your soul. Take the time to ponder on this and find your way back to feeling your best self. Your body and everyone around you will thank you for it later.
I’m delighted to say that now my heart is blooming as it should.
How is your heart doing?