Thin crust

When visiting the geyser areas of Yellowstone National Park, there are restrictions in some places regarding where people are allowed to walk. The reason for this is that what appears to be solid ground is often only a thin crust covering the boiling hot springs that feed the geysers. Walking through such areas would be dangerous because you’d never know when the next step would plunge you through the surface into the scalding water.

Sometimes my life feels like this.

I’ll be walking along my journey enjoying the day with everything seemingly on an even keel, when suddenly I find myself plunging through that thin crust into the seething mass of emotions—grief, pain, anger—that’s been boiling away undetected below the surface all the while. Part of this journey of self-discovery and transformation has meant stepping off of the carefully maintained walkways to venture out onto this thin crust covering my emotional depths.

At the beginning of this journey, it often felt like I was in churning mess of boiling emotions all of the time, as if I was in the midst of the geyser activity itself. As time has gone on, I’ve found my way onto the surrounding crust where I only experience these occasional plunges into the scalding water. And each time, I’m finding my way out a little faster than the time before.

This is all good, and it feels like great progress. But I am aware that there is still that churning mass below the surface that needs to be dealt with and neutralized or drained away if I am going to find a way to walk more safely through this world.

I am realizing that there are places that I have covered over with anger in order to avoid feeling the depths of the pain. As I work on letting go of the anger, it means that I am stumbling upon more places where the crust is so thin that is sends me tumbling into long-repressed grief over things that happened long ago. But I’m learning that I can stand it. It’s not as unbearable as I thought it would be when I chose (unconsciously for the most part) to avoid feeling it. The more I face it and let myself feel it, the more it seems to drain away—or at least cool down so that it does not burn me so.

However, I’m still caught off guard so easily by the thinness of this crust. Oddly enough, the thing that most often sends me plunging through is an act of kindness. Some gentle act of acceptance or generosity that counteracts the pain of a hurtful message I never grieved long ago. Those small kindnesses slip right under my guard of anger, send me right down through the crust, and then the tears flow—sometimes in the most inconvenient moments. But these are tears of healing, tears that are washing away those old wounds and draining out the noxious, scalding pain, tears that fall somewhere in between the tears of pain for an old hurt and tears of joy for a new-found grace.

I recently had a week of walking on terribly thin crust with many stumbles into the boiling water below. It was challenging, but it was worth it for all the bits of healing and grace that have replaced the hidden pockets of pain. So worth it.

A Note on Comments: A chrysalis is by nature a fragile and vulnerable place to be, so I am committed to keeping this a safe place for me and for my readers. Comments sharing your own journey, even if your experience is different from mine, are always welcome and encouraged. Expressions of support or encouragement are also welcome. Comments that criticize, disparage, correct, or in any way attempt to undermine the validity of another person’s experience or personal insight are not welcome here and will be deleted.

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2 thoughts on “Thin crust

  1. Very lovely post; I like your style of writing. Yeah, I’ve been nagged about too much covering up of my feelings myself — it’s scary learning how to let them out properly. I never did learn because I wasn’t supposed to express them in my family. It’s quite a process, isn’t it?

    • Thanks so much! Yes, I think it is a process, and the challenge of learning new habits too. I think there are many of us who learned (directly or indirectly) not to show our emotions (or at least not all of our emotions).

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