Friday, February 28, 2014

Caring Too Much

I was talking to Grig the other day about a part of myself that has always kind of been interesting to me.

I have a hard time getting close to people. The other day, when Kevin was really sick I was having horrible thoughts about waking up to find him not breathing. Most people would avoid thinking about it, but I have two parts of my brain. The logical part not only thinks about things like that, but asks the question, "What would you do?" When I get into that mindset, the emotional side of my brain shuts down and I am able to think of how events would unfold in a very practical way and how I would deal with it.

Later on, when the emotional side kicked back in, I was horrified at the thought and I wasn't able to sleep very good because I had to keep checking on him. He's fine and is no longer sick, but the way I reacted gave me food for thought.

My greatest recurring nightmare when I was growing up was my family dying and leaving me alone. I would wake up sobbing from dreams like that, and it would hurt a lot. I loved my family very deeply, but sometimes I subconsciously began to separate myself from them in preparation of the moment when they would leave me. This isn't necessarily healthy and makes me seem a bit distant at times. For a long time, I wondered why I didn't have more friends or why it didn't bother me so much when people moved away. I wondered what was wrong with me.

I finally realized that it isn't that I don't care about people. It is that I care too much. It is so painful for me to have someone leave my life that before it even begins happening, I start to emotionally separate from them.

When I was a kid, I once read a note that a girl had written about me. I thought we were pretty good friends, but one day, without meaning to, I glanced over and saw that she had something written in her notebook. I wasn't trying to pry, but I caught a glimpse of my name and I couldn't help myself. To another friend she had written: "Emma (meaning me) is such a jerk. She says mean things all the time and then says she's joking, but I know she's not."

That really hurt my feelings. It really hurt me that someone I thought loved me and understood me would not only misunderstand me, but then they would talk badly about me to another person I thought was my friend.

Granted, I was not a perfect child. I did make jokes and say I was kidding all the time. However, in our family, sometimes teasing is a sign of affection. I really was trying to be a good friend. When I said I was kidding, I REALLY was kidding. I tried to pick inoffensive things to tease people about, but evidently I wasn't doing a good job because I had hurt someone else's feeling. Which made me feel even worse.

That, and a few other betrayals of friendship, made me decide that I could be friends with myself. I like myself and understood myself. Myself and I could hang out and have a good time without other people. I didn't understand what had happened to all the other kids at my school. Some of them that I thought I was close to suddenly turned into different people. Only now do I realize they were all trying to figure out who they were and what they were becoming. It's a hard time for kids, but I needed someone who would love me no matter what and would appreciate the things that I did for them.

This can be a very useful mental ability. I know that if something were to happen to my family, this part of my brain would take over and I would be able to survive until I could recover emotionally. I just worry about the emotional recovery part.

On my mission, I had a companion that I knew was going to be transferred to another area. We were very close, and the thought of her leaving (albeit only a short distance away) was extremely painful for me. So, the logical part of my brain kicked in and told me that it would be easier if I just didn't care so much. Without meaning to, I began to withdraw from that friendship. She caught me at it, and we put a stop to it. We continue to be great friends to this day.

It took me years to pull my heart out of the box I had stuffed it into. College helped a lot, and the mission helped even more. I had the sacred experience on my mission of feeling a little bit of what Heavenly Father feels for his children. It was so powerful I felt like my  chest was going to explode with love, and I knew that was only a small portion of our Father's love. If Heavenly Father loves us all that much, why can't we love ourselves and each other?

I now have a best friend who loves me. He understands me better than anyone and tolerates my inadequacies while helping me improve. I can tell him anything and he listens without judgement. We are working together to be better people, and I'm so grateful that my Heavenly Father led me to my wonderful husband.

Sometimes, my heart still tries to pull back and separate myself from my family. It tries to protect me from being hurt, but I'm slowly learning how to let go of that fear. I want to be emotionally close to my husband and son, but if I allow the fear to pull me away I may not feel as much pain when we are separated, but I will also miss many joyous opportunities when we are together.

It's okay to feel pain. Pain helps you know that you are alive and have something to care about. Withdrawing from society or from those who love you may shield you from that pain, but it is not worth the cost. Love is a wonderful feeling that can bring unbridled joy into your life. It can be risky, but we grow as we experience opposition. If I had never felt pain from betrayal, would I truly value the love that I have now?

I don't think so.

Caring too much is a good thing. Don't let people beat it out of you. You're going to find someone who can treasure all the love you can give and when that happens, you'll be glad you never gave up.


  1. I wrote a really long comment, and then lost it :( I don't feel like I can write it again right now. So I'll just say... yeah. All of that. I feel like those words you write could come straight out of my heart. I do all those things--distance myself because I worry when people are sick, or seeming to leave me for other reasons. Or just, I love them so much it'd hurt if they left.

    I also was socially awkward and accidentally hurt people even though, truly, I love them so dang much it really hurts. I am not perfect at loving people, but I look to your Dad as an example of how I can become that way eventually. You are awesome. Thanks for the post.

    1. I'm sorry you lost your comment! Yeah, I'm glad you get it. Please re-write your other comment sometime and PM it to me or something. I'd love to hear your thoughts.