Anne Peterson

I write stories and goosebump poetry

Clean out Your Closet: Why storing our feelings can be dangerous

Oops, I did it again. I can tell by your flinch that I’ve poked you.

It wasn’t my intent. My closet must be full. The one I stuff my emotions in.

When I don’t deal with my emotions, somehow the hurts overpower everything and before I know it, I sting people.

I don’t plan on poking others, but it still happens. And I’m not sure who’s more surprised. Okay, that’s not true.

I was only kidding…

I used to use satire, you know, quips. I did it a lot, until one day.

I was at a woman’s event. Food, laughing and people kidding around. One of my favorite people, Debbie was there.

I liked Debbie because she and I would volley words back and forth like nobody’s business. And I thought it was nobody’s business, but I was wrong.

She’d hit one over the net, and bam! I’d return it. I’d put one over and she would smash it back. Our sarcasm was pure art.

We had fun with all the back and forth-ing we did, without realizing quipping isn’t a spectator sport. Someone in the group didn’t find it funny at all.

This is to help you…

My friend, Jan called me the next day. She started dancing — I could tell she had something to say, but she wasn’t saying it. I recognize dancing because I know all the steps.

“I’m only telling you this because I care about you…I’d want to know if it was me,” she said.

This is gonna hurt, I warned myself.

With a little more coaxing, Jan continued. “You know how you were kidding around with Debbie last night?”

“Yeaaah,” I answered slowly, watching my knuckles turn white from hanging on.

“Cindy didn’t know you and Debbie were friends, and she told me, “What’s with Anne? She sure is critical.”

I quickly tried remembering which one was Cindy.

Being misunderstood hurts

Jan’s words burned and I tightened up.

Critical? I was only joking. It was hard pretending those words didn’t hurt, when they did. But I kept reassuring Jan it was okay, even though it wasn’t.

You see, as a child from a rage-filled house, I learned how to dance. It was never safe to disclose my feelings.

I learned to hide them behind a giant smile, but the smile kept slipping.

That’s when I learned to fold up my feelings, place them in a plastic bag and lock them away in the closet of my mind. The plastic kept the hurt fresh.

Later I’d take them out, unfold them and hurt all over again.

And somehow, when I’m wrapped up in hurt, I hurt others.

I couldn’t see anything through my pain, including people.

The story’s not over

I wish it ended there, but it didn’t.

Years later, I was on Facebook and Cindy, the remark-maker friended me. Over the years I did get to know her, but I kept my secret. The door was locked.

At first, we simply instant messaged each other.

And then one day, I took my hurt out of its protective plastic. I sat there holding it, feeling myself tense up. My gut said, “Don’t do this.”

But I had learned how to ignore my gut. By the way, I strongly discourage anyone from doing this.

Spiraling down

I broke Jan’s confidence and brought up the issue from years ago.

Stored hurts turn rancid. They morph into resentment and bitterness — not a pretty sight.

Bitterness I had met a long time ago.

“Aunt Jeanette, guess what? I graduated.” Following a twenty-five year absence from school, I knew graduating WAS a big deal. I waited for her congratulations.

“You graduated? You could have done that years ago,” she said. I wiped away tears.

Or there was the time I said to my dad, “I’ve met someone and we’re going to be married. You’d like him, he’s in the army.”

“The army? I told your brother to go in the army, but did he listen? No.”

I stood there, sorry I even told him.

Yes, bitterness and resentment were not new to me.

So what happened between me and Cindy?

Cindy denied ever saying anything negative about me.

Honestly, years had gone by and she could have forgotten, but I didn’t believe that.

Most people would have stopped there. Actually, most people wouldn’t have even traveled down this road at all, but I wanted to prove I was right. I HAD to.

Well, Cindy unfriended me. Actually, I would have unfriended me if I could have figured out how.

I did learn some lessons, but the price was too high.

Hard lessons learned:

  1. Breaking a confidence is never good. Never.
  2. People matter more than being right.
  3. You need to process your feelings, not store them.

Feelings have a way of coming out, like a beach ball held underwater. If we deal with our feelings, they won’t grow. Unresolved issues do not just dissolve.

Hurting people hurt people. Had I worked through my feelings, things would have been a lot different.

Maybe we need to clean our closets and throw away the locks.

Note: All names have been changed but mine.

About Anne Peterson

I write words you can feel, sometimes they rhyme. If I'm not writing, I'm telling stories from my head, to little ones who call me grandma.

10 Replies

  1. Can so relate. Thanks for being transparent and honest. <3 God bless you!!!

    1. Janice,
      Thanks so much for reading and for your comment. I appreciate both.

  2. Good lessons learned. Thank you!

    1. Thanks for reading Kathleen. Good lessons, hard ones though.

  3. katinavaselopulos

    We are constantly given lessons to learn. If we don’t, we come face to face with them again…until we do.
    Great post Anne! Transparent and wise as always!

  4. Katina,
    Thanks for reading. Yes, we are given lessons to learn. And as you said, some of them are repeated until we do grasp them. Thanks for your encouraging words.

  5. As usual, a great post! Love your writing. So real! We can all learn from this situation. I especially like the line, “Had I worked through my feelings…”

  6. Claire,
    Thanks so much for reading and for your comments. It was not a fun lesson, but one I hope I learned.

  7. This really spoke to me Anne. I have a problem of holding on to things so that they fester and bitterness grows. Then when I run into someone from the past it can come out as anger and resentment instead of the way it feels – like hurt and rejection. Thanks for sharing this story!

    1. Thanks so much for reading. I’m going to guess you and I are not the only ones who struggle with this. I appreciate your reading it and thanks even more for sharing it resonated with you. So glad that God accepts us where we are and then moves us from that place little by little. All because of his Grace.

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