Hiding Hurts

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Once a quarter three of my friends from grade school get together to celebrate one of our birthdays.  Last night was my turn to be celebrated and yet I felt a heavy burden of anxiety heading to dinner with these girls.  It’s not that I don’t love them because I love them deeply.  And it wasn’t that I don’t feel loved by them because I’ve seen them in action when one of us has taken a hard hit…each woman steps up and does what she can to lessen the other’s burden.  So I know that if I ever needed them they would be here in a heartbeat.  And it’s not that I fear the conversation would lack because it rarely ever has.

For the duration of the drive to dinner I turned off the radio and just listened to my anxiety.  What is the cause, is it legitimate or imagined, and what can I do to remedy it?  
The truth is I fear the uncomfortableness of me being an atheist and them being christian.  I fear that they feel uncomfortable around me and I know that I often feel uncomfortable around them.  I know they are doing their best to adjust and not offend and I also am doing my best to not ruffle any feathers. For example: prayer before meals is a standard practice that takes place.  It used to involve holding hands and thanking God for our food, our blessings, and one another.  Now there is this elephant in the room when the meals arrive.  I see the moment when hands are reached for and quickly pulled back, probably out of respect for me.  I choose to simply bow my head and let them have their prayer, out of respect to them.  But there’s a small air of uncomfortableness in those moments.  It’s a multitude of little moments like that which makes me feel a small need to hide.  Hiding is something I hated about myself and others in christianity.  Atheism provided me a freedom of constant acceptance and truth about myself and I vowed to stop hiding.  Yet here I am conversating with myself the need to stay hidden.  

“If I say this will I offend X?
Oh, shit, I just swore and probably put someone off.
Amy, think through each word before you say it.  Don’t allow any foul language to slip out.
Amy, don’t ask those questions, that’s part of her life she doesn’t like to share.
I probably shouldn’t mention X, Y, Z because they might think worse of me.
How do I engage when I disagree with what’s being said?  Better to say nothing.
Amy, your opinion does not matter.  Shhhhhh.
Should I or should I not order a drink?  Can I order a second?
And the self talk, self preservation, hiding debate goes on and on and on.”

 About 20 minutes in to the dinner I started settling in to the familiarity of these women.  The beauty of these friendships.  The security that although we may disagree on some very vital issues these are life long friends not easily dismissed by a few foul words, a liberal stance, or the free-spirited person I have become.  The desire to just be me became more important than what one may or may not think of me.  Because hiding is disingenuine and I’m anything but disingenuous, I decided to share.  Be open. Did I still intentionally hide some things…absolutely.  It’s a constant battle for me to decide what to filter and what thoughts to let spill freely.  I know it’s best not to engage in politics or religion( at least not at quarterly dinners).  But I was able to share about dressing up in Vegas for my husband, having a sexy photo shoot, having a family member who is gay and my excitement for him, my struggles with my boys, and honestly sharing funny stories that we can all laugh at even if some are at my expense.  I ordered the drink that I wanted and even mentioned that I wish I believed in hell for those people who truly truly deserve a fiery eternity.

What started as fear and anxiety turned in to a beautiful night of friendship, laughter, and love.  I truly value these girls and as I further down this road of non-belief I become more and more comfortable seeing beyond their religious beliefs and see all the many things we still have in common.  I hope that one day I’ll feel brave enough to share my opinions even as they counter the others.  Our opposite opinions can be seen as a way to challenge each other to grow and think outside our boxes.  That’s the model of true friendship (I believe).  Challenge yet accept the differences.  
So I’ll end on this.   Hiding hurts.  None of us should feel that we need to hide ANY area of our life.  There is nothing shameful in the choices we make.  I hope that I will continue down this road of exposure and that in return these girls and others in my life will feel that they are safe to share with me as well.  I hope they will see that hiding only hurts and we are there to help each other grow but the only way to do that is through absolute vulnerability.  I trust them.  I am safe.  And they are safe with me.
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About ThinkingWithVitality

Wife, Mama, Certified Wellness Life Coach, Certified Vet Tech, adoption and special needs advocate, adventure seeker, wannabe vegetarian, freethinker, knowledge hunter, secular humanist. Love writing, distance running, cycling, hiking, photography, nature, essential oils, natural medicine, traveling, RVs and tents, reading, adventures, organizing, authentic living, good beer, acoustic music and happy to have landed in Costa Rica for this moment in time.

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