Category Archives: vulnerability

Resilience

I am in love with this word.

The sheer power in evokes for me internally is enough right there. But it is so much more than that. It is strength, fierceness, power, fighting back, never giving up, never surrendering. It means that when life throws you a curve ball, you catch the damn thing and throw it right back. It means that if you stumble into your hole in the sidewalk, you climb back out. It means that when you break, you pick up the pieces of your shattered heart, mind, and body, and you put yourself back together. One piece at a time. You rebuild yourself, and reemerge even stronger than before.

It means that no matter what knocks you down, YOU GET BACK UP.

Who actually possesses this amazing quality? What makes a person resilient?

I think it comes down to a couple of things. First, I believe it is a quality inherent in some people. I think people who are naturally resilient are confident, secure in themselves, and have a solid ability to regulate their emotions (especially in the face of adversity). When the shit hits the proverbial fan, they don’t take off running in the opposite direction, they square their shoulders and face off with whatever it is that is coming their way. I am not saying that only certain people embody this characteristic. I am merely stating my opinion, that it may come more naturally to some than to others. For many of us, resiliency is a quality that we need to work on – continuously.

I know that I do.

I have found, over the course of this very exhausting and debilitating year, that I lacked an acceptance of what it was that I was going through (emotionally speaking). I wanted off my emotional rollercoaster as I went up and down and back and forth through the grieving process. Denial, anger, confusion, hurt, rage, fear, depression, despondency – the adjectives are many and seemingly endless. But, it would seem that I have finally moved into this state of acceptance and awareness that I was unable to achieve until now. I feel as though I am finally embodying resilience. I believe that this is because I had to go through the emotions, hit rock bottom, and claw my way back out. I know now, with certainty, that I am strong enough to get through pretty much anything at this point in my life.

What I have come to understand about all of this is that I do not think that resiliency only means embodying that ‘never give up’ attitude. I think it also involves recognizing that sometimes you need to fall the fuck apart. And more importantly – accept this as part of your journey. Fighting against an intense emotional torrent gets you literally no where. Letting yourself be vulnerable and being able to sit with your feelings, no matter how totally terrifying and shitty they may feel, is just another form of resiliency. Because, without that deep emotional processing, you will most definitely keep falling into that abyss; over and over and over again.

And that is the space from which you truly pick yourself back up and continue to fight.

I have finally found that light at the end of my tunnel. It has been a very dark and very terrifying journey. I tried to put a time limit on my grief, I tried to control it and make it stop. It was only when I just gave in and let go that I began to heal. But I believe that it was all a part of my process and my journey. It was one hell of a shitty year.

What I want you to know is this: The pain and the hurt have an ending point. I am here to reassure you that the next stage in this horrific journey that is grief, is you coming to realize that you are strong enough, you can get through this, and that you are safe. So, please do not despair. Do not give up.

Hold onto hope; it’s there, within you.

I promise. You are going to be okay.

How do we create a true resiliency within ourselves?

From The American Psychological Association:

Make connections. Good relationships with close family members, friends or others are important. Accepting help and support from those who care about you and will listen to you strengthens resilience.

Avoid seeing crises as insurmountable problems. You can’t change the fact that highly stressful events happen, but you can change how you interpret and respond to these events.

Accept that change is a part of living. Certain goals may no longer be attainable as a result of adverse situations. Accepting circumstances that cannot be changed can help you focus on circumstances that you can alter.

Move toward your goals. Develop some realistic goals. Do something regularly — even if it seems like a small accomplishment — that enables you to move toward your goals.

Take decisive actions. Act on adverse situations as much as you can. Take decisive actions, rather than detaching completely from problems and stresses and wishing they would just go away.

Look for opportunities for self-discovery. People often learn something about themselves and may find that they have grown in some respect as a result of their struggle with loss.

Nurture a positive view of yourself. Developing confidence in your ability to solve problems and trusting your instincts helps build resilience.

Keep things in perspective. Even when facing very painful events, try to consider the stressful situation in a broader context and keep a long-term perspective. Avoid blowing the event out of proportion.

Maintain a hopeful outlook. An optimistic outlook enables you to expect that good things will happen in your life. Try visualizing what you want, rather than worrying about what you fear.

Take care of yourself. Pay attention to your own needs and feelings. Engage in activities that you enjoy and find relaxing. Exercise regularly. Taking care of yourself helps to keep your mind and body primed to deal with situations that require resilience.

Additional ways of strengthening resilience may be helpful. For example, some people write about their deepest thoughts and feelings related to trauma or other stressful events in their life. Meditation and spiritual practices help some people build connections and restore hope.

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Giving In and Letting Go.

*I wrote this post yesterday; today I am just fine*

I cannot escape grief today. It is sitting on my shoulders and won’t leave me alone.

It keeps whispering in my ear things like:

He left you.

He doesn’t love you.

You are a fuck up.

Your kids are damaged.

This is all your fault.

You aren’t worth it.

I know these thoughts are not true. But my brain is insistent on producing them and I am so utterly exhausted that I don’t have the energy to fight back. I am walking with my arms wide open and my heart wide open, right into the maelstrom. I am letting the current sweep me away because I am too tired to fight against it.

I am not afraid of being swept away by my emotions anymore.

When you have PTSD, you become adept at keeping your emotions in check; it becomes second nature to numb out. Every single feeling is muted – dumbed down. Even happiness feels too scary. Your brain trusts nothing and no one; it is looking for danger everywhere, and for me that danger had always been a fear of feeling my emotions. And never trusting people not to leave and abandon me. I compartmentalized my emotions and my feelings toward the people I love(d) most in this world – my husband and my children, my mother, brother, and my sister. It breaks my heart to know that I unknowingly spent the last 30 plus years living a life of fear, and clinging to the lie that if I felt less, I would be safe.

That is no way to live.

But here’s the thing: I knew what it felt like to love with a reckless abandon that only a little girl who loved her father completely and unconditionally could. And then he dropped dead, right in front of me, and my brain broke.

I NEVER WANTED TO FEEL ANYTHING OR LOVE ANYONE THAT MUCH AGAIN.

EMDR is changing my brain and my life. I am awake, aware, and filled with love and life (and hurt and grief). And though some days are brutal, most days are not. I am learning to trust my emotions, myself, and the people in my life.

I am loved and I am enough.

Typically, when the negative and caustic thoughts pop up, I have been very quick to shut them off. I recognize them as unhealthy and unhelpful. But today, I decided to try something different. I am letting the thoughts come and wash over me; through me. I am releasing myself to the hurt and the grief and embracing a ‘bring-it’ attitude. It feels somehow better than the constant struggle to battle the thoughts away.

To throw up my walls feels exhausting to me now as it is not automatic or second nature any longer.

I am letting them come crumbling down.

For good.

Age. Apparently, It’s a Thing.

I am finally acknowledging something that hurts to admit.

My age is starting to bug me. It is becoming a ‘thing’ my mind keeps coming back to. And per usual, I need to pay some attention to these thoughts; to process through them and make sense of the acute physical distress they are currently causing me.

I didn’t mind growing older until now. Age made no difference! I had a husband and a family. I had my partner in life and in love; we were growing old together! That was the plan, god damnit! Now that I seem to be growing old alone, I feel sick to my stomach about what this means. I constantly feel the pressure of time; and I feel as though it is running out.

I can’t explain why, but I feel terrified and alone and scared. This is causing me distress and the fact that it is causing me distress is pissing me off. Royally.

Get it together Amy!

I don’t want to feel old. I don’t want age to be a ‘thing’ but fuck, it is and I cannot ignore it any longer.

I have no idea why it is that I seem to keep connecting with people who are 10-15 years younger than I am. I am one of the older people in many of these new social circles I seem to gravitate toward. I am starting to feel self-conscious, a new feeling for me. Is it because I am in this new ‘adolescent’ stage in my life? I am literally rediscovering who I am and where I fit into the world, and this has me out and about, meeting new people all the damn time. But why should it matter what age these new friends are?

I suppose that most people my age have families and marriages and lives that involve family stuff. I don’t have that any more (that fact still hurts like a mother fucker). But at the same time, I don’t want that. I don’t want that life of complacency or stagnation. I don’t ever want to stop learning, growing, or playing. That doesn’t seem like really living to me.

At all.

I want adventure and laughter and new experiences. I want a partner in life and love. Explosive love! Unhinged, unabashed, unfiltered LOVE. Bring it.

(And yet, don’t. Because I am scared shitless of getting hurt again).

I seem to like younger men and society dictates that I am a ‘cougar’ because of this. I do not like that label. Actually, I fucking hate it. It is disgusting and rampantly sexist. Being called a so-called ‘cougar’ takes away from who I am as a fucking HUMAN BEING. I am a woman, and my age or my status in life should not be what define me. Sure, those things make up an integral part of who I am, but I am much more than that ridiculous label would imply.

I don’t like being called a MILF either. Aside from the gazillion reasons this label is offensive, I know exactly why it irks me. Being referred to as a so-called ‘mother-I’d-like-to-fuck’ defines me in terms of my physical self and also in regard to my kids. I am literally in the process of clawing my way back to myself outside of that role. It has taken a momentous amount of energy to untangle those cords that bind me to my children.

Labels such as these make me feel ashamed and embarrassed – like there is something wrong with me. Age doesn’t matter! (That is what I tell myself, constantly). A connection is a connection regardless of how old I am or how old someone else is. But I can feel myself silently snickering – laughing behind my back so to speak. This older woman hanging out with much younger people. It turns my stomach and makes me feel like some hopeless loser chasing something that doesn’t exist. A life that isn’t for me. I feel separate; like an outside observer.

I am also endlessly running in circles trying to figure out my path as far as all of this romantic/love shit goes. I am drawn to real, genuine, honest people who are doing the hard work of knowing themselves and working on themselves. It doesn’t matter if they are 27 or 37. At this point in my life, I can recognize a meaningful connection within the first 5 minutes of being near someone. I have come to understand that I am a highly intuitive person with a gift for connecting with people. My heart is huge and I am still trying to be ok with this – to celebrate it instead of curse it as I get hurt again and again.

This post isn’t going to end with something uplifting or happy.

I can’t bring that to you today and for that, I am sorry.

When I sit, and give all of these nagging thoughts about age and time a voice, I feel like an old lady. I feel used up, beat up, like a weirdo with kids and a life of responsibility. I feel like I’ve lost an entire decade of my life. My marriage feels like it was a joke. Resentment toward my children rears its ugly head and I feel a loss so deep I feel scared I will never be able to move past it.

Big, deep sigh.

Patience.

Patience.

I seem to have lost mine. Not sure I ever had much to begin with though.

I have been trying to be mindful of that secret inner voice – the unspoken push from my busy brain. It has been sending me messages of:

Should.

Could.

Would.

Those 3 words in all of their variations do so much damage. And I struggle with turning them off; stopping them completely. I can tell them to fuck off when they pop up, but come they may, with or without my consent.

I Should Have known that I had PTSD. I Should Have been better at loving and feeling regardless of my PTSD. I Should Be over this by now. I Should Not be hurting this badly or this often after 8 months. I Should Be more present and mindful. I Should Stop judging my every thought and emotion. I Should Stop waking up with anxiety. I Should Not feel so much, love so much. I Should not be vulnerable.

I Could Have done things differently. I Could have controlled my PTSD-fueled rage (not actually possible). I Could Have no more feelings. I Could Have more patience with myself (absolutely true). I Could Have made better decisions last year.

I Would Be happier with my ex. I Would be loved more if I wasn’t such a weirdo. I Would be happier if I wasn’t alone. I Would Be healing faster if it weren’t for my fucked up broken brain. I Would have more friends if I wasn’t so damn introverted. If I were at all ‘normal’ I Would Be better by now.

Nastiness. All of it. Unhelpful brain doodling (I just coined that phrase and it’s fucking brilliant).

I know that my path is hard. I understand with a beautiful introspective logic that I am exactly where I am supposed to be on said path because how could I be anywhere else?? But I also feel that nagging, incessant nudge of:

I SHOULD BE BETTER BY NOW.

I SHOULD BE OVER IT.

I SHOULD BE THIS, THAT, OTHER.

Not this achy, hurting, uncertain creature who wakes up with a hole in my chest.

Every. Single. Day.

Patience. What does that look like? What does that feel like?

A deep breath. A long overdue sigh. Letting go of the should, could, would. Being present in every moment. Making space for the hurt and the ache and treating them like an old friend, not an unwanted enemy. Allowing myself the tears that still come. Allowing myself to embrace the difficult feelings and not trying to block them; run from them. Giving myself a break from the constant (unspoken) pressure I put on myself to be someone other than I am able to be right now. Thinking gentle thoughts. Loving thoughts. Kind and peaceful thoughts. Embracing the rollercoaster instead of fighting it tooth and nail. Acknowledging that I might not be okay and that that is okay.

I will breathe. I will pull myself back to the present moment.

With patience.

Connection

Connection.

Why is it so important?

Why does something so (seemingly) simple hold so much weight?

I know connection is what is missing from my life. Real, genuine, meaningful connection. I have interactions with other humans throughout my day; the small and the large variety of bipedal creatures. I am blessed with wonderful people that I chat with at work, online, on the phone. But those connections are brief and generally not diving into the deep end of the pool. We, as human beings, absolutely prefer the shallow end of things. We feel safest there.

The connection I am longing for is the one with that person you can bare your soul to and feel safe in doing so. That someone who is on your same wave length, gets you, and whatever crazy you might bring to the table. You can share anything and everything with this person and they not only hear you, they see you, and they validate you.

So, why do I need this? Why do you need this? Why do we all absolutely need this?

I think it is the sharing of ourselves, our emotions, and our stories with other humans that makes us feel seen. Sharing our deepest and most vulnerable selves is gratifying and authenticating. When we have people in our lives who hold space for us, for our most secret selves, we become whole. That connection becomes a mirror in which we can see ourselves more clearly. We feel accepted for who we are. We become more adept at diving into that deep end.

We all have very rich inner lives; busy brains. We feel, we think, we love, we hurt. When we share those most vulnerable pieces of ourselves and the stories and emotions that go with them (in a safe space) our ability to be vulnerable is validated and supported, thereby making room for more vulnerability in the future.

Vulnerability –> Connection/Validation –> Increased Vulnerability

And we know now, that a life lived in a vulnerable and aware state, is the best and only way to live, right? We know that a life lived on the surface of things isn’t living at all. Don’t be a watcher or a surface dweller! Be a participant! Get in and get dirty!

We all have deep insecurities we wrestle with. Shit we may not even admit to ourselves. When we allow vulnerability into our lives as a daily practice, we are making room for those parts of us that feel uncertain; unsafe. When I sit in a meeting with my fourteen 4-yr-olds at work and I cry, I tell them I am okay and that it is okay to cry.

I can cry on the phone with my sister now. It has taken me years to be able to do this. And I’ll tell you something, every time I cry and open up to her, I feel better.

With practice (sadly, I’ve had lots lately), I can bare my soul and my sadness to people and when they see me and hold space for me, it reinforces this fact: I know I will be okay. With every hurt and every gaping wound, I grow stronger and simultaneously more vulnerable. I feel and I share and I learn and I grow. It would seem that we have ourselves another paradox. Being vulnerable creates room for joy, pain, connection, growth, and strength.

I think that the connection I lost when my marriage ended has been the single most devastating part of this shit-show of a divorce. When you live with, and love someone for 16 years, you speak your own language, you have inside jokes that literally no one else would understand. I miss that like an ache in my chest. When that connection is severed, you are left reeling and wondering who the fuck you are without it.

I thought I had found the possibility of that again, just recently, and I opened myself up and allowed love and vulnerability back into my life. And now I am hurting again nearly as badly as I was last fall. And it’s the loss of the connection – the validation – that hurts the most.

This leads me down a path that I don’t want to go down. But trudge on, I must.

Shouldn’t I be okay without that connection? Shouldn’t I feel validated and whole on my own without someone externally reinforcing my sense of self? Yes? No? I don’t know???

I love being alone. I struggle with feeling alone. I love my independence. I struggle with not having anyone at home to talk to.

I shall investigate this further at another time when I am not so utterly exhausted. I will leave you with this little gem:

The other day I had a conversation with some lettuce.

I can’t believe I just admitted that.

The Secret Inner Drive

There is a disconnect within my mind; thoughts buried so deep, they tug at my subconscious. I am trying very hard to acknowledge them though they feel primal and hard to access. I want to pay more attention to my very busy inner mind; the driving force behind some of my behavior. I want to separate my rich inner dialogue from the chatter and busyness that seem to coat the surface of my thoughts.

I think we all have motivations that are so deeply embedded in our psyche that we don’t necessarily know that they are there whispering to us; motivating us to make certain choices. If we stripped away that drive, that push or pull, would we make different choices? Or would we stay on the same path? If my mind was naked, stripped down and bare, what would my behavior look like in this pure ‘me’ state? Or is the steady, mostly silent hum beneath my thoughts, what makes up the essence of ‘me’?

I find this shit fascinating and I am going to start to pay very close attention. Starting now.

Alright, an example, you ask? Sure.

And this shit is embarrassing.

It dawned on me last night that I am still pining over my ex. I am still hoping for the day when he lets me back in. When he ‘sees’ me and how much work I’ve done and that I am not the same person I was last week, last month, or last year. I am changing and evolving and healing so quickly, and fuck, a part of me has been doing it for him.

When the man you loved for 16 years repeatedly calls you crazy and psycho,

YOU WANT TO PROVE HIM WRONG.

You want him to know that he made the biggest mistake of his life when he left you; alone, hurting, and confused as fuck.

Damnit to being so honest with myself. Shit. I don’t like admitting that AT ALL. It’s trite, petty, and just silly. But it’s the truth and maybe a good dose of brutal honesty is what I need to wake me up to the fact that he left. He isn’t coming back. And he has found someone to love more than he ever loved me. Puke.

And this: WHY ON EARTH WOULD I EVER WANT TO BE WITH SOMEONE WHO DOESN’T WANT ME COMPLETELY? I just said no to a great guy for that exact reason. I want to be wanted wholly, completely, totally; for all of me. That includes my goddamn crazy life and my children. They are a part of me and we are a package deal.

I am a mother, a woman, a teacher, a lover, a sister, a friend, and a human being. I feel nearly everything intensely, deeply, and I love with every fucking fiber of my being.

This is who I am; many puzzle pieces make up an entire Amy.

A lifetime of Amy’s all leading to up to now.

(Sorry, went off on a bit of tangent there).

I do believe that we all have secret motivators within us, steering us to some degree. And perhaps, sometimes, these forces can cause us to make choices or drive our behavior in ways that may cause us to step out of integrity with ourselves. I know I feel a bit ill thinking that some of my hard work has been to prove my ex wrong. I know that my choices and my behavior should come from me and be for me. Which is why, no matter how I must wrestle with myself, I am going to start to pay close attention to what is REALLY going on behind the scenes, so-to-speak, within my own busy brain.

Wish me luck!

Vulnerability Hangover

*A bit of a rant this morning as I work my way through this latest hurdle*

I have a vulnerability hangover and it’s bad.

I opened myself up completely to someone and let love back into my life and into my heart; slowly and steadily over the past 5 months. I said goodbye to this person and that relationship 2 days ago and now I feel physically ill; sick to my stomach with anxiety and hurt and pain and regret. I want my fucking walls back. I want my suit of impenetrable armor. I want my PTSD-numbed emotional state of mind back. Because this hurts too much and I want OUT.

This is why smart people fear being vulnerable and keep themselves in check.

Boundaries, Amy! Balance!

I’m back on my emotional rollercoaster. Everything feels so raw and so frightening right now. I am feeling more alone than I have in months; questioning my sanity. I went and fell in love. Damnit, what was I thinking??? Once love blossomed in my heart, I dove straight in. Head first and with complete abandon. He held space for my love and intensity with a careful and gentle grace. But then we reached an impasse. I wanted more – I wanted it all – and he couldn’t give me that. This person wants children of his own. I am going to be 43 this year. I have children of my own and I do not want more. There is more to it than that, a lot more, but for me, that is the crux of it.

I guess I don’t understand why my kids and I aren’t enough for this person. We could have made an awesome, funky-type family. I know he wants his own children but he could have found an instant family with the 3 of us. I wanted to walk by his side for the foreseeable future. Meet his more of his friends and his family. Dance, laugh, discuss life, wake-up together, cook, camp, live, love, and explore. I would have been his partner and friend.

Sigh. Fantasy. All of it.

I considered it for a minute (okay, it’s still on my mind); having a baby with this man. What would that be like? It was, and still is, a tantalizing thought. But here’s the thing, as much as I love this guy, and would love to have a life with him, I cannot go through that again. Losing myself, my life, my body, to an infant. The fact is, that somewhere, deep inside of me, that pull to get lost is still there and this absolutely terrifies me.

And this: Maybe I don’t like who I am on love.

Love feels like a drug in my system. I feel like I’m going through withdrawal. Maybe being in love brings out the insecure and codependent me and there is nothing I can do about that. Maybe no amount of therapy can help me to untangle that deeply embedded shit. This relationship brought up all of my insecurities, but only when we were apart. When we were together, everything seemed crystal clear, healthy, grounding, and fucking amazing. I felt like I had balance – seeing him a few times a week, maintaining my friendships and my life outside of that relationship. But then this weird shit kept coming up when I wouldn’t hear from him in between seeing him:

Why didn’t he call? He said he would call! Why didn’t he say hello when he was online? Does he really like me? Does he really want a relationship? Just sex? Who am I if this imagined future with a man I love doesn’t actually exist? What if he says no? What if he finds someone else? What if he fucks someone else and he’s too afraid to tell me? He doesn’t owe me anything. I don’t own him. What if I am alone again? Without that connection that feels so right, so good, and so true? Who am I without that?

Am I still me?

Am I still ok?

What the fuck IS THAT? Why does the fact that someone’s messaging/not messaging or calling/not calling determine my sanity and sense of self/well-being? UGH. Is that just my codependency and sense of self-worth or was it the relationship itself? I really thought that I was complete on my own without this connection. Have I been lying to myself for months? Jesus, that would be fucking scary. I don’t think that is the case. I think I am feeling sad and confused. I am not an insecure person. I never have been.

Or perhaps I am complete and fine with who I am and this is what heartache and romantic confusion feel like. Wanting someone and a life with that person and realizing the hard truth that isn’t possible. Wanting ALL THE THINGS. This is only the second time in my life I have had to deal with heartbreak. The first was when my ex left in October. Every other relationship I have had, I have walked away from and been fine.

Fuck, I wish I knew how to casually date without getting attached.

My sister said it best:

“Well, you’ve never done anything ‘a little bit’ in your life. Go big or go home”.

I wish I had an in-between setting. I don’t know what it is about me that my tendencies lie in black and white, on or off, hot or cold. Where is my gray? I have the ability to love fiercely with all of myself and to alternately shut down and throw up walls of steel. I am working on that last part. I haven’t deleted this person from my life completely – I think that is a good sign. I am tenacious to a fault. When I want something, I get it. I don’t know how to give up. I chose to stop this relationship because it doesn’t have the outcome I desired. I said no to great sex, love and affection, epic 4-hour-long conversations, and lots of laughing.

And now I feel like punching shit. And puking.

I want to have someone in my life. I know that now. A partner. A lover. A friend. A goofball-buddy. Man, I fucking miss those things. I want a connection that runs so deep I feel it in my bones. I have/had that with this new person. In spades. And every fiber of my being is screaming: “WHY CAN’T THAT BE ENOUGH”? And worse: does this mean that I am not worth it? But how could I not be worth it AGAIN? This doesn’t seem possible!! I am worth it. I know that I am. It’s not a question of my worth at all but of life circumstance and a shit deal-breaker of wanting biological offspring. My uterus would probably fall out if I had another baby; I’m completely serious.

My ex has everything he ever wanted. He wanted the girlfriend – to live with her. And now he has that and this amazing life. A full life of love, and family, and friends he inherited with that relationship; a community. He has moved on.

I am literally rebuilding myself and my community from scratch. I am trying to find friends and start over. When the shit hits the proverbial fan, I really have very few people to rely on; who I feel emotionally safe with.

So, what do I have? An empty house I don’t want to live in any longer. No relationship. I have approximately 4 friends. I am exhausted and terrified. I had totally placed all of my hopes and dreams into a relationship that does not exist – something my therapist told me explicitly NOT to do. But the hopes and the fantasies kept coming whether I wanted them to or not. I pictured this person I love living here. Being a dad/role model to the kids. I pictured waking up next to him a thousand times. I had seen a future with him. Glimpses of gardening, keeping bees, laughing, being ridiculous and silly together.

Fuck this feels scary. I completely underestimated how much I was relying on that connection. I still have so much work to do. I don’t want to keep swimming around up in my head but it seems to be what I am doing right now. Trying to be gentle with myself and my emotions as they come. I am trying not to shut down, dissociate, or shame myself for feeling too much, loving too much, hoping too much.

I will not break.