Growing up it seemed everyone told me to smile, no matter what I was feeling.   But I was a serious child, “very mature for her age,”  so often even without a smile I was happy. At home in addition to being told to smile,  I was not to cry or get angry, which is interesting when you inherit a double dose of BAD TEMPER, that flares up.

When I got married, I became an expert in stuffing emotions, to the point when the marriage ended, there was nothing. Since I had been cut off from friends and family, there was no one. So life was like space, a void, with very few tiny pricks of light. There were no up days, no down days, just days, mostly alone.

When I became a youth minister I realized emotions were not a bad thing.  I reconnected with an old friend, but she was married with kids so she was busy. Slowly I built up friends from work. Work was a partnership in a bookkeeping firm.    I worked open to close at the business, for little to nothing often paying for business expenses. In 18 months I went from having a savings account to being in debt.

My “partner” had paid her home bills and made purchases on the business account, while telling me there was no money.   When I found out, she reminded me I lived alone, and “things can happen” to my house, my dog, while I was asleep or not at home and that “people you think are friends are my friends.”  Realizing she was right I turned to my church friends.   When they started taking me out to eat and inviting me over, it seemed great. But they used any excuse to try to find out what I upset me that refused to talk about. The only time I talked, my ex-business partner called the next day to remind me that she had connections everywhere and I “had no one.”

After a few months the church friends insisted I needed mental help, and took me to a mental hospital.  When I told the doctor what was going on, he whitened and said there was too much on my plate for me to not be stressed.  When the doctor asked who my support structure was, I said, “the people who brought me.” He said, “you need new friends.”

Suddenly I was friendless again. But as much as that hurt, what hurt worse was going from no getting help with the youth group to suddenly having tons who took it away. Now I was jobless, friendless, and without my youth group. Deciding that emotions must be part of the problem I tried to stuff them back inside the pit of my stomach. Like a sleeping bag released from the original packaging, they would not go.

Things slowly shifted. Friends started developing again. And it felt good, it felt beautiful. I was slowly coming into emotions and had friends.

Then my grandmother died….

~ MJ Schrader