Live Here & You'll Always Be Home
Finding the Courage to Live with an Open Heart
It doesn’t feel great to be told there’s something wrong with you.
It started when I was still but a wee Snufflemuffin. The words “you’re just too sensitive” would come at me from the people around me. Apparently, sensitive was a bad thing. I never realized that was possible until I heard this, but once I knew I was being labeled like that, I developed something of a complex.
Like anyone else, what I wanted most was to be appreciated, seen for who I was, and accepted. But every so often, someone would let me know they thought I should be different than I was. And because I was afraid of being abandoned, I worked really hard to change what they believed was wrong with me.
“Boys don’t cry.”
“Stop being a sissy.”
“Don’t be a baby.”
These were the messages I heard not only from the people around me, but in so many forms from the culture I was growing up in. I was looking for guidance on how to human correctly, and a lot of the answers that came at me were some variety of “you’re not enough the way you are… and now that you mention it, something’s wrong with you.”
From what I could tell, showing emotion meant you were weak and unstable. But acting steely and unaffected—especially as a male—was seen as enviable and strong. So when I encountered something that hurt or made me feel vulnerable, I began to crush it down into the pit of my stomach and hide it there.
I became quite skilled at this charade. I spent years and years and years constructing my armor of numbness and invulnerability.
Then, right around the time I turned 30, I started to notice something. As I looked around at the contents of my life, I realized everything felt very distant, desaturated, and flat. It was like the volume on the world had been turned way, way down, and I could barely detect the musicality or beautiful depth of life anymore. It was true that I had learned to become numb to pain, but with that came a numbness to passion, joy, excitement, and deep connection.
This realization hurt. A lot. And because it hurt, I knew that the notion of escaping pain and being invincible was a farce. All I had achieved through these methods was the creation of a new variety of undesired experience for myself. But since I had found my way into this place, I knew I could find my way out of it.
How, though? Where even was I?
I didn’t know the answers, but having those questions was the first step. I started to observe the people around me who seemed to have the openness I wanted. “How are they doing that?” became my next question, and a timid willingness to put myself out there and be awkward (and potentially hurt) started to bubble up.
I read about the subjects of connection and vulnerability in books like “Daring Greatly” by Brené Brown. I spoke with emotionally intelligent friends about their own experiences with stuff like empathy and living a courageous life colored be a fuller spectrum of feelings. It felt silly to be seeking advice on something I thought should have come naturally to me, but this was the reality I found myself navigating.
What became very apparent to me was that feeling deeply and moving through life with an open heart is what true courage looks like. It was also clear that when people choose to go full puffer-fish with a “don’t mess with me or you’ll be sorry” attitude, they’re just dressing up their fear and hurt in a cheap costume.
This led me to realize that my fears weren’t protecting me; they were harming me. I didn’t need my fears, so I decided to see what life could be like without them.
It was slow-going initially, but I invited my heart—and all the emotions it contained—back to the choir of my experiences. Little by little, these dusty strangers started to shine and sing out again. Some sang songs I wasn’t familiar with, and others showed up to practice with scrapes and bruises, but over time things started to flow freely again and resonate more harmoniously.
A Squishy Gray Dictator
Acting out a belief that we can amputate parts of ourselves we find messy can result in a lot of misery. When we cut out part of our whole selves, by definition we become incomplete. And this misguided tendency has reached epidemic proportions in how many of us have been conditioned to feel less and overpower more. I believe it’s this tendency to become strangers with our hearts that is at the core of so many of the problems we see in our world.
Our hearts do not exist to spite our minds, they exist to harmonize with it. They are not adversaries. They are allies. When our minds are allowed to become dictators left unchecked by feeling, we frequently produce… let’s call them “less than preferred results.” Real courage is not measured by how many fights you can win; it’s measured by how far you can go in life with an open heart.
We are not black-and-white, “intellect or emotion” creatures. We are multifaceted, complex, beautiful, dynamic beings of both emotion and reason. Our heart adds to and balances our mind. We are always carrying the potential for wholeness inside of us, but it can be easy to overlook.
A Snufflemuffin Manifesto
The idea for this design first came to me several years ago, but it’s taken me quite a while to complete it. My motivation for creating it was to have a reminder that pursuing a heart-centered way of being in the world is supremely important.
Too many people spend substantial portions of their lives feeling flawed and broken. I understand that experience very well because I’ve spent a lot of time with it. But the truth about that perspective is that it’s a pernicious lie.
The truth is this: all of you is beautiful, good enough, capable of excellence, and imbued with invaluable gifts. The world needs more people who are unabashedly in constant communion with their hearts and their minds.
We need light to see. We need magnetic north to direct the arms of a compass. And we need our hearts to imbue our reasoning capacities with humanity, compassion, and depth.
Be a revolutionary in a world that’s frequently cut off from its empathy, caring, courage, and what makes us all beautiful and wholly human. You’ve been given a gift in who you are, and all of you is beautiful. Don’t put one of your most valuable assets in the dark and forget about it or live in fear of it.
Live from your heart and you’ll always be home.