Why I Finally Started Trusting My Heart

Three EyesFor someone who gives a lot of advice on how to live and create authentically, I have a really hard time opening up to people.

In fact, maintaining strict levels of privacy has become so second nature to me now, that I’m usually not even aware that I’m doing it.

But earlier this week, when I posted 4 Secrets of My Writing Process, I got a huge response from my readers. They let me know that it was cool to get a glimpse of the “real Lauren Sapala”. They also let me know that they accepted and embraced that glimpse with their kindness, humor, and smiling encouragement.

I had kind of an odd childhood. My mom died of cancer when I was 11 and after that my grandmother raised me. My dad was around but we didn’t live in the same town and connecting was hard. My grandmother and I lived in a big farmhouse out in the country and then my grandmother died when I was 16. The farmhouse went to me and I lived there alone for my last year of high school.

So as I was growing up, I had to be very self-sufficient from a young age. And I learned to mask my emotions—and sometimes my personality—very well. It wasn’t until I hit my late 20s that I really started to work on myself. I wanted to live authentically, and I wanted to genuinely connect with others in a deep and meaningful way.

This is kind of difficult to do when you have a bunch of walls up. It’s hard for other people to get close when we either evade their attempts or push them away.

As I started to work on myself, I started writing again, and here I discovered another arena that demanded honesty, bravery, and self-acceptance. The first book I ever wrote was all about myself, and it definitely isn’t my best work. But I needed to get that book out of me and onto the page because I needed to work through those things.

During my personal journey, and my writing journey, I’ve learned something that surprised the hell out of me.

The more we share of our real being with others, the more life starts to shift and flow in a really awesome direction.

People who are right on our wavelength start to show up in our lives. Crazy beautiful stories start to show up in our heads. Life starts showing up, and for once, we are actually present to receive it.

It’s really hard to open up. It’s incredibly hard to trust people with our hearts and thoughts and dreams. But it gets easier. And if we practice and work with this energy of openness and trust enough, we even get to a point where it starts to feel like fun.

We can get to a point where we learn how to love and trust ourselves.

And if you’re participating in this whole life-on-earth thing, that works better than any fortified wall.

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  • Reply Kara 27 March, 2014 at 9:11 am

    Wonderful post. Thanks for your openness. I feel the same way. I lost my mother to cancer at a young age, but not as young as you. I too am writing a book about myself, my family, my work, and how I view society through that lens. My mom always wanted to do it, so I am fulfilling two dreams: hers and mine. Thanks again for your post.

    • Reply Lauren Sapala 27 March, 2014 at 10:15 am

      That’s awesome Kara! I have noticed that many creative people tend to have somewhat of a painful childhood/past. Wonder if this has something to do with sparking creativity? Definitely something for me to think about…

  • Reply Carolyn Menke 27 March, 2014 at 9:36 am

    I was very moved by your sharing here, particularly how you grew up raised by your grandmother and then lived on your own during your senior year of high school. Thank you

    • Reply Lauren Sapala 27 March, 2014 at 10:15 am

      Thank you Carolyn! It was not easy to share this, but I am really glad I did 🙂

  • Reply Mari Biella 27 March, 2014 at 9:37 am

    What an amazing post, Lauren! You seem to have had a difficult past in many ways, but I think it’s great that you’ve been able to channel your feelings in such creative and constructive ways.

    Like you, I’ve often found that I’ve guarded my real self and pushed people away (sometimes unconsciously, I think). It’s still something I’m coming to terms with, and it’s an ongoing battle. I’m glad I’m not alone!

    • Reply Lauren Sapala 27 March, 2014 at 10:17 am

      Oh you are definitely not alone! I think most of us have a really hard time trusting people and letting them in. It’s for sure an ongoing process for me and I have to work at it consciously, and constantly.

  • Reply Rachel Lugo 27 March, 2014 at 10:46 am

    Such a lovely post Lauren!

    One of the things I have discovered about myself recently is my profound NEED for connection to others but an opposing need/desire to keep people away to conserve my energy. Lately I have behaved more consistent with the latter…..but I’m finding I’m paying dearly for that.

    The other thing I’ve found is while I want connection in a deep and meaningful way, I’ve set myself up a lot because I put so many expectations on what “meaningful” is to me. I’ve limited myself in some respects and probably unconsciously kept myself separate from others because they don’t fit into my perfect-neat-little-box of what I expect my relationships to look like.

    I also have a weird internal *false* belief about telling other people how much I love and appreciate them. Somehow I’ve talked myself into believing that doing so will make me look like a fool, and worse it will make me a weak-ass human being who can’t control myself. Intellectually I know that is so UNTRUE….but it’s hard to get my heart to line up with my head!

    Again, great post Lauren – you rock. 🙂

    • Reply Lauren Sapala 27 March, 2014 at 11:31 am

      Thanks Rachel! Have you checked out the blog Space 2 Live? (http://space2live.net/) It’s written by Brenda Knowles and it’s totally amazing. She writes about just the sort of stuff you’re struggling with–relationships, expectations, intimacy, connection and communication for introverts and highly sensitive people. I highly recommend it. It’s helped me so much to recenter my feelings about all sorts of different relationships.

      • Reply Rachel Lugo 28 March, 2014 at 5:16 am

        Thanks Lauren, I will take a look!

  • Reply Catherine North 27 March, 2014 at 11:34 am

    Such a lovely post, Lauren, and thank you for having the courage to share it – you are an inspiration to many. I’m glad your writing has helped you through tough times.

  • Reply JD 27 March, 2014 at 12:37 pm

    While I had both of my parents growing up, I had other issues and I completely relate to the whole privacy thing. I also don’t realize that I automatically go into high level privacy mode–honestly, I don’t think I ever leave that mode unless I make a conscious choice to do so.

    In face, just recently, a close friend of mine had to kick me in the butt to introduce her to my other close friends. I’ve known said close friend for two years now. I feel like kind of schmuck about it, but then I realized it’s this deeply ingrained habit to keep people at arms length.

    • Reply Lauren Sapala 27 March, 2014 at 1:06 pm

      I do that too. I tend to compartmentalize my relationships so that I feel more in control of managing them. That’s another thing I’m working on, getting all of my friends together in one room!

  • Reply hilarycustancegreen 27 March, 2014 at 2:27 pm

    I think many people believe that trauma or difficulty contribute positively to the creative process. My understanding of research in this area is almost the reverse. People who have suffered, or are currently suffering, struggle to express themselves or fulfil their creative potential. So those of you who are managing to work successfully despite difficulties in the past, or present, are doing extraordinarily well and should feel proud of your resilience.

  • Reply Phillip McCollum 28 March, 2014 at 7:32 am

    Thanks for opening up to us, Lauren. The one thing I’ve learned by being more honest about myself is that everyone has their own issues they try to keep under wraps. But in an open and honest atmosphere, people are much more relaxed and not so stressed about what they are and aren’t revealing. I don’t think it ever becomes easy to do, but it does become easier. You learn to stop worrying so much about what other people think and start living your life for YOU.

  • Reply Kim Smith 28 March, 2014 at 10:08 am

    Lauren, this post comes just when I needed this reminder, so thank you. With the losses you suffered at a young age, it’s very easy to see why you became self-sufficient and put up some walls. But if I may say so, you seem to have really found yourself now and are making good use of your experience to help other people (like me!).

    You’re absolutely right about it being scary to let people really know us. I’ve also struggled with this my whole life. In fact, at a point a few years ago when I thought I was being more open than I’d ever been in my life, I was told that “it’s hard to get to know you, Kim.” That was like a slap in the face to me when I’d felt I was making so much progress in my social relationships. It knocked me down for a couple years, and I retreated once again. But thankfully I’ve found my way back out into the world again and am in a good place now.

    I still have moments, especially on the internet, that I wonder if I’m sharing too much about myself. There are people out there who enjoy attacking when they sense vulnerability in someone, and it always saddens me to get those comments. But aside from divulging things that might jeopardize my security, I’m trying hard to be braver in my writing. In fact, I’m working on a new blog post right now along those lines.

    I enjoyed getting to know a bit more about you today, Lauren. 🙂

    • Reply Lauren Sapala 28 March, 2014 at 11:33 am

      I’ve had that very same experience! I thought I was doing really well with the sharing part of friendship and then someone has said, “It’s really hard to get to know the real you.”

      Thanks so much for telling me your story, Kim. I’m glad I’m not the only one who is working on these things 🙂

  • Reply Marie Hulme 28 March, 2014 at 6:14 pm

    Dear Lauren,

    What a courageous blog post! I completely agree that when we open ourselves up to being vulnerable we are not only exposing ourselves to possible pain but also to extraordinary joy as we invite people “on our wave length” to share in our journey of self-realization towards truth and beauty. Lovely thoughts and I’m grateful to have stumbled upon them!

    With all best wishes for continued success with your writing life,


  • Reply Marie Ann Bailey 1 April, 2014 at 5:04 am

    Thanks for sharing your story, Lauren. I think you’re tempering openness with privacy very well. It’s tricky being open about oneself in cyberspace. You never really know who is reading your blog and how they might respond to your words. Your openness in this post suggests you’ve come to enjoy a certain level of trust with your readers. While you need to trust your heart, you also need to trust the people you share with. Your story is your own. No one has a right to it but you. We, your readers, should (and do) feel honored that you’re letting us know this part of your life.

    I can’t imagine how insecure you must have felt, losing both your mom and your grandmother at an early age, having to live alone when still a teenager. I understand the experiences made you self-sufficient, but I wonder if the walls you built up were in part because you didn’t want to re-experience loss like you already had. I agree that the more you can share your stories with others, and find like-minded friends, the easier it can be to be yourself and follow your heart.

    I always say I didn’t have a happy childhood and I don’t say more than that. But I know certain childhood events influence who I am today, 50-some years later. Perhaps someday I can be as open as you have been. Not right now, but you, Lauren, give me something to aspire to and I thank you for that.

    • Reply Lauren Sapala 1 April, 2014 at 8:39 am

      Thank you so much for this Marie. And I do think you’re right, the walls I built up had a LOT to do with wanting to protect myself from ever experiencing loss like that again. Of course, what I’ve come to realize is that it’s impossible. Loss is a part of life. And that’s something I’m still struggling to understand and learn about every day.

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