There’s a story I tell often. I can tell it in a self-deprecating manner that makes people laugh. But the story under the surface — the one that represents my hidden pain — is so much harder to tell.
Once, I decided I wanted a kitten. For months, I researched how to be a good cat owner. I threw myself into this idea. I called kitten foster moms, I read online forums, I researched the best litter boxes, I asked my cat-owning friends for advice. I believed I could do this, and I believed I could be good at it.
The only problem was: I’d forgotten I don’t like cats.
Instead of buying one kitten, I bought two. (Go big or go home, right?) I’d read on some cat blog that kittens are better in pairs because they take care of each other. Terrible advice.
At eight-weeks-old, they resembled fluffy, hyper balls of fur. I drove them back home, took them up to my apartment, and let them free from their cage. And then, as I watched them scamper across my floor, it dawned on me with fresh horror: I don’t like cats. I actually don’t care for pets at all. And I had just bought two of them.
My friend, Michelle, came by a few hours later to visit the kittens. She found me curled up on my apartment floor, crying.
“Aliza,” she asked when she opened the door. “What’s wrong?”
The kittens were jumping on my couch. My eyes were rimmed from crying. “I forgot I hate cats,” I cried to her. “And I just bought two of them! I’m going to be stuck with them for at least twenty years!”
It was never about the cats. The cats were just a covering for the pain I was feeling. There was something much deeper happening within me.
I was in the midst of grieving my friend’s death and smack-dab in the center of my pain from a sexual assault a few years earlier. The grief over both was too much for me. I just wanted to do something that would take my mind off of it for a while. I wanted to feel tangible love — to love something and have it love me in return.
I stared at the kittens ransacking my apartment. I realized afresh — sharply, pointedly — that nothing else was going to help me get over my pain.
I couldn’t move past it. I had to move through it instead. The thought of that felt like my chest was splitting in half.
We do this often. We use alcohol or scrolling Instagram or pornography or bingeing Netflix or buying cats as our way of trying to forget the stories sitting just under the surface of our hearts. But the distractions never heal us like we want them to. We don’t think we can tell these stories — they feel too vulnerable, too tender to share. We treat our symptoms with distractions instead of tenderly uprooting the cause.
We think we can mask our pain, but the only way out is through.
I gave the kittens back the next day. When I was back and alone in my quiet apartment once again, I took a deep breath. I got down on my floor. I looked up at my ceiling, and tears poured down my face.
“I can’t do this anymore, Jesus. The cats didn’t help me. Netflix doesn’t help me. I think I have to feel all of my pain instead. I’m terrified. I need you.”
Over time, I decided to speak my story — the real story of pain and sexual assault and grief — out loud. It took me so long to gather the courage. It started quietly, on a summer evening in a living room with a friend. Then I took it to a counselor’s office. Slowly, I dug it out from under the surface, painfully and tenderly.
We have stories we try to keep under the surface, but those stories are begging to be set free. Give them breath. Show them the light of day. Tell them to someone — just one person. You can start quiet and slow. Choose to take just one step into the light.
The truth — slowly, carefully, and over time — will set you free.
And every single step you take towards the truth — every single time you dig your story out from under the surface — Jesus will be walking right beside you.Leave a Comment
Alison Kozlow says
I am also a Canadian gal. It is wonderful to see how you have turned your pain into purpose.Thank you for your words of encouragement. I feel God calling me to write to help others find hope and healing in Jesus but it is frightening. Thank you for the powerful reminder “And every single step you take towards the truth — every single time you dig your story out from under the surface — Jesus will be walking right beside you.” Holding on to this truth gives me the courage to keep writing…Thank you. Blessings,
Alison Kozlow ♥️
Michele Morin says
Oh, Aliza, you are not alone in visiting strange wells to satisfy a bone deep thirst. Your kitten parable has spoken to my heart today.
P. Howley says
Aliza, you are so brave to share the continuation of your story. I still have your post from 8/12/20 where you revealed the sexual assualt trauma you had been carrying for so long. I think it is so important that you realize that this is a journey you have to walk through and face. By putting your story in writing you gave away some of the power that hurt and pain have over you. Your testimony to others had to feel like some of the weight of your assualt was lifted. And now, sharing how you tried to fill the emptiness and hurt that your trauma has inflicted with cats (that you don’t even like), you have once again brought to light that you can not and should not try to go on this journey of healing alone. You can’t heal pain with things – cats, dogs, drugs…. No one else can do it for you, but you don’t have to go it alone. Having such a strong faith in God as you do, you know He will lead you where you need to go to get through this. He will walk the walk with you. I believe your story has/will empower more women to get their stories out: to let the light of day help ease the pain of their trauma (no matter how long ago it may have been) and get them walking with God on a journey of healing. You have blessed us readers by sharing your story.
P. Howley, you spoke that so well. Thank you
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
I believe that sitting with, and experiencing the pain is one of THE hardest things to do in life. God knows the many ways we will try to avoid, bury, push down, drown out, run from, deny the pain that lies just beneath the surface. The slightest scratch on our thin veneer will allow the pain to come spewing out. Sitting with it, not alone, but in the lap of our Abba-Daddy is the only way to deal with it. Praying that He will embrace you with His loving arms and be the safe place for you to run to. Sharing our painful stories goes a long way toward our healing. I know you sharing your story will allow readers to face and deal with their painful stories.
Brooke Frick says
So good and so true. Thank you for sharing and letting the truth set you free, so others can have the courage to take the step of letting Jesus free them too. You’re a wonderful brave girl. Keep going! And I don’t really like cats either–although I like the idea of them too. God bless my sister!
Oh my goodness, I’m currently walking this out with a counselor. I agree, even sharing that story that’s sitting under the surface with one safe and trustworthy person is a step towards healing. It is more work to hold it all in than it is to talk about it and release it. Thanks for sharing your story.
Aliza, it takes a lot of courage to share our stories. Thank you for sharing yours.
Being vulnerable is one of the hardest things we sometimes have to do and it’s not a place we’d so soon like to visit. Sadly, it oftentimes serve as a harsh and emotional reminder of just how our shameful situation or circumstances came to be; birthed as a result of being vulnerable. It’s not a pain a person in their right state of mind wants to frequent but, somewhere in our brokenness, somewhere in the fabric of our frayed pieces lies within the lattice (a structure used to support others), a beautiful story of God’s grace and mercy – and inevitably, how faithful he was and is in loving us and keeping us.
Becky Keife says
“But the distractions never heal us like we want them to. We don’t think we can tell these stories — they feel too vulnerable, too tender to share. We treat our symptoms with distractions instead of tenderly uprooting the cause.” Imagine my reaching through the screen and nodding my head rapidly and hugging you tightly and handing you a megaphone so you can keep speaking this message to every person who needs to hear it — which is all of us. Thank you, friend. Love you big.
Dawn Ferguson-Little says
You are so brave to tell your true self the true. Aliza at least you thought you could conkor your fear of cats. By getting two. But no you had to give them back. I love cats. But wouldn’t have any more had some killed on the road. One called mittens. She was all black with four white paws. Took out of nowhere. A paw infection. Me and my Husband spend loads of money trying to make the we pet well. She was mittens a charter of her own. She head but you in a nice way to get your attention. Purr round you to show you her love. It broke my heart have to put her down. Then I got Buttons she was black and white. She was another lovely cat. She was mine. She loved my Husband too. But she followed me round the house. I had her 15 years. She me yewo at night to get wrapped up with a blanket. To go to sleep. Stay there until morning. She lie beside me on the sofa. Even jump up I should not say this on the sink in the kitchen and watch me doing things there. Too be close to me. I had to get her put down because her kidneys failed. It broke my heart. So I get no more. It too heart breaking when anything happens to them. I found the cats great company when things happen in my family. That I found hard to cope with that I couldn’t even talk to God about even before I got help from my Salvation Army Offer. I just to sit and stroke them. They purr at me and purr round me. Plus they knew when I was sad. They jump up on my knee and purr round my head. Give me kisses and you know by the way they looked at me they knew I was sad. One day I got this a clear as bell in my head. Dawn I love you my Child as much as that cat does. That cat is braking it we heart to see you sad. So I am your Heavenly Father. Please go get help talk to your Salvation Army Offer. Or your never get over this. I said Dawn was that. That you just heard in you heard. Did you imagine it. Then I like Samuel in the Bible heard it again. I knew then it was God wanting me to go get help. Or I never be able to forgive certain people that had hurt me and people close to me alive at the time and I never be able to speak to them again. So I went to my Salvation Army Offer and told her and got the help. Now I have forgiven the people who have hurt me and I love. Now I can speak to them. I am friends with them. I am glad I done it. Got the help I spoke up. You did the right thing giving the cats back. As you look at them and only be keeping them for the sake of it. The cats would loose out and loose out on a lot of love. They annoy you. Running around the house. You end up loose patience with them. That wouldn’t be fair on them or you. You will in time get a pet if you want that suits you. You will love it and it will love you. As cats are very sensitive. They can tell if there peers love them or like them right away. You just made a we mistake getting the cats. You just didn’t think. We all can do that. Love Dawn love today’s reading. Do pray for you all incourage xxx
Nancy Ness says
For years I didn’t want my story, to be my story. I wanted someone else’s story. I turned away from God, not even trusting Him. God is so gracious and kind, He drew me in. He wouldn’t let me go. Her pursued me with Father love and kindness….I’ve never looked back. Thank you for telling your story. Because, when you tell yours, it makes it okay for others to tell their story too.
Aliza, you are a dear Canadian sister across the kilometres! Thank you for that reminder. God bless you as you seek His healing and serve Him with your words, actions and testimony. You are loved. You are healing and one day will be Healed-whether here or in eternity. They do say “what doesn’t kill us will make us stronger”…my paraphrase of course. Whoever “they” are didn’t add that it is in the Hope of the Cross and Jesus that will make us stronger. We cannot do anything “on our own” as you so graciously wrote, making an example of searching for that healing and happiness in things. His grace is sufficient for us. I appreciate your posts and your openness. God bless you.
Beth Williams says
Thank you for continuing to tell your stories. People need to hear this to know they are not alone. There is someone else out there who has been there & understands their pain. It tempting to bury the pain & try to forget it by binging on food, TV, alcohol or other means. None of that works. It is only a temporary relief. The pain is still there buried deep. Time itself will heal your wounds. Prayer to loving Jesus will help ease the pain some. The best remedy is to openly talk or write about it. Get the truth out there in day light. Let others in on the pain so we can help you heal.
Theresa Boedeker says
The idea that often our stories are tinged with underlying emotions but maybe told with humor, was quite breath stopping for me. I remember telling a funny story from childhood, one I had told many times, and the last time I told it, the listener said, “That must have been very hard on you,” and I was shocked. Yes, it had been, but I had wrapped humor around it. And he was the only one who ever noticed enough to say something and make me feel heard.
karyn j says
thank you for being courageous enough to share your story. thank you for your honesty in admitting that you were covering x with y. it couldn’t have been easy, but thank you for giving others the permission to share theirs.