Peeling back the layers of an onion. It’s a metaphor for life and growth that might not be perfect but never gets old.
The most poignant part of the metaphor for me is that peeling onions can sting and make you cry. Well, if that’s not a truth about growth and life, I don’t know what is! With every layer we peel back, we can potentially face great pain and lots of tears. But it’s worth it, because onions, like life, are so tasty when they’re peeled and used in a way that is totally different from how they started. Instead of being a thick, protected orb with all sorts of potential (imagine our adult defenses), when the onion has been peeled and chopped, allowing us to cry while we peel and chop it, we make something pretty delicious and wonderful with it.
With life, it seems, it’s only in the unpeeling (discovering), chopping (analyzing), and making us cry (healing) that we learn, grow, and become our true selves.
Is it uncomfortable? Hell yes, just like peeling and chopping an onion.
Is it worth the discomfort?
For me, yes.
Because for me, the best and worst part is this: Unlike an onion, we humans always seem to have another layer to peel back. Even when we think we’re “done”—Haha! No way. Our next lessons and learnings will come, bringing with them one more layer, more crying, and more opportunities to dig deeper toward our core. The result can only be good.
One thing I learned from EMDR therapy is that every time something makes me cry, it’s a thing that I have not fully faced and resolved yet—another layer of childhood trauma and adult defenses. I would get SO excited—and I still do!—when a thought or a memory makes me cry. I know something has healed when I can talk about it or even think about it without it making me cry.
Just today, I was talking about losing my Grandma only two years ago, and I cried so suddenly. I realized after she died that she had been my greatest source of emotional support for many years. And the fact that she is gone hurts me greatly. I’m crying now, even as I type those words. There’s a lot there--a lot in that relationship that I need and want to explore so that I can dig into my next layer of onion, my next layer of healing. Right now, I know that the crying has something to do with her unshakable belief in me—and her undying belief that I am a writer. “You ARE a writer,” she’d say, every time she got one of my many hand-written letters. “I just don’t know how you make such simple things sound so beautiful!” She kept everything I ever wrote to her. My evil uncle likely threw the cards and letters out when she died, but knowing that she savored them when she felt lonely (which was often) or alone (which was even more often) made me feel that at least maybe I eased something for her in some small way, just like she eased so many things for me over the years, in both small and big ways. She sat through many a teary phone call as I cried through another layer of healing, listening and actually doing an amazing job of understanding me.
There is so much to this latest layer of my onion, it might take me years to get through. And I imagine—no, I know—that in the process of doing that, I will be the writer she knew I was all along. Yeah, proving myself wrong is typically also a major characteristic of my peeling back a layer (see this post to learn what I mean). Does anyone else do this? Do we lie to ourselves to avoid peeling back the layers we most need to peel back, taking the “easy” route that just happens to not be the route we need? (I know the answer to that: Of course we do. The lies don’t make us cry; only the truth does, until we embrace it and heal it.)
So I’m going to keep peeling. Crying and stomping my feet and feeling utter despair, but peeling all the same, through the fear and fury. The result is bound to be a tasty dish, with all that damn onion peeled and chopped and ready to dive into with gusto.
[Caveat: As a writer (see what I just did there, using the "w" word?), I can say that I am not totally happy with this piece because I did not use more time to fully develop the metaphor and bring the story full circle. That’s the beauty of my blog posts: I’m not getting paid for them by some overlord, so when I say “My deadline is today, screw it if I am not 100% pleased with the result,” then it’s all good. With another couple weeks of work and editing, this piece would be killer. Like, New York Magazine-worthy. Just wait…]
Sara Hauber, MA
Coach, listener, observer, writer, and erstwhile teacher; constantly curious
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