Friday, February 8, 2019

Themes of My Life: Letting Go and Moving On

Broken relationships make me feel ashamed.

That's not to say that I think all relationships need to be unending. I think that there is a natural pattern to some friendships, and it's normal for that to ebb and flow. It's normal for people to become a part of your life and to then sometimes fade out of it. I've often compared it to a tapestry of color in your life. Some people are meant to be a color that weaves itself through the whole piece, and others are meant to add short splashes of color and vibrancy to different parts of the piece. This is healthy.

But, when I look back, there are three relationships that stand out to me as endings that I regret. I think I regret them less for THAT they ended than I do for WHY they ended, or maybe even just for HOW. For the brokenness that necessitated a parting... and maybe for the length of time I tried and failed to hang on to relationships that I should have just accepted were over.

One of the things that has always hung me up is regret and shame over character misjudgment. You go into a relationship, and maybe coexist in a relationship, thinking that you are kindred spirits... or with an assumption that you see them in the same way that they see you, or share similar values. But, when time has revealed the ways in which I have been wrong, it has shaken my confidence and my trust in myself. I have felt ashamed of my own naivete and gullibility. I should have seen things more clearly. I should have been more aware. I shouldn't have let affection cloud my judgment. And if I was wrong about this, what else have I been wrong about? How can I trust myself going forward?

That self-doubt has often had me wrapped up in questions of when it's time to hold on and when it's time to let go. In some ways, it's my own values that have held me in that space longer than necessary. My impulses toward grace and empathy have led me to accept far less than I'm worthy of, and to believe I'm worthy of less than I am. There is a balance between extending grace and demonstrating self-respect, and I have often fallen on the wrong side of it. A friend wrote to me, "Every one of us deserves to be in relationships that are balanced. We are worthy of having relationships where we are getting what we give." And that was something I "reasoned" myself out of way too often.

What it has taken for me is to get out from under the story I was telling myself. That's been different stories for different circumstances. Stories of hope and history and persistence and reconciliation.  All good stories... and stories which are often true.  They just weren't true here, and I needed to stop telling myself that they were.  The real stories certainly weren't as pretty, and sometimes they hurt quite a lot. Actually, usually they hurt quite a lot. But, I found that an unhappy reality was much easier to let go of, once it had fewer illusions to buoy itself up.

I had to accept that it was time to part. Not all roads have to run parallel forever. Not all colors are forever. Pick your metaphor.

Most times that I have come to this place, I have let go with anguish. It has been flush with pain and I have ripped off the band-aid and suffered as quickly as possible. Somehow I bought into this idea that I was weak to hurt, and so the most grown-up strong thing to do was to rush through the healing as quickly as possible. We're not very comfortable with pain and grief, and I'm not sure that we're ever quite taught how to deal with it.

This last time, I took a different route. A little bit of Brene Brown, a little bit of Craig Malkin, a little bit of a couple others. It was one of those months where you read the same sentiment from a number of different sources, and you think, "Maybe the universe is trying to tell me something." And so, I slowed down. I consciously chose not to rush through the pain. I let myself feel the hurts. I let myself feel the disappointments. I didn't try to reason myself out of them or berate myself for feeling the things I was. I just let it be. I let myself accept what it was I was feeling and how things were.

And then...  it hurt less. It hurt less and I began to understand all the things. A friend once said to me, in the midst of a conversation on the inevitible of heartbreak:

Sometimes it hurts. Sometimes it's C'est la vie. Sometimes you're so ready for them to go, it's just a massive relief.

At the time, I don't know that I really understood it. But, with my heart and head in a different place, I finally thought, "Oh. This is what she meant."

I stopped making it all about me, too. I was a card-carrying member of the Self-Blame Club. I can find a way to blame myself for any problem.  And while sometimes there is a little bit of truth in that, I was taking on blame for things that didn't have anything to do with me. I was blaming myself for problems that were not mine. In a nutshell, if I was the problem, I could fix the problem.

But, when I began to accept and internalize that the problems were not things that I could just fix by "being better," I began to see our stories as ones that needed to end. Some stories simply need to end so that new ones can begin. When I realized that, the past lost a little bit of its power over me. I could begin to let it go.

Letting go wasn't a one-time shot. Sometimes I had to re-"let it go." I found that letting it go was a choice I had to keep making until I didn't need to keep making it. Every once in a while, I have to do it again. But, it gets easier every time. Plus, without my illusions, there really isn't anything I want to go back to, anyway. That makes it easier to move on.

Looking back at them all, there are still things I regret. But, I can look on them with a little bit more kindness.

For the girl I was and for the girl I wanted to be and for the girl I am now.



Monday, February 4, 2019

Themes of my Life: Empathy and Kindness

I am finding that empathy is not a defining value for everyone -- and it was a bit of a surprise for me, especially in places I thought it was. Perhaps (and probably) because it is important to me and integral to my own thought process, I did that dumb thing where you just assume that everyone thinks like you.

And they don't.

I don't want to claim that I always act with empathy because that would be a lie. I get impatient. I mouth off without thinking. I have a wit which has served me well -- but there is a fine line between funny and mean -- so it has also gotten me into trouble with un-thought-through words.

But, when I'm not being a snarky brat, I do try to take a step back and consider why someone is acting in they way they are that's bugging me. What are they feeling? Why? What experiences have they had in their past that contributes to right now? Can I understand those thoughts and feelings if I take off my irritation and look at them through different eyes? If I put myself in their shoes, can I understand?

Not necessarily agree, but understand.

I think it helps me to find the humanity in someone I'm tempted to insult and demonize. It makes me find my own kindness.

Kindness is important to me. Empathy is important to me.

And I can confess that I have a hard time understanding people who don't feel the same way.  I suppose it's hard for me to find empathy for those who have no empathy?

That's an odd circle, isn't it?

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Bad at No, Bad at Yes

I started a new book last night -- and it took me about four chapters to realize that it really wasn't the book for me. Not really in a bad way -- the book and the author were fine.

It was largely about boundaries and learning to say No. And I feel like that's something I'm okay-er at. With my intimate family, maybe not great. I still put myself at the bottom of the heap too much and throw out my own needs in service of being a good (or, let's face it, passable) mom.

*Flashes back to all the weird things I did for Celtic Thunder et al. just because they asked me to*

Ok, maybe I am bad at boundaries and saying No. How is one both bad at saying yes and bad at saying no? How is that even possible? That person surely needs a little bit of therapy.

Maybe it's just that the things the author says yes to and the things I say yes to are different things. I never had a hard time saying No to Stepford PTA. :)

This is clearly all stream-of-consciousness today.

But, I also know that I have a hard time saying yes -- out of fear and discomfort and self-consciousness. Shonda Rhimes' "Year of Yes" was one of the most convicting, encouraging, and motivating things I've read in the past five years.

Guys, I think I might be broken.

And I probably need to read that book again.
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