Viewing entries tagged
attachment

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Resentment: The Kiss of Death in Relationships...and How to Let It Go

One of my oldest friends called me a few weeks ago to get together. She mentioned it had been 2 years since we had seen each other. That seemed like an awfully long time to not connect with someone who had been such an important part of my life.

I had felt the distance between us for some time and I told myself that this was just another loss I was going to have to accept.  There seemed to be so many. As I changed, the faces of the people I spent time with did too. I know friends drift apart, but I also knew this one felt different. I knew…but I didn’t ask. I didn’t ask because I was scared. If I asked, then I’d have to deal with the discomfort. And that rarely is motivating.

We opted to go for a hike after our 2 year hiatus. The conversation was easy. We caught up a bit and shared some of our recent highlights.  And then the pause…”I’ve been wanting to talk to you about something for the past two years.”  She continued to tell me how hurt she had been when I was not as supportive towards her as I could have been at a time when she needed it. And she was right. I wasn’t. I was juggling so much at the time and what she needed from me was something I was not in a place to give. And instead of telling her that, I kept it to myself. I retreated. I said “I’m here if you need me,” and waited for the request.  But the request didn’t come.

What I didn’t know was that she didn’t want to have to ask for help. She didn’t want to ask for my support. She didn’t want to have tell me that she needed more than I gave. She wanted to “be strong” and deal with it. And that- that feeling- I know oh so well.

So instead, she held it in. She held in the hurt and the resentment and the frustration of unmet expectations. She let it sit in the compartment that keeps us from trusting the ones we love. I hurt her. Was it intentional? Of course not. But I did.

When I told her my angle, I was honest. She had believed I was a good communicator and I am. But not always with the people I’m closest to. It took some deep digging into myself to see it. The more I attach, the more I fear being left and the more I will avoid conflict.  And if I sense conflict or the risk of being rejected, I will detach.  It’s a lifelong pattern I recognize and work through.  The human thing is tough!

But I was also in a place I was not able to be what she needed me to be. Take out my faulty communication, I was still going through some really tough stuff myself. So much so that I didn’t even notice that I was a less than impressive friend. I was wrapped up in my own internal drama. And I also didn’t see it.

We say hindsight is clear and it is. I am grateful for it. Because listening to her hurt reminded me of how painful it is to hold on to resentment towards those we love, or once loved wanting them to be something they are not or can’t be. Or wanting what they are unable to give us at a time because of their own limitations.

I know this feeling. I have held on to strong expectations of others they could not meet. I have felt abandoned many, many times. I have been let down even more. I have detached from those I once loved instead of communicating how I felt. I have retreated and shut down when I could have made another choice….to speak up, to ask for what I need, to be vulnerable and to be loving while doing so. It doesn’t HAVE to be so hard and so painful. There is another way.

And my beautiful friend reminded me of this. By being brave and honest and bold.

How many times have you shut someone out instead of talking to them? How many opportunities have you ignored because they seemed too uncomfortable and you told yourself- I just don’t care. Bullshit. You do care. We all care.

You don’t have to change. I don’t have to change. But what if we did? What if we started to talk to each other regularly with compassion and honesty? What if we shared what we felt instead of shoving it down in hopes it will just go away? What if we spoke out of love instead of out of fear? What if we forgave each other for not meeting our expectations—the ones we can barely meet ourselves?

What would THAT be like?

Being open and vulnerable requires trust. Trust in yourself. Trust in the people around you. It doesn’t always come natural to expose ourselves. But the more we practice and open up, the more we may learn just how good it feels to be authentic…to be true to ourselves…and to feel confident enough to live and love as we are.

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When Grief Finds Its Purpose

“Hey, I found this outside the door with your name on the card,” she said holding a beautifully wrapped gift box, her hands extending it to me.

“Really?” I questioned. Who would be leaving me a gift outside my office door?  As I began to read the card, I felt silly by the obviousness of it all.  It was from my mischievous friend, standing right in front of me. I laughed and felt ridiculous at the same time.  My friend, Jayne, who I had met through work, had become one of my strongest cheerleaders and supporters in my life in a very short amount of time and I was grateful she was simply in the room. I’d spent so much time with clients lately, I'd forgotten the feeling of human friendship in the flesh.

Good Things are on Their Way to You, it read, along with a heartfelt note of thanks for our friendship and acknowledgement of just how much it meant to her.  The gifts inside the box were a blend of silly and serious tokens.  A spiritual book her mentor had written, novelty napkin and matches with funny pictures and sayings, and a few other items that represented just the kinds of things that would make us smile and pause. It was the perfect gift.

We waited a few minutes to acknowledge that we were, in fact, alone in the office.  We were running an empowerment group we just began advertising for and were thrilled that no one showed up.  It was just us, happy friends who got to spend the next hour telling stories of our week and the immense growth we were feeling and a genuine appreciation that our previous struggles were finally beginning to pay off…and more importantly, we were understanding why. 

We laughed hard at ourselves and the texts we sent earlier in the day.  She had become that friend for me, that offered me daily support and we would text each other all day long with updates and words of encouragement and insight…like an interactive friend journal. We knew just how the other was feeling and exchanged the play by plays of learning our daily lessons in living. Deep, spiritual and always an additional bonus of humor. She totally got me.

When she walked out the door that night, she showed me how big her pants were and I scolded her for wearing them.  Money was tight for her and she didn’t want to add more to her credit card and I went on a tangent about deserving and blah, blah, blah…buy some pants that feel good.  While I was getting in my car, she yelled out, “I Love You!” and I responded that I loved her back, thinking, “Huh, I should say that more often.”  I looked over at my friend waving goodbye and she looked stunning…and happy.

That would be the last vision I had of her.

My beautiful friend went home that night and died quietly in her sleep.

To fill in the gap of what I’ve experienced since that last sentence would be a book in itself. It’s been…incredibly painful. And I am no stranger to grief.

I’ve thought a lot about loss since then and why it’s such a challenge to manage emotionally.  I see how the more we attach ourselves to people, ideas and beliefs, the more we risk being hurt when we discover those people, ideas and beliefs can change overnight.  The stronger we attach, the higher the risk of disappointment if something goes “wrong.” They are the kind of thoughts where anxiety festers, and a fear of attachment begins.

It’s so easy to focus on loss when it happens…everything that’s missing.  All that we’ve lost, including the loss of the dream of the future and the way we thought it would be.  We focus on the change.  It’s a typical response and it hurts like crazy.

But when we slow down and look at what we’ve gained from a person or an idea that didn’t play out the way we once believed it would, we can begin to pull out the positives, the gifts, the experiences we wouldn’t have had otherwise.  And that’s when we can start to see the gain in almost anything.

If I was given the offer to create a friendship with a person who would change my life and perspective in such a way it would alter my view of my world, myself, how I give, how I love and how I want to grow-- but it would be taken away from me when I least expected it, would I take the offer?

Would I have had the courage to accept the experience for what it was?

I’m a risk taker, but risking dropping the peace in my heart is not my strong suit.

And yet, I took a risk to befriend someone who altered my life forever so profoundly that I will never be the same. I will take all that she taught me to expand my view of faith and create new opportunities that wouldn’t haven’t been inspired without her.  I will hear her voice when I’m scared and she will counsel me through as I try to avoid all that I want to pursue, but am fearful of.

Without taking the risk to attach, to love, to let go and trust that we are supported by life, how can we ever live in our dreams? Every idea and experience and person comes into our lives to teach us something and when they are present, we are unaware of how they will play out.  Does that mean we are best to avoid them? How many incredible experiences would we miss out on if we chose not to risk potential temporary discomfort?

When we look back on all the pains we’ve lived through, how many would we give up if it meant we couldn’t be where we are?

I wouldn’t give mine up either. I wouldn’t be who I am without the risks and challenges and I am liking this woman I see transforming. I am eternally grateful for what I’ve learned. Worth every tear I’ve shed and feeling of emptiness, especially now that I am beginning to refill my own cup.

When assessing risk, the ultimate question becomes, which will bring me closer to my joy and which will take me further away?  I choose joy in whatever form it comes in. You?