Get yourself a cup of tea and tuck in, this is a long one...
Where to begin. This one's been cooking on the back burner for about six weeks. Or maybe my whole life. You think writing about my trials and tribulations with IBS or self-doubt are hard? Well writing about my relationships with friends and family is so much harder. When writing about health stuff, emotional stuff, I only really risk hurting myself. When writing about relationships, I risk hurting other people. And anyone who knows me knows that is the last thing I would want to do.
I don't honestly know if I'll ever be brave enough to really write specifically about these sorts of things in such a public forum. But I want to say things, because they've been occupying space in my thoughts and using up my energy, and I need to get them out of my head and out into the world. I need to acknowledge them and then let them go, and hopefully find a way to move on.
I'm not going to write about what's happened over the later part of the summer. The details are things that I know could cause hurt and shame to those involved, so I won't do that. But I will write about what these events have left me with. And maybe, if I'm lucky it will give me some amount of closure so I can really move on like I wish so much that I could.
A new way of interpreting anger
“Anybody can become angry; that is easy. But to be angry with the right person, and to the right degree, and at the right time, and for the right purpose, and in the right way—that is not within everybody’s power; that is not easy.” - Aristotle (Courtesy of Travis)
When I was young, I used to interpret the expression of anger as a form of punishment. Not necessarily because it was deserved, but because someone consciously or subconsciously wanted to express their unmet wants, needs, or expectations, and didn't know how to express it in a constructive way, so instead punished with anger.
In a way, I still believe anger is usually just a lack of ability to express what is really at issue, but I now see the undue expression of anger as weakness. All that I see now when someone expresses anger to an extent that is far beyond what is appropriate, or to an extent that is much broader than the cause of the problem, is a person who is not confident in themselves. If a person is confident in their own worth and their ability to cope with a situation, then their anger can be felt just as strongly, but need not be expressed to a greater degree than is necessary or appropriate.
Expressing anger in an appropriate and constructive way takes a person who is sure enough of themselves and their abilities to cope to say to themselves, I feel a certain way about this person or situation, and I will express my feelings honestly. But then instead of having an expectation about what will happen next, a confident person will let go of their anger decide my next actions on the reaction and outcome of the honest expression.
If, on the other hand, the person is not sure of themselves, in a situation like this, they will act out of fear. And that is a position of powerlessness, where they will lash out, act in ways for which they will later be embarrassed, and possibly do irreparable damage to their relationships.
I challenge you all, as well as myself, to keep striving to get into a place where you can let go of your disappointment and anger, and instead tell the truth of your feelings in a powerful way. Anger is okay and healthy, but expressing anger in hurtful ways is not.
A new personal challenge: accepting loss and moving on
This one is so hard for me. I have never really figured out how to deal with losing people that are close to me. I know that people leave for whatever reasons. People die, people change, and that other people don't change when I do, and for whatever reasons, people will come in and out of your life. People that are in your life will become close, and distant, and it may go back and forth throughout your relationship. And that's okay.
But what I can't accept is doing my best, day in day out, to be a good friend, and a good family member in the face of sometimes less than ideal conditions, and then having my honesty and my way of being used and trampled on. That's not okay, and I struggle with not taking that kind of hurfulness personally. I think I'm beginning to be able to separate myself and my intentions from other people's behaviours and the outcome of difficult situations. But I'm only beginning, and it's so hard not to take it as a personal attack, and as a way of someone saying that I'm not a good enough person, and that my sensitivity is a fault to be exploited.
The thing is, when people lash out at others, it is almost always because they are really just angry and disappointed at themselves, and they don't know what to do with that. All I can do is keep trying to remember that, and when I feel that self doubt creeping in. And maybe if I do remember that, I will be able to let people go when I have to, without being hurt in the same way, and without resentment.
A new definition of friends and family
They are at once what makes life worth living, and one of the most challenging pieces of life's puzzle to understand. I received a very nice compliment from someone whose opinion I very much respect last week about how intuitive I was. I've battled with this intuitiveness and ability to relate to people, as it's both one of the gifts I'm most thankful for, but can also lead to being much more emotionally entrenched with the people and situations I encounter. That means getting hurt more easily, and boy do I feel it when it happens, and sometimes I think it would be easier just to stop being open in that way. That maybe it's not worth putting myself out there.
But when it comes down to it, I wouldn't give it up for a million bucks. I know that it is what has given me the ability to become friends with a lot of different people, and that it is what leads people to feel comfortable confiding in me. It may make me more vulnerable to getting hurt, as people tend to take things out on those they love the most, but it is what allows me to become close to people, and connect with people, and that is truly one of the greatest joys in my life.
Friends and family are strange and relative terms. How you define these terms is personal. Family are the people who remain innately in your life, whether you like them or not. You may have to put up with more crap from them than anyone else, but they are also the ones who, if you're lucky, will be there for you no matter what. And those family members that are kindred spirits, I truly consider friends.
Friends who are not family, on the other hand are disposable. That might sound terrible, but it's true. If you wake up one day and decide you don't ever want to speak to a friend again, you can do that.
But true friends are also the people who love you unconditionally. The people who have seen you grow, and seen you fail and seen you succeed and loved you just the same through both, and chosen to remain in your life. True friends always get back to you as soon as they can, and if they don't get back to you for a while, you forgive them and don't hold a moment's grudge, because you know that it's not because they love you less. They are always happy to see you, even when the timing is not ideal. They support you, and question you, and push you to be your truest self. They pick you up when you're down, and they give you a kick in the ass when you need it. True friends are the ones who you all of a sudden realize have seen you through more than one chapter of your life, and don't even think about it because they know that come hell or high water they're in it till the end.
And those friends are my real family. Be it by blood or by choice, family is family till the end. Those people are what make life rich and beautiful and true.