Remember that “future blog ideas” folder I’d recently talked about? I went back into it again today, thinking I needed to make some decisions about if what I’d stored there belonged in the “It’s All Trash” category. This was there, and while it’s story is largely from my past, I thought it might be one worth sharing, especially since I’d had a real-life conversation just touching on this recently.
I was telling the person with whom I was conversing (side note: some people say ‘conversating’) that I didn’t start the journey of finding myself until I turned 40 – and I may have mentioned that here before as well.
This may have been one of the toughest tasks in life I ever undertook. I remember, clearly, that on my 40th birthday, I gave my parents a greeting card congratulating them on the birth of their daughter. I had to explain to them that, on that day, I was being re-born and would be growing towards the person I was meant to be, though I had no idea who that person really was. My parents, of course, didn’t really get it and, as with many things, played ‘ostrich’ by burying their heads in the sand until it was ‘over’. Again, I didn’t know what my destiny was to be, only that trying so hard and for so long to fit into the boxes of who others thought I should be was slowly killing me from the inside out.
Of course, what had taken 40 years to build wasn’t disassembled in a day. Not a week. Not even a year. It was an ongoing process, and sometimes just as seemingly difficult as it had been to squeeze myself into those boxes that didn’t fit me. In the beginning, I simply refused to automatically agree with what they thought and believed if I didn’t feel or think the same. I worked on not automatically acquiescing into agreement and stayed silent. I know that didn’t make a bit of difference, since they were the type of people who believed that you agreed simply because they were right! My silence meant nothing to them, but each time I put down a stone in my foundation by not offering my agreement, I became a little bit stronger. Though I’d made the decision some years before to move away from their political party, it was done privately and was never discussed. And then, one day it came up and for the first time I spoke out about my beliefs which were in sharp contrast to theirs. There was a moment of silence, and then they continued on as if I hadn’t spoken. As pale as its light was, I took that as a good sign, simply because I wasn’t immediately chastised and told how wrong I was. To me, it meant that I was heard, even if I wasn’t listened to.
There were countless little instances and situations in which I spoke up over the next years – from politics to abortion rights to gay relationships and a bunch of other things. Often times, I didn’t have a lot of “facts” to back me up, but I had a conviction in my beliefs that allowed me not to back down from them. I spoke often enough and clearly enough that, while they may have been disappointed that I thought and felt certain ways, they began to respect that I had clearly made up my mind and could not be swayed. They began, at last, to recognize that I was no longer a child under their thumb of control and capable of forming my own opinions. That respect meant the world to me!
And life carried on. I was contented with that, but largely ignored how none of my other relationships had changed much. It was a long, long time before I truly began to see how other friendships were very much like that parental one, in that I didn’t speak up about my different opinions, and remained silent in order to not disturb the friendship. Truly, only in the past few years, have I felt the urge to make some changes in my other relationships as well. And those changes also had to begin with me and within me. I decided to pick and choose my battles, but I also decided that any friendships in which those people were so adamantly opposed to anything but their way were not necessarily friendships which I wanted to foster and grow. I still struggle with it, but I know it’s okay to love people from afar, and so I’ve either ended or taken large steps back from relationships that take more from me than they give. I struggle with missing the good parts of the friendship. But I’ve changed and continued to grow to places where who they are isn’t a significant part of my life – in fact, remaining in those close ties was prohibiting me from my own growth. So, once again, I had to build up the confidence and diligence in believing that I deserved good and true friendships, and let go of the ones that were no longer good.
I’ve come to accept that, as I continue to grow, I will move away from people I love because they are holding me back. And I will grieve the good I am leaving behind, but it’s time (it’s past due time) I put myself first. And it will continue to be a process to discover if the relationships I have are with people who will allow me – and even encourage me – to keep growing.
So yes, this will be an ongoing journey for the rest of my life. I will, I suspect, hurt some people along the way as I shift my friendship away from being as close as it was before. I will continue to think of those people on whom I’ve closed the door and remember the good that came with the relationship in my memories. And I will continue to strive to put my own needs higher on my list of priorities so that I don’t revert to being the person who caters to and acquiesces to others when my own instinct wants to speak. I’ll definitely feel guilt along the way as well, but I’ve learned how to deal with feeling guilty (I’ve had a lot of experience!).
If you’re struggling to make your own authentic voice heard and known, understand that it is a process, ongoing, and not a simple jump from one place to the other. Like riding a bike, you start with training wheels, learning how to steer and navigate to your destination. You’ll pedal – HARD – but you will get there! Eventually, once you’ve mastered everything else, the training wheels will come off and you’ll learn the intricate art of balance which comes from within you! Just don’t ever stop pedaling – no matter how many times you fall and get a bruise or two. Want it badly enough to get back on and try again! I promise it’s worth the effort – I promise YOU are worth the effort!