Introspectively, this has been a big year for me. I have always questioned myself; what am I doing? Where am I going? Am I doing enough? Can I do more, be more?
I always asked these questions in relation to others. My partner. My kids. Parents. Friends. Never really for myself. What can I do to be more for myself? I try to check in regularly with myself. When I am not sure, I ask outside of myself. Recently I turned to a close girlfriend of mine. My head swimming with rationalisations of why I am the way I am, I’ve been feeling challenged by some of my personality traits that have been smacking me in the face almost continuously this year. This has challenged who I thought I was. One of my most frequent self-assessment questions… One I work hard to address often, yet stay true to myself.
“Am I too guarded?”
She is busy, she pauses, takes a moment to think about this. I wait. One of my oldest friends, I trust her implicitly, so I wait while she takes her time to answer. I am, by nature, quick thinking, quick acting, leaping ahead. Impatient. She is slower, steady and more measured. She draws a breath, hesitates then states…..
” The thing that people don’t understand about you, is that, when you give, you ALWAYS give 120% of yourself. You just give all of yourself, with all that you have got.”
I open my mouth to speak. Then shut it again. At first it seems like she has completely avoided my question. The answer I was expecting, the quick answer, was “Yes”. Blunt, guarded, aggressive. Standard. Words I have heard often. But they challenge me when I want more. From myself. From my situation. They challenge me when I feel like I am blocking myself from moving towards my goals.
The alternative answer, “No, of course not babe. What on earth would make you ask that? You’re very open and approachable…”, the Soothsayer, stroking my insecurity and my ego all in one. A beautiful lie. Cue whiny relief and lament about if I am approaching the things going on my life from the right angle, met with reassurance, gentle suggestions and more soothsaying. This feeds my fantasy that I am a warm and lovely being radiating sunshine and love on all that I encounter. I may be riding a unicorn…..
This was neither of those. This was not an answer I was expecting. This answer had me gobsmacked. I had to take it away with me. It stuck with me all week. I reconsidered everything I had going on around me. I reconsidered my relationships. Where I stood with them, how I felt in them and about them. I had to really consider the truth to this answer, because as much as I pride myself on being this person, I had never connected that with how I initially encounter people. Or how that may affect my behaviour in new situations.
“What I cannot Love, I overlook. I that real friendship?” Anais Nin
This opened up a can of worms, I don’t really know if I can fully untangle it. I connect on feel, if I don’t feel right in a situation I withdraw and don’t engage or connect. When I do connect however, you have my all. I may not keep in regular contact but I’ll be there at 3am, driving through torrential rain if you need me. I’ll give whatever I’ve got if you asked. I don’t like to ask for help, I think I can do everything myself and if I value you then I can move mountains. The thing is, when I give my all, I also rarely expect anything back except connection with you. Giving my all brings with it “other” issues. A willingness on my part to overlook, sometimes to my detriment, like when someone speaks to you in a particular way to keep you in a sweet spot, with motive. I want to love and see the beauty in who I love, but I can spot a manipulation, a lie, a deception or half- truth in a breath or less. I will note it in my head and choose to put it aside in my heart. I want to believe that the people I care about have the best intentions, even if it could hurt me. This came up with my daughter once, a particularly teenage moment. I had written to her that I always knew if she was lying, to which she responded with curiosity (and a little fear), seeking confirmation, she asked her Grandmother. “Grandma, mum says she always knows when I’m lying. Do you think that is true?”
Grandma replied “Oh yes, she does. But she usually doesn’t say anything. She will just sit back and let you dig yourself into a hole. It removes a little trust each time, you just don’t realise it.”
After I have noted it I am then analysing: What are the short term effects, long term effects, bigger picture, is it recoverable, if so, how? How far am I willing to overlook, directly in proportion to how much love I have and how much I am invested in the situation?
I learned that expectations create space for disappointment, so it’s best not to have too many. It’s better for me to just take care of myself.
The catch 22 is that I don’t want to always do everything myself, which requires trust in other people and a level of vulnerability which I want to allow myself to have but which also frightens me. It means that I need to allow myself to be open and also to relinquish control and it means that I would need to actually open myself up to having expectations. That is to say, a desire to not just want something in return but also to ask for it.
That’s a whole lot of risk I just don’t know if I’m ready for, yet.