A couple weeks back I shared a post from my friend Sarah on Facebook, about the importance of encouraging our daughters (but all children really) to empower themselves to leave a bad situation. I recalled the first day of grade 8 when I was ditched by all the cool girls, publicly and shamefully, and how somehow I did have the courage in that moment to leave. I left that school and never went back, eventually transferred to a new school. I was applauding my own bravery and feeling proud that I made a hard but super important choice in the face of turmoil that changed all sorts of future choices in my life. But there was more to that story.
An old friend I hadn’t heard from in years messaged me after reading that Facebook post and reminded me of her own journey. My old childhood friend was brave to contact me and share her truth, to stand up for her 12 year old self who felt disempowered and bewildered when her only friend that was starting out in a new school alongside her left her in the cold the minute she found the cooler crowd. That person was me. She painted the picture for me; actually I had been bearer of such pain to others and that I was only getting a taste of my own medicine when I was deserted the following year. At first I felt slightly outraged when I read her message to me, this was over 25 years ago! Who’s keeping score? Obviously I turned out ok, she turned out ok, let bygones be bygones. And yet, I had just shared my own story of being stranded by the girls I thought were my friends, and it wasn’t the only story I could share. There are countless really. And she had her countless stories to tell as well and all of us, even here now in our late 30’s are recounting them because they mattered and they formed us in some important way.
So I read her messages and I thought of blowing her off and then I got real with myself. She called me on my shit and that takes someone with strength to do that, especially decades later. So even though at first I thought I might not reply, there was an inner knowing that was like “yup, you were a real bitch sometimes”. And then, amidst that hot shame that pooled inside me, I also understood that it wasn’t just back then, it’s even been recently. I’ve been in situations that I haven’t acted at my best, I haven’t done the ultimately kind thing, I haven’t taken the higher road. I have hurt people when I’ve felt hurt. And I’ve instigated it at times too. There is a darkness we can feel when provoked, to make someone hurt, thinking in doing so we’ll alleviate our own suffering. But it never works, we know that, right? That whole saying about anger/bitterness/unforgiveness/resentment is like taking poison and hoping the other person dies. It simply drowns us further, we wallow more, we never get on top of it because like attracts like. If you’re full of hate and suffering it spills over and it oozes into those you are around, it brings more of it to you.
Maybe someone reading this knows exactly what I’m talking about. Maybe someone reading this knows it because I was a part of a painful situation for them. I have inflicted a core wound or not been better at taking caution with their feelings. It feels like it’s coming up again for me now because I’ve been feeling a bit like I did that first day of grade 8. Things are triggering this little hurt part of me and this time they are also prompting me to ask myself – what is your role in this? I offer myself compassion for those situations I was a part of that I knowingly and unknowingly brought pain to others in. I also offer myself compassion about any of the pain I’ve taken on from other people’s actions. Knowing what is not actually about me, knowing that no one else can make me feel a certain way, knowing that I alone get to course correct when I feel I’ve become misaligned with a person, a place or a situation is empowering. I am still learning to own my shit. Both the bad and the good. Mostly I feel like my attitude of late has been one of “IDGAF if you’re ok with this or not, I am what I am” but I’m also realizing that there has been a weakness inside of me trying not to get poked. And the funny thing is that all of this is only from my perspective, others feel as though I’m poking their tender scars. So it’s both – acknowledging the times I have done something spiteful, intentionally hurt someone, brought them sadness on purpose and acknowledging when I’ve put myself into the place of being a victim.
I’m growing and changing and it’s exciting and remarkable, I’m not the person I was one year ago. I’m not even the same as I was in March. Each year I could say that but this year in particular has deepened my capacity for growth, or more so, put it on the fast track whether I wanted to or not! I’m openly saying things I wouldn’t have said before because I am called to and in that alone a divide has been furrowed, discontent has furthered. But in allowing others to be disappointed if it further’s my own truth holds immense power.
This excerpt from Glennon Doyle’s ‘Untamed’ says it all.
To allow others to have their disappointment, their hurt feelings, their discomfort by my actions, that is what I’m learning to be able to do. And to do so without intentionally wounding anyone in the process. It doesn’t feel easy sometimes, especially now when everywhere you step might be a landmine, but when has the deep inner work ever felt easy??
I have three daughters who I will watch experience this for themselves. It doesn’t matter if I desperately try to shield them from the drama of relationships, it will occur no matter. Gracie has already encountered it, both sides, the doing and the receiving. The hurting and the feeling hurt. And as her mother I have to allow her to have her own experience. Like Glennon I can coach my kiddos on all of it but it will be their own journey fraught with challenge, disappointment, sadness, hurt. But also love. We’ll teach about offering love, to others but mostly to ourselves. A lot of IDGAF and a bit of being kind mixed together.