Today my close friend Sarah went into labor and my thoughts and best wishes are with her!
I remember when we first discovered we were pregnant, we were only about a month apart. We originally met on an online forum for women who were trying to get pregnant. Finding out we were pregnant around the same time was a really exciting experience because we discussed in the past how fun it would be to be pregnant together, but it actually happening was amazing! I really appreciate her support and friendship throughout my pregnancy and hope that she has a really awesome, powerful, and loving birth and that her and her baby are as healthy as can be. Sending her lots of love!
I’m really thankful for some of the loving relationships that I have in my life today, yet I haven’t always had really great relationships in my life and figuring out what that means has been sort of a mystery to me. I grew up in a bit of a dysfunctional environment where problems weren’t solved through effective speaking and boundaries were not clear. As an adult, learning that I did not know how to have a healthy relationship was a difficult yet really revealing time for me. Finding out that I am not skilled in relationships helped me evaluate some of the mistakes I may have made in the past, and relearning how to create the relationships I want in my life and how to cultivate and nourish them has been a great treasure.
Though it’s not easy to admit to oneself, probably many of us have had some sort of dysfunctional patterns or behaviors that we learned to mimic when we were young. This doesn’t mean that our relationships are dysfunctional or that we are bad people, it just means that interaction with others isn’t the easiest thing for everyone because we may not always know the right ways to respond to certain situations. And since all of us are different, some of us are better at some things than at others. Personally, I’ve had many difficulties interacting with people for many reasons.
I have always been an extensively awkward introvert. What made it difficult for me to interact with others when I was younger was a lack of self confidence. Not having yet developed a sense of self, I wasn’t sure how to respond verbally or physically to certain situations. Being self-conscious, I often second guessed my opinions and words and had a hard time just being someone, anyone, because I didn’t know who I was. I tried on many different masks: the confident person, the outspoken person, the rebellious person, etc. None felt like they were me all the time, so, as it often happens when we are not ourselves, we come off awkward, or unsure, or even rude. That was never my intent. However as I got older and dug a little deeper into discovering myself, I have learned more and more about communicating with others effectively and how being stable within yourself first is the key. And although I can’t say that I’m a fully emotionally developed person, I can say that I’ve learned a lot through self discovery and that my friendships have become better through test and trial of who I am. Some of it I’m still trying to figure out; I think that job never ends. However I am thankful for all the people that have stayed in my life through all the ups and downs of my learning how to clearly communicate with them and how to create positive boundaries in relationships.
Having relationships that aren’t fulfilling yet not knowing what we are doing wrong is the first sign that your skills of communication and boundaries in your relationships need some work. However, recognizing a faulty cog in a large machine is a very important first achievement! It’s not easy to admit to yourself that maybe you are doing something wrong, or that your approach may not be working. For me, I realized this when I noticed that I kept pushing people away at first ‘fault’. I was so lacking in understanding of good boundaries that many times I have let people cross them, and thus I was in a situation where I felt like I was no longer taking any crap from anyone. At the first sign of trouble, I’d tell them to hit the road. I was reacting in a way that seemed rational at the time based on my experiences, however all I did was drive people away without being compassionate or understanding, qualities I wanted to have. With some re-evaluation I learned the following:
Friendships, relationships, life, they aren’t perfect. Or as my husband says, ‘Life is messy.’ You grow with others through making mistakes, and through understanding which mistakes are big enough to let go of a friendship over, and which mistakes aren’t. And, equally as important is the ability to recognize which character flaws you are willing to accept in someone, and which you are not. No one is perfect – you nor me. Yet we have to get along somehow in this world of multifaceted people. The only way to do it is to figure out which flaws you can accept and look past, and which you can’t. Does your relationship with a certain person only bring out negativity in your life, and is this the fault of your own reaction or is this out of your control? Do you choose to get angry over every little thing, or is this person truly bringing constant negativity into your life? The source of the negativity is important to identify, because sometimes we can be really good at creating it ourselves and blaming it on others. In other situations, there really is an issue where you feel like the best thing for you may be to create distance between you and another, because their actions may be unhealthy in your life.
There are many things I have learned on this road – when to take responsibility for my own feelings, when a relationship turns toxic, acceptance that human nature is flawed and that that is an opportunity to grow together, how to respect myself enough to set up and keep up difficult but healthy boundaries with others which in turn helps relationships grow, and to remember that others have to put up with my imperfections too! 😉 That makes my heart grow a little in the bounty of thankfulness and compassion for everyone who has helped me find myself a little more each day.
(Image Source: Elizabeth Lyle at Dreaming Heart Artworks)