Whoa nelly, last week was a WEEK.
It began with the stirring up of some family drama, which forced me into a series of stressful, painful, and (at times) emotionally devastating conversations.
For days on end I went to sleep feeling hurt and angry, and woke up disoriented before remembering… oh yeah, I’m still hurt and angry.
You guys know I believe in transparency, but (if you’ve been reading my tuesday emails lately you know this), I also want to honor other peoples’ privacy. Plus, the actual details of what happened don’t matter in the slightest.
What matters is this: being a family is hard.
Conflict happens, people get triggered, and communication breaks down. Walls come flying up, and emotional doors get slammed in each other’s faces, and everyone feels like nobody is hearing them.
This is just a part of life.
But for me, it’s a relatively new part of life.
I’ve never lived near my family before, but I do now. I’ve never shied away from conflict by any means, but I’ve always had the option to just… leave. To go back to my real life and let everything cool off.
Now that I’m living here and see my family on a nearly-daily basis however, I no longer have the option to disengage. And that’s tough sometimes.
Which brings me to an important realization.
I am a strong-willed woman who knows what she needs to be happy, and is very, very good at getting it. I know how to put myself first, advocate for my needs, and get what I want. (Because of this, I’m great at teaching people how to assert themselves, create strong boundaries, and build a life that they can thrive in)
This skill set, like all skill sets, comes with some build-in limitations however. Pretty often, self-care for me has historically meant that I emotionally disengage.
As in… I’m there, fighting it out, and then something happens to create this shift for me, and I suddenly realize… huh. I don’t care enough about this person anymore to keep fighting. I’m done. I’m gone. Like a light switch.
This has happened in relationships, during the moment I realized we were done (note: this was not always the same moment as us breaking up), but it has also happened in friendships.
I never felt like I was choosing to disengage from someone in these moments. Instead, it felt like a door would close in my heart, and my connection (with the person whose door it was) would simply be… gone.
From the outside, this habit of disengagement has been described to me as “bringing down the guillotine” on someone. It has also been described as hurtful and selfish. It has even been described as hateful.
I wouldn’t know. It just felt like self-protection, to me.
Which brings me to the horrible, painful, infuriating, humbling lesson I’m learning right now:
With family, you don’t EVER get to close the heart door.
I mean, you do if you’re “breaking up” with a family member. (And yes, I believe sometimes that is the right choice.)
If you plan to stick around and participate in the family community, however, you do not.
Which means I need to skill-up, and fast.
I’ve never had to stay and fight it out.
I’ve never had to stay and fix something that I thought was broken.
I’ve never had to open a heart door after it was shut.
And that’s why I’m here, I think, in this exact place and time.
To learn how to re-open a heart door that has shut. To learn how to stay, and forgive, and accept, even when my instincts tell me to cut and run. To learn how to be more loving, and more expansive, than I ever had to be before.
My work this week will be to bring in some heavy machinery, and drill a fucking handle on a door I’ve thought was closed for over a decade.
And in the future, I plan to pay closer attention.
To catch the heart-door closing right as it starts to swing, and jam an industrial-strength door-stop in there while I gather the skills to work things out.
Sending you all strength and open-heartedness today,
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