I was reflecting today on how people change over time. How experiences, happiness, heartache, therapy, huge life events.... all have the potential to prompt us to make shifts in our demeanor, our attitude, our view of our world and others.
I was attending a class-like thing today and in listening to the material, I saw that it was geared more toward folks who maybe didn't have that much confidence. Who didn't have well developed life skills. Which, shockingly, many people don't have! ANYway, afterwards, I was thinking "how did I get this awesome?" Almost my entire young adulthood was full of academic achievement, sub-par relationships/ friendships ... fast-tracking to "spinsterhood" with moderately severe social anxiety. In looking back, I can so easily identify the major contributors of what tore my walls down and changed my perspective.
Firstly, although it didn't really happen to me right away when I did it, when I was in graduate school and I felt absolutely terrified of life (can you believe it?) I put a post it on my mirror in my bedroom that said "do not be afraid to live life." Again, it took a long time (several years) for me to really feel that way, but it worked. A message reminding me every day that I can make a choice to live a life gifted to me to its fullest or to let it pass me by in a haze of fear, anti-depressants and yearning with no real drive to go after what I want. That message, however simple it seems, made a powerful impact.
Secondly, about six-ish years ago, I had a short term passionate love affair with someone I was very close friends with in high school and part of college, but had lost touch with for about 10 years. While the official end of the relationship happened during a morning conversation, it took nearly a year to break away from him. I was totally addicted. I didn't want to be without him (but eventually didn't want to be with him either). I couldn't let go. I started seeing an amazing therapist who changed my life forever. Through her suggestion, I started going to "Adult Children of Alcoholics" (ACoA) which took only a few months to then lead me to CODA (Codependents Anonymous) where I found a home. I spent a year religiously going to meetings and working the 12-steps and getting to know who I was not in relation to someone else. I got over the relationship. I got over all the relationships I'd ever had that ever put me in a position of not being good enough. That led me to be taken advantage of. That were with men who weren't kind, weren't giving and weren't ... well... awesome. Through that work I finally started to see myself as a worthwhile person.... as someone who, just by being here, deserved the best. That my life was my choice and within my own hands to make of it what I want. And so I have... and do. Again, it's not something that I woke up one day and said "wow, I think I'm great!"... it was a gradual change in how I treated and talked to myself. Less negative self talk, more surrounding myself with supportive people (more on that later), more self care and less self destruction. And then you have little "ah ha" moments like I did today where I looked around the room and saw everyone looking downcast while I couldn't help feeling perky and alert and happy. That's powerful stuff, let me tell you. Powerful stuff.
Lastly, in the last several years, I have solidified several relationships that have shown me that it's okay to trust. Not just trust, but to forgive when trust is broken. To move on when you are disappointed in someone. I feel that in both my romantic relationship and with many of my friendships I maintain, I have found such value in coming from a place of love and acceptance versus fear, judgement and selfishness. While I feel that my true understanding and value of what friendship meant happened for me in graduate school, it was in my ability to be utterly open and vulnerable with my more adult friendships that have shaped so much of my view on relating with people. I feel SO blessed to have friends and family who, even sometimes to my surprise, are truly unconditionally supportive and loving toward me. It is so easy for me to pick out the people who cannot interact with me in a manner in which I deem appropriate (immature, etc), therefore to keep them at arms' length if I must have interaction with them. I have more fun now in my life than maybe ever. I have a lover who sees all of me and finds less fault in me than I can in myself. Who loves me in a way that makes me feel full and satiated. I have friendships that have cast a wide, loving, warm net so if/when I fall, I know someone will be there to catch and hold me. I am... eternally grateful... for the abundance of love I have in my life.
I love my life. I love my love. I love my friends and family. I love reminding myself to live with a heart full of love instead of fear. When I enter into any and all interactions with empathy and care instead of fear and judgement, no matter what the outcome is, I'm a better person for it.
Thank you, everyone. Just.... thank you.