My friend invited me to her house for a Memorial Day cookout with her family. Her family dynamic has been changing, as has our friendship recently. The tap of our friendship flow has been opened a little wider as we have both had room added to our lives due to the men we cared for leaving us. My friend had been with her partner for over ten years.
I was with my partner for a relatively short period of time, but he’d just recently contacted me and I said goodbye for good and meant it. Our bond was finally severed. Those last interactions with him made me open up and let things out that I no longer had a vested interest in keeping bottled up. In contacting me he also gave me a gift. It was more than closure. I got self-expansion. I get to be more self-assured, I get to let go of the angst I was having, not just from his weird behavior, but the angst I was having from keeping things in. I let down my wall – not to let him in, but to let myself out.
This most recent foray into deep feelings and failed relationships makes me feel as though I have faced some demons. I’ve had a mirror held up to me and it showed me my shadow side. It showed me how being pre-maturly separated from my siblings who ended up living out the remainder of their childhoods with foster families, how being kept in my room for days and sometimes weeks at a time, how being abused and neglected by my parents has created in me a deeply felt notion that it is a betrayal of self to allow myself to become attached to anyone, romantically or otherwise. I am an oddity: I am the socially sheltered social butterfly. I’m great as long as I’m flitting about, never getting too close to anyone, always living alone and romantic interests usually fleeting. I took the ACE Questionnaire and scored a 7 out of 10 – anything over 4 is considered extreme. I took an attachment style test and discovered that I have fearful avoidant attachment style. Knowing that I am INFP on the Myers-Briggs has never been quite enough to solve the enigma of how I interact with life.
To get Freudian on you, I truly danced with the shadow of my father in my last relationship. Our interactions amounted to a seemingly never-ending cycle of catch 22. Towards the end of our relationship, I stated my needs and backed away. They were not met.
When you take the risk to give someone the opportunity to meet your needs and they do not, it is time to leave. If they let you go and then try to re-insert themselves into your life when you walk away, then you’re dealing with a child who only wants their toy when someone else has found a use for it.
The painful privilege of being stripped to your gears means that you also get to clean them. It can hurt like hell, it can be messy, but it can also be healing if you let it. I’ve been fortunate to find a male counselor who’s helping me keep my vulnerability muscles exercised, work through my complicated grief, and re-wire my brain to a more secured attachment style as a byproduct of our interactions. I’ve been letting friends get closer to me and have been there more for my friends who are now more like a chosen family for me.
Ask Polly recently advised a reader that [to paraphrase] “…you do not have the luxury of being authentic with your family, that it would only hurt you more, trust me…” and for once I am so thrilled to run across advice that recognizes that some things are so broken that you cannot fix them, that trying to will only hurt and frustrate and drain you more. Walking away from a family or a person who’s abandoned you is an act of self-love. It is also an act of self-love to affix yourself to a community or family of your choosing. Though, I still believe that blood is thicker than water – this is why adopted children go in search of their birth parents.
But familial bonds between friends can still be quite powerful and healing.
And with my friend this weekend, Memorial Day weekend, we built a tribal bond.
We did something primal.
We made fire.
We found a pile of brush and stuffed it into the seldom used backyard chiminea. We found a way to make the kindling burn and we fed it sticks for over an hour as a pile of brush whittled down to nothing. We worked like ants, moving back and forth between the chiminea and the pile of brush. The physical activity was invigorating. The burning of brush was symbolic and we both knew it. We talked about letting go and moving on and made a ceremony of what started as a trivial idea. This is how my life has been going lately, as I move forward the Universe provides opportunities to support that process.
This time in my life has brought me through some of my greatest grief and has also made it clear to me: “Ok. Enough. There are good things in store for you, no more beating yourself up about and re-living your past. You are being set free from some deeply ingrained patterns and it’s time to step forth in confidence of that.”
Am I changed? Yes. Am I done changing? Never.
Memorial Day is a good time to mourn those who have passed and those who have passed through our lives and are no longer in it. As I stepped into the shower later to wash off the cleansing pyre smoke I was veiled in, I felt renewed.