Let Them Go
Hi! I bet you missed me. Or maybe not, but here I am again, with some of my words and musings and hopefully something that will make you smile a bit too. Because nobody thinks I'm as funny as I do.
I've had some really exciting things going on, as far as writing is concerned: I am now officially a bestselling author (woo hoo!), thanks to the book I co-authored called "Life, Love, Lemonade". I also co-authored a book called "Woven" that will be published in the fall (hoping for another bestseller!). Lastly, I've been doing some freelance writing work, and I completed my first freelance ghostwriting job, which was an interesting and very good learning experience. It has been so rewarding to spend time doing what I love, and it doesn't hurt that I'm getting paid to do it too!
But now I'm back to sharing my innermost thoughts with you, because that's what got me started with all of this writing stuff anyhow. I want to share what I'm thinking and going through, or what I've gone through, because I believe that if even one person who reads this feels heard, seen, or less alone, it's worth it. Actually, even if I'm writing just for me, to get things out and have some self-therapy, that's worth it. Because I'm worth it.
I turned 43 a few weeks ago, and it was a pretty much perfect birthday. Last-year's birthday was pretty awful to say the least. I spent most of it crying, partially because it was exactly one-year after I told my ex-husband to leave our house. The rest of the reasons have to do with hoping that at least one person would feel like my birthday was worth celebrating in a way I wanted to celebrate it (which was simply going somewhere and not talking about sad things), but that didn't happen. Anyhow, I won't belabor that, because this birthday was fantastic. I actually made plans for this birthday weeks before, not realizing it was my birthday when we said "3 Fridays from now". I spent the day with my daughter and our friends, doing our usual Friday stuff, and then went to a different friend's place for a quiet dinner of chatting and bubbly wine.
There are a few reasons this birthday was pretty close to perfect, one being that I don't like large gatherings and would much rather spend time actually connecting with a friend or two. The other reason is that it showed me that I am starting to really let my past go, to let people go, and to let relationships go. I let my expectations go, even if to me, they should be perfectly reasonable. Because let's be honest, nobody ever lives up to ALL of our expectations, and that's why we have different people in our lives that fill different roles and love us different ways.
But while we're being honest, I tell you what really isn't a secret: I still have moments where I struggle with letting people go. This is when I feel like there was no true resolution, and where I absolutely don't know what it is I could have done to have them either push me away or be so incredibly ok with our friendship not continuing. It's a vicious cycle for me - one of my greatest fears and causes of anxiety is that as soon as someone really gets to know me, they'll discover something so horrid about me that they reject me. And in my overly- analytical mind, it's a reasonable fear because it happens.
I do know I'm not the only one who struggles with letting relationships go, though. This does make me feel a lot less crazy, which supports my writing to make other people feel less crazy too. I went for a walk with one of my closest friends and found out that she was struggling with a friendship that may have found its end, and she didn't know exactly why. Of course I can't be super-objective with her because I think she's pretty dang amazing (hence why we've been friends for like 20 years), but I find I often give very good advice and very seldom follow it (my favourite line from one of my favourite movies, Alice in Wonderland).
I explained to this friend that you can't control anyone else's reaction, and that no matter what we do (or don't do), others will interpret our actions however they want. And that's not something that we can change or even try to figure out. However, I do believe that anyone who wants to be in our lives will know that our actions were not done in malice, and if they also value our friendship, they'll talk to us about how they're feeling rather than just disappear. But this is also a matter of maturity and unfortunately many people just don't have the emotional maturity to have tough conversations.
So what did our conversation boil down to while we spoke of her friend?
"Let them go".
Anyone who is dragging you down, who doesn't cheer you on, who doesn't add value to your life and who makes you question your worth, let them go. The people who you should surround yourself with will see you for who you are and believe in your inherent worth and also believe that they are as blessed to be your friend as you believe you are to be theirs. And if you have to do the Mel Robbins 5-4-3-2-1 process to do the letting go, do it. (Do you follow @melrobbins? If not, you should). Decide that what you've done to maintain the friendship is good enough, and that you don't need to keep working on it.
My therapist gave me some great advice on how to determine what "good enough" is. If you're struggling with a friendship that is failing or falling apart, and you're desperately trying to hold it together, decide what "good enough" is when it comes to your effort. I had a friend who I knew was struggling with their mental health. I reached out and tried, I attempted to make plans and make sure they were ok. I essentially begged them to make ME feel better about our relationship, but then spent time writing down what was "good enough". And then after a month of this nonsense, stuck to my written "good enough" and realized that even someone struggling with mental health shouldn't make me feel badly about myself and constantly make me question my worth as a friend. So... I let them go. And as an old friend of mine once wisely cautioned my ex-husband, I did the thing that I can do and shut it down. I turned on my heel and was completely, utterly, done.
(Ok, I actually had a dream 2 days ago that the friend I was done with was being so kind to me at some sort of community hall exercise event - and I cried and asked them what happened, and then they told me they were just being nice because of the wedding guests, and so I cried some more. So obviously my subconscious isn't actually done... and don't ask me to make sense of my dreams).
You could be surprised, though, when you decide to be brave and emotionally mature and tell someone how you're feeling. Here's an anecdote from my life from another one of my closest friendships: I tried to let her go. I decided that we had nothing in common, that she didn't even really want to be my friend, and I was exhausted from being the only one who put in any effort. So I wrote her a letter and told her, as kindly as I could, that I loved her but that we needed to stop pretending like we had this great friendship and that I couldn't continue this way. What did she do? She fought for me. She fought for us. She told me she wouldn't let me go, that she was sorry, and that she was glad I wrote her that letter. This friend quashed every fear I have about relationships and made me feel like I was SO worthy that even when I tried to walk away, that she was going to make sure I knew that what we had was more than I believed, and she told me why. This is another reason why having those hard conversations and telling someone how you're feeling is worth it.
I do believe that this is an extremely rare progression of events, though. Actually, I know this is extremely rare, because I have (on numerous occasions) reached out to friends when I didn't understand how or where things went awry and either received trite responses or continued radio silence. But I have some core beliefs, and I think you should copy and paste these into your journal or write them on sticky notes or put them on your phone, because they help me and will help you too:
You are allowed to miss someone but not want them back in your life.
You are allowed to regret that things fell apart but not want to rekindle a friendship.
You are allowed to think fondly about times you spent with someone but not reach out to them.
You are allowed to tell someone you're feeling rejected and feel disappointed when you don't get the response you wanted.
You are allowed to wonder how someone is doing and not ask because it sets you up for rejection.
You're allowed to let people go and not feel guilt about it.
You're also allowed to struggle with letting people go. And you're allowed to do things in the process of letting go that make you think, "Dangit!! I said I wouldn't reach out again! Why am I begging for the attention of someone who makes me feel badly about myself?!?" This kind of behaviour is not exclusive to romantic relationships and drunk-texting an ex, ya know.
The other piece of important advice to my friend surrounded those times when we do reach out to someone: Know what you want out of it and be realistic about what you will get in return.
After all, you're opening the lines of communication with someone who has already made you believe they might not want you in their life. Maybe they'll surprise you, because heck, everyone is struggling right now. Even as our lives get back to "normal", people everywhere are struggling with how things should work and look. Perhaps even because things are getting back to normal. We need to believe that everyone is doing their best, and give grace and compassion. But hear me on this point - this absolutely does not mean that you need to put up with feeling second-rate. If someone's best constantly makes you feel like crap, it's ok to acknowledge that they're doing their best and also walk away, even if it's just for a little while. So if I was going to add to that list above, I would add:
You're allowed to believe that someone is doing their best and still walk away from the relationship if it's hurtful or that person simply can't be the friend you need right now.
Being a relationship-martyr isn't heroic. Constantly giving of yourself when you get nothing in return isn't admirable. Thinking that someone who treats you poorly really just needs you to help them get better isn't impressive.
If you don't take care of you, who will? If you don't love yourself properly, how can anyone else? It's time to start teaching others how to treat you. Is it time to Let Them Go?
P.S. If you want a copy of my latest bestseller, send me a message to firstname.lastname@example.org. I wrote about being made to feel like I'm "Too Much". $30 includes shipping and a signed copy of the book. Or you could wait until the next book comes out!