Last night I was reading Brene Brown’s latest blog post and it struck a chord. She wrote about the lovelessness in the world and how we have to “live love to give love”:
Doubling down on love demands that we be brave enough to straddle the tension of staying awake to the struggle in the world and fighting for justice and peace, while also cultivating a love ethic in our own lives. We can’t sacrifice the micro for the macro, or the macro for the micro.
Love, belonging, connection and joy are irreducible needs for all of us. We can’t give people what we don’t have. We have to live love to give love.
As I was reading through the article, it slowly dawned on me that the weird phase I’ve been finding myself in over the last couple of weeks may have something to do with love. To be clear, I’m not speaking about love in a strictly romantic way here. In fact, love can be found in a lot of places: it lives in the little day-to-day actions, in the kindness of a stranger, within the text message of a dear friend and even in the oh-so-annoying actions of a relative, if we only choose to see and welcome it. And that last bit is what I’ve been having a hard time with.
Let me explain the “weird phase” I mentioned above. It all started with a general feeling of overwhelm which caused me to shield myself from potential harm-causing situations and people (even though most of those people probably had the best intentions), because it would all have been too much for me to handle. On top of that, I came down with a really annoying case of the flu a few weeks ago, which drained me of the last bit of energy that was left in me at this point.
[Note: all of this happened right after my summer vacation which should have left me feeling energetic and refreshed.]
So there I was, dragging myself through life with barely enough energy to do what was expected of me. A week after the flu had hit me, I was at a low point again. I was completely unable to get out of bed in the morning which resulted in me staying home from work again because I needed about fifteen hours of sleep per night and still felt tired and foggy when I woke up. As you can see, I wasn’t in my best shape, physically speaking. Even though it all seemed legitimate from a medical point of view (according to my doctor, since my body was still recovering from the flu), I couldn’t help but wonder if part of my crash was psychological. It’s a bit like the chicken or egg causality dilemma: which came first?! Did I crash because I was sick with the flu or did I get sick because I was stressed out about various things in my life?
Since no one will be able to answer this for me, I figured it was best to let it go and focus on what’s happening right now which, to be fair, isn’t much different apart from the fact that I no longer have the flu (and thank goodness for that).
Those who know me are probably aware that I’m a person of principle most of the time (unless I’m feeling wobbly which I attempted to explain here). These principles are the result of my personal experiences over time and they have served me well for the most part. They have been shaped by the no-BS-rule I’ve been trying to implement for at least a year now, a rule which has been enforced by situations in which I was under the impression that people were disregarding my opinions and/or feelings, either consciously or obliviously, or somehow belittling me. Since one generally isn’t able to change people’s behaviour, I decided to try my best to let people know, in a kind way, how they make me feel and therefore give them the opportunity to look at their actions from my point of view and react accordingly.
I’m not usually one to cut people out of my life (provided that they were in my life to begin with) just because they once reacted in a way that I found hurtful*. If, however, they keep acting in a way that’s hurtful to me despite my best efforts to tell them how this affects me, I might consider creating some distance or even staying out of touch for a long time, simply because I’ve decided for myself that I deserve to be treated with respect and kindness and I no longer want to be the victim of other people’s unresolved trauma or other emotional baggage.
None of this means I’m perfect by the way − I’ve also hurt people (consciously and obliviously) and I’m sure it will happen again but I’m prepared to take responsibility for my actions. It usually doesn’t feel great when I’m confronted with my shortcomings but nevertheless I appreciate when people tell me how I made them feel, even if it means that I owe them an apology.
This very long detour explaining how I try to put the no-BS-rule into action was necessary to illustrate why it led to me having a weird phase. Living this way AKA cutting loose everyone whose beaviour can’t be aligned with my core principles and values may be necessary to move towards what I want from life but it can also be extremely discouraging and disheartening, sometimes making me wonder if I’m making a mistake. At the same time, adapting my BS-tolerance and principles to whomever I’m spending time with at that moment hasn’t proved to be very successful either. While I’m not sure that there’s an actual way to measure the success of those two opposite “strategies”, I can tell that I’m not exactly happy with how either one of them turned out for me just yet. And while the no-BS-rule definitely aligns with who I am, who I want to be and how I want to be treated, a lot of people (mostly the “victims” of the rule) have given me a hard time because of it, which has occasionally been quite hurtful.
To protect me from this emotional pain which definitely shouldn’t be underestimated, I think I’ve started to build a wall − I hadn’t noticed at first, but I’m quite sure I started stacking bricks around my heart as a buffer in order to keep the pain out. Unfortunately, shields such as this wall don’t only provide great protection from harm, but they also provide great protection from love, which is exactly what I’ve been doing to myself lately.
I struggle with not knowing how much to let in and how much to protect myself from. It’s utterly confusing to me and, like so often, there doesn’t seem to be an easy solution.
The only thing I know is that I’ve been shielding myself from pain and I’ve been shielding myself from love and even the possibility of love. I’ve been judgemental and closed-minded because I’ve been confronted with recurring behavioural patterns of other people for too long and it ended up setting off a time-to-leave!-alarm inside me everytime there was even a tiny risk of me getting hurt (so basically all the time), so much so that I completely gave up on giving people a chance or even just the benefit of the doubt. I felt like I couldn’t take it anymore, I was so tired of getting my hopes up and ending up being disappointed.
So I built a wall.
And here I am now, wondering why I’m not happy. I’m not exactly unhappy either but I’m pretty sure there’s room for improvement, AKA more love and kindness and open-mindedness and, most importantly, I NEED to lose the shield.
So if you need me, you’ll find me deconstructing the wall, one brick at a time.
* I’m actually much less patient with guys I matched with on Tinder and whom I’ve never met up with 🚩, unless I believe that they deserve an explanation.