I’m a firm believer in second chances. And third chances. And sixty-eighth chances. Even when I’ve been harmed, disrespected or treated in a way that I didn’t deserve.
But there comes a time when even I see that it’s time for me to bow out. This doesn’t happen instantly – far from it, actually. It’s a process during which you see me tiptoeing back and forth, one step forward and ten steps backwards. Then two steps forward. Eventually, three steps. Only to witness me falling all the way back to square one and right into the arms (metaphorically speaking or not, depending on the nature of the relationship I can’t seem to give up on) of the person who caused me harm.
This is particularly hard to watch for the people who care about me and who have no emotional attachment whatsoever to the situation at hand (and are therefore much more rational in their reasoning).
I’ve been told to leave and stop caring about people many times in my life. And each time I found that I simply wasn’t able/ready to stop caring, despite the fact that all the evidence pointed towards me walking the hell away and never turning back. I’m not sure if it’s my general lack of anger or if I’m just too nice (and possibly a little bit coward-y), but I got burned a couple of times.
I always figured, if I just tried a little harder – to understand them, to guide them through whatever they were dealing with, to comfort them and to be there for them in whatever way they needed me to – it might all turn out okay.
I had my ‘coaching’ debut right at home, at a rather young age, where I took on the role of marriage counsellor, comedian (to cheer everyone up), life coach and arbitrator for all sorts of conflicts that arose within the family bonds. Later on, I dragged all of the accumulated emotional baggage into the dating world, where I experienced as much as caused emotional havoc at first, until I started to unpack the baggage and learn more about the causes of me having it in the first place.
This doesn’t mean that I don’t ever cause emotional damage to anyone now – but I’m much more self-aware and emotionally regulated than I used to be back then.
For the longest time, I was – and probably still am! – convinced that I just needed to be and do better in order for things to work out alright. Trying harder was(/is) a way for me to take control over situations that were(/are) inherently out of my control.
Given that I’m fascinated by human behaviour and the underlying psychological explanations for it, I often find great pleasure in exploring other people’s reasons for behaving or reacting a certain way (exploring my own behaviour is much less pleasurable, trust me) and I like to believe that this passion of mine has been beneficial to some of my ‘coachees’, at least occasionally.
And so I keep finding myself in situations that aren’t even mine to deal with, trying very hard to change things for the better, despite the fact that I’m not even in control. At all.
You need to explain better, be more understanding, kinder – if you try hard enough, things are going to get better!
Ha. If only that were true. Sure would have saved me a lot of heartbreak.
The reason why I usually stick around much longer than I should is pretty simple: I just can’t help it. It’s part of my process. I need to know for sure that I gave it my everything until I can start to move on without feeling guilty.
Now, you might want to argue that this isn’t the healthiest approach (for me) and that’s probably true. But then again, it’s how I’ve been conditioned. It’s how my brain works. It’s what I need to do in order to find peace eventually.
And if there’s one other thing I’ve learned – other than knowing when something isn’t my responsibility, nor in my control – it’s that beating myself up over functioning a different way than what’s considered ‘the right way’ is of absolutely no use.
Who’s to say what’s right for me? That’s right – I am. And since I’m the only who’s stuck with me 24/7, I decide to go with whatever works.
And then, after all the effort, energy and emotional labour I put in, there always will be a moment in which I realise that I no longer care as much, that the weight has been lifted off my shoulders, that I can breathe again.
And this will set me free.
To end this on an educational note, I suggest you check out this video. It illustrates – almost perfectly, might I add! – what I tried to convey with this post.