Does it count as falling off the waggon if I’m making a conscious decision? Am I weak for changing my mind even though no one, not even me, would have expected me to?
Do I need to get my sh*t together because I’m not living all aspects of my life in such a way that they can be neatly tucked away in one of those socially accepted boxes? Do I actually have a problem or am I just different? These and many other questions have been keeping me busy lately (mostly at night, ha-ha…), as I’ve been making some potentially unpopular life choices.
The way I see it, falling off the waggon means that you’ve been trying really hard to do things a certain way and then you give in to a completely different – maybe even the opposite – way because you just can’t fight it anymore. Therefore, actively choosing to do something differently than previously planned can’t be filed under falling off the waggon, in my humble opinion.
People like knowing what they can expect from situations, and I totally get that. Nothing upsets me more than the uncontrollable, the unpredictable. And yet, so many things in life are inherently uncontrollable and possibly even more unpredictable.
For instance, whenever I started seeing someone new, my friends always wanted to know whether we were together, girlfriend and boyfriend. And a lot of the time, they were mildly confused or intrigued when I didn’t know how to describe the relationship nor whether we were actually a couple, even after it had been going on for a while. In general, people don’t always know what to do with ways of life that they cannot quite comprehend or that aren’t aligned with how they want their own life to be, the same way my grandparents might struggle to understand all the ‘new’ types of relationships people engage in nowadays.
The question I ask myself is: do I need to put a label on my relationships if they work for everyone involved? If they don’t work, it probably isn’t because they haven’t been properly labelled. Am I uncomfortable with the undefined or am I just uncomfortable with people’s discomfort around it?
In a world where everyone anxiously seems to be looking for the one, I don’t think that there even can be a single person that is able to fulfil all my needs, and I don’t think I could be that person for anyone else either.
I value all my relationships, be it the romantic or the platonic ones. There are people that I feel strongly connected to on an emotional level and whom I could talk to for hours on end without ever getting bored. They make me feel safe and I enjoy their company a lot. I also value the time spent with people I feel (sexually) attracted to, as they make me feel important and good about myself in a different way. Sometimes, these two kinds of people are united within the same person and sometimes they aren’t.
Choosing one over the other in the latter case would mean deciding that one of the two types of relationships is more important than the other, which just isn’t true. I’m a sucker for emotional connection but I’m also aware of the importance of physical touch for my emotional and mental wellbeing, which I interestingly only learned about myself last year, during the lockdown(s).
Now, to circle back to the ‘falling off the waggon’ debate from the beginning: I’ve been giving myself a hard time about some of my rather recent life choices, given that I handled a very specific situation differently than 1. others, 2. than I would have expected from myself, 3. than others expected me to (that is, if they had expectations about how I live my life in the first place – I might not be that important 😅). The reason why I’ve been beating myself up is no other than judgment: I’ve been afraid that others (friends, acquaintances, you name them) might judge me and, more importantly, I’ve been judging myself. Grief expert David Kessler said on Brene Brown’s podcast Unlocking Us, that “judgment demands punishment” and that feels very true. “Either you punish someone else or yourself”, he said.
I don’t like myself when I’m in this state, tiptoeing around, carefully selecting what I can and cannot tell people. It’s not like me. I like being open and honest about what’s going on, everything else is just too exhausting. And, as always, coming to a conclusion wasn’t an easy process.
Should I refrain from doing things that I enjoy because others may not approve or understand? Can I not be okay with how someone behaved in the past and still include them in my life? Can I understand that people want to cut ties with someone who hurt them, and can I fully support them in that endeavour, while seeking a different path for myself? Does it have to be one way or another? Can it be both?
As unsettling as this may be, I think it’s important to accept that things are almost never either-or. People aren’t good or bad. They sometimes mess up, big time. I do too. And sometimes, there’s no coming back from this. And sometimes there is.
What I’d like to be doing in the future is the following, after having mulled it over in my head for a bit:
I’ll try to be honest with myself about what I want, even if it’s considered an ‘unpopular opinion’ among the people that are close to me.
I’ll try not to judge myself for the things I feel or want.
I’ll try to seek what makes me feel good. And I’ll do my best to move on if it no longer does.
I try not to make decisions based on what other people’s opinions about them may be.
Chances are that I’ll get it wrong every now and then. Some of what I think will make me happy will probably turn out to make me unhappy.
And this guy will be there to judge me for my choices so that I no longer have to do it myself. 😉