Not Fragile

One of my closest friends visited my best friend and I one day at work to catch up and meet with another friend who went home for a vacation. It’s been a while since I talked to her, so we updated each other with the state of our lives. I gave her the short version of what was up with me, and before I was finished, I can already tell her reaction, and I sort of knew what she was going to say.

As expected, she was pissed off — and she said it in her really nice way, because she’s really the nicest among our group of friends. And also, as expected, she started ranting about it (in a very nice way, too), and then she said what I knew she would say:

“We don’t want you to get hurt.”

With that, my best friend, who was listening to the conversation while eating dinner, snorted. “I’m not a part of that ‘we’. She needs to go through this.”

* * *

You know how sometimes we hesitate to do things, or say things, because we fear hurting the other person, or we fear making things awkward? Sometimes, we hesitate because we’re not sure how the other person would react, or what they’re thinking. Then with all our hesitation, we decide not to do anything anymore because it might be better to do it later on, if there’s a chance. Sometimes, we don’t even hesitate — we don’t do things anymore, because we think the other person will just take offense and whatever you do will just make things worse.

And I totally agree with that: we need to be careful with one another and treat one another with love and think about what we say, because we do have the capacity to hurt the people we love the most. I agree with that, and I believe in discerning when to say what you need to say, and the right timing to open things up and all that.

But I also believe that sometimes, we need to give the people we love enough credit that they can take what we dish without totally ruining everything.

It’s just like what my two friends said: yes, they don’t want to see me hurting…but how will I ever learn if I don’t go through some things on my own?

I appreciate the thought, really, of how people don’t want to see me hurting. I really, really do. No one wants to see the people they love hurting, or sad, or even just upset. If anything, I would want to spare the people I love of how life can hurt them. And of course I don’t want to get hurt, too.

But there are times when the only way to get to the end is through some things, and we are never guaranteed a smooth ride through. No one said it was easy. And no one ever got through life without getting hurt.

No one ever got through life without hurting the people they love. This doesn’t give you an excuse to just hurt the people around you intentionally. This isn’t about being mean or manipulative or tactless or just plain harsh just so you can prove that you’re right and they’re wrong. It’s about showing them you love and trust them enough to know that they can take whatever you dish. It means not walking on eggshells around the person every time so you won’t hurt them, ever. That’s just impossible. And sometimes, being too careful with them just hurts more. Yes, there is a time to be careful with what you say or do, to tread carefully and speak gently. But sometimes, we mask this carefulness as an escape, as a way to not be responsible for breaking the other person’s heart so you won’t get blamed for the fallout.

That’s a cop out, and perhaps a little bit selfish. We have to give the people we love a little more credit. We have to stop thinking that people are fragile all the time. I’d like to believe that they’re stronger than we think they are, and if we act out of true, selfless love and sincerity, it won’t be that bad. I mean, I’d like to hope it won’t be. Don’t you trust their love enough that they can take whatever you have to say? Don’t you trust yourself enough to say things with enough grace so you won’t leave scars? Don’t you trust that you can forgive each other after everything? That you can move forward from this, and start anew?

Image from weheartit, edited by me, line from Switchfoot’s Let Your Love Be Strong

The more important thing, I think, is to make the most loving choices when these moments come. To choose to love, and forgive, and to give grace, despite everything. To be present, when the fallout comes and to stay through it. There’s a right time to give comfort and be kind, to offer your shoulder to cry on, or even back off when you think what you’ll say will just hurt. There’s a time to cry, there’s a time to grumble and be mad about things for a while, if it helps. But there’s also time to open up, to face each other, to be vulnerable and to trust that the love and care you have for each other is strong enough to weather these storms.

We need to break these walls we build around ourselves and around the people we love in the pretense of protection. Let us find the courage to see and be seen, and be brave enough to love each other with a fierce love that doesn’t make (or take) excuses. Let us love each other with the kind of love that speaks of the truth even when it hurts, gives unlimited grace and forgives. Love is tough enough to handle tough love. Love endures all things, after all.

Subtle Shifts and Trusting People

I was writing a letter to a friend last night ((Because you can never write enough letters. And, you always need a pen pal in your life.)) and I wrote something about how I am able to recognize subtle shifts in my mood, and my thinking. Like, how I was so busy last week that I barely had time to think about anything else, and now that things are winding down, I suddenly find a lot of free brain cells that started thinking of things again.

Being aware of these subtleties and these shifts is a blessing, because I can force myself to slow down and eventually, stop. Over thinking is my number one sin to myself, and this awareness helps me stop it before it starts. I realized that when I go on that mode, I become a selfish little brat because I tend to think that everything is about me. Things are happening (or aren’t happening) because of me. People are mad at me, or are talking about me. I need to do something. I need to say something. I, I, I, me, me me. But now, I try my best to stop and remind myself: hey, it’s not always about you.

This reminds me of one of the early lessons I got back during my birthday week. Remember how I said I tend to be especially bratty when it’s my birthday month? Well, as it turns out, being bratty doesn’t always work, and is not really a good thing to do. Especially when it’s with people you care about. Maturity, and all that. Sometimes you don’t get the things you want, and you probably never will, but it doesn’t mean that everything is ruined. You just have to grin and bear it, because it’s the right thing to do. ((And sometimes, you get something better in return. But that’s for another post.)) So I see this way of recognizing these shifts as a way of maturing, of being a grown up and in return, relating better to people.

I think one of the sure signs of maturity is being able to trust people. Not just with things or thoughts or secrets, but you know, yourself. Your heart. That’s one of the lessons I’ve been trying to learn in the past weeks. Some people who know me in real life will probably laugh at this, given that I can probably get into a conversation with anyone but the people who really know me know that this openness is my defense mechanism. I talk a lot because it gives me control of the conversation, and I get to pick what the other person knows about me. And I get to laugh about too many things, too, so I can avoid those things that can actually show my weaknesses.

I’m trying hard to get those guards down, because…well, I want to have a brave heart.  You know, a heart that isn’t afraid of vulnerability. This reminds me of this amazing TEDx talk I watched recently, thanks to one of my new favorite blogs. Apparently, I’m not the only one who thinks that we need to be vulnerable if we want to truly love, and it gives me hope that maybe, I am in the right place. What I didn’t really count on is how trying to be vulnerable can just really hurt. Too much, sometimes. I know it’s not easy. Sometimes I just want to pull up my defenses again, and fight. Fight, because I don’t feel safe. Fight, because no one can hurt me first. Fight, because nothing is sure, and and I can’t handle it. Fight, because when things aren’t assured for you, you must do everything in your power to make sure it’s yours, especially when others seem to want to take what you want from you.

But fighting is exhausting. It may keep me safe, but it stresses me out. Sometimes I feel like learning to trust other people is harder than learning to trust God. It makes trusting God easy all of a sudden. Okay, maybe not easy, but easier, given the nature of who I am trusting. God is trustworthy and faithful and He has good intentions for me, so I will definitely trust him. But other people? Who knows what their intentions are? How can I trust them with even just a small piece of my heart when they can easily crush it?

I honestly have no easy answer to this, because like I said, I’m still trying to learn it. There are days when I feel so ready to trust another person and I actually really do so, but then some things change — there’s a subtle shift somewhere — and I pack up and go again. Sometimes it feels like it’s one step forward and two steps back. Sometimes, it feels like I actually got it and I can hopefully move on to the next lesson, ((I imagine God laughing at me whenever I think this, and then He puts a hand on my shoulder and says, “Not quite yet, my daughter.”)) and then I get hurt and I crawl back into my hole.

But I have to have courage. If I am to have a brave heart, if I am to be wholehearted, I have to learn how to trust people. To be seen and known, just as I am.

There’s a lot of adjustments, many things to learn and unlearn. It is all completely messy but also beautiful, and I think it’s just how relationships are. Right?

Pack up and move on

Also known as: On being okay

I was talking to a friend earlier and she told me about how things turned south with this guy she was pseudo-dating ((“Pseudo”, they never got to the point of defining the relationship)). She has been increasingly annoyed at how the guy was always late when they’d meet up, or how he’d send her a message at weird times, or how he would cancel their plans (or pseudo-dates). I feel her frustration, because I hate those things too. But still, I told her to chill and relax, and see where this thing goes — why throw a possibility away, right? Then just recently, the guy invited her to go with him to his place. Hello, deal breaker.

Of course, the guy could have been just friendly, you know? It could be a totally innocent invitation to get to know my friend. But still…he could get to know her outside, you know. Why allow yourself to get into temptation?

So that was the end of that guy for her. We were talking and I told her, it’s time to “pack up and move on”. While it was good while it lasted, it was time to move on. There are and will be other guys out there.

That sounded like such a flippant answer, don’t you think? Pack up and move on, there are other guys out there. How sure am i about that?

I’m not. But just recently, I was talking to another friend of mine, and we were talking about our “non-relationships”. You know, those sort-of-relationships that were never really anything because it always falls apart before it even becomes anything. The “looks like it’s there, but there’s nothing at all” things we get ourselves into. Admit it — we’ve all fallen into that…thing. And even if nothing really happened and I’m sure the pain from the fallout of these non-relationships is nothing like a break-up, it still hurts like [insert a comparison here — feel free to be as explicit as you want]. Unanswered questions, unrequited love. It hurts, and sometimes it feels like it’s the end of the world.

Sounds exaggerated? Tell that to someone who’s never been in a relationship in his/her life, to someone who’s been hoping and waiting and praying, to someone who’s decided to risk his/her heart and end up getting crushed. It may not match the pain of a break-up ((I don’t know how it feels, so I can’t answer that really)), but it hurts.

But I digress. Like I said, I was talking to a friend, and I told her an epiphany I had a few months back:

You get to a point in your life when things with a certain someone don’t work out, you know you’ll be okay. It will hurt, yes, but you know you’ll be okay. You can move on. You’ll bounce back. And you won’t be (that) bitter. And you know that somewhere down the road, there will be someone else. And maybe it will work out with them. But if it doesn’t, then you’ll still be okay.

I find this epiphany really empowering, because in my case, I know it’s true. I can feel it in my bones, in my heart. I know I am capable of moving on. I can’t do it alone, of course, but I know it will be okay. I will be okay. This doesn’t excuse me from stupid decisions, but it gives me a chance to destroy my walls (somewhat) and gives me a bit more freedom to take a risk. Not only in love, but life in general. It will probably hurt sometimes, it will be definitely messy, and it will suck sometimes, but I’d like to believe it’s worth it. It will make me a better person.

And that’s why I have good people around me. To pull me back, to keep me in check and to be there when I need a push to bounce back.

Maybe this is growing up.

So…don’t be afraid of pack up and move on. It will be okay. Maybe not today, or tomorrow, but it will be. You have it in you to be okay. :)