When I was a child and well into my adulthood, I had this condition that often got me into trouble or caused me harm.
It was called, HAVING A HEART.
Over the years, even when people hurt me or let me down, whether purposely or unknowingly, I still tried to practice compassion. I tried to give those people the benefit of the doubt, as many people like to say, and let them show me they did not mean it and were sorry for what they had done. Sometimes, once in a blue moon, some individuals would actually display true contrition and our relationship could be salvaged. However, most of the time I would allow that person to continue as a part of my life—only to find myself hurt again and again and again. As long as I let them in, they continued to hurt me.
After riding this crazy ride for over forty years, I decided I could no longer afford to allow such people to remain in my life. My health began to suffer. I became mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically ill. There was no serenity, no peace, and no rest from the constant upheaval of their lives and their own misery. I found myself not only alone, but extremely unhappy, and surrounded by people whose love was conditional. As long as I acted the way they expected me to act and did what they expected me to do—I was allowed the small crumbs of love and affection they had to offer.
Like a homeless person on the street who hasn’t had a decent meal in weeks and is famished, I gobbled up the paltry servings of “love” these individuals had to offer. I “toed the line” so I could get the small scraps of their company or attention. On their terms, I barely eked out an existence of survival in a lonely world.
One day, I decided I had to do something different or that big heart I was born with would either turn to stone or would finally break into so many pieces it could never be repaired.
And so began the journey to love myself.
I began to write, at the prompting of my counselor, that blessed man named Lt. Schumacher. He said I had to write my life story and figure out the origin of my propensity to be unkind to myself and to allow others to do the same. He said I had to learn to love and forgive them, but more important, myself. I could no longer allow others to hold anything over my head by making me feel guilty for setting any kind of boundaries (which of course, until that time, I had done very little of) and writing would help me figure out not only who I was, but what I wanted out of life, and what I was willing to do and not do to achieve my goals.
It took a lot of hard work but I finally learned that I still had a desire to love others unconditionally and utilize this heart of mine for good. However, I also learned that there are many people in this world who do not want others to take care of themselves, because when that happens, they have to own their own shit. Therefore, I had to apply these four principles to my life if I wanted to be happy:
- Others have to do something about their own life if they want it to get better; it’s not my job. I’m not the reason for their unhappiness. I will no longer be the SCAPEGOAT.
- I have to let them go if they continue to expect my participation in their misery and pain. It’s not my job to make them happy by sharing their unhappiness.
- Only those who love me unconditionally get a seat at my table of love. That doesn’t mean I don’t love them, it means I won’t allow them to keep me in their toxic mess of a life. I can love them from afar without letting them dump their poison into my water supply, thereby choking and killing anything good I have. I will keep my world free of drama.
- For those who really love me unconditionally, they will come back to me a different person and we can enjoy our time on this earth together. For those who do not, it’s their loss.
I realize this seems daunting, especially if you have never set boundaries with others and you have continued to allow them to dictate your life by negatively affecting your happiness, success, serenity, other relationships or self-esteem. However, if I could do it, anyone can.
Unfortunately, some of the toxic people in our lives are our own flesh and blood. I have had to distance myself from people I love dearly in order to protect my heart and maintain my own peace and sense of self. This is not selfish. It is necessary. If I were to allow those people to wreak havoc in my life as they use to, I may not have been here to write this. I certainly wouldn’t have the self-awareness I now have about being responsible for one’s own happiness and letting others be responsible for theirs. I have to clean my own house. They have to clean their own.
My heart is enormous and when I love I love deep. Once you walk all over it, stomp on it, break it or abuse it, (or you continually expect me to allow someone to do this to me for the sake of keeping an unhealthy relationship with them), I will have to make that ultimate decision to protect myself once and for all. I don’t have the tolerance for bullshit anymore. I guess I’m too old and cranky and impatient, but my experience tells me that if someone will purposely hurt you more than once, they are not to be trusted. I don’t have time for it anymore. Too much of my life has been wasted allowing others to steal my happiness.
It’s that simple and that hard, but it has to be done.
February 24, 2015