Winning in Small and Slow Ways

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katrinehnoerContinuing the year-long desire to use quotes to scavenge my own heart and mind I will use this quote for this post:

“If you walked away from a toxic, negative, abusive, one-sided, dead-end low vibrational relationship or friendship – you won.” Lalah Delia

Yesterday was the first day of a new year, a new decade. I didn’t try to stay up until midnight to welcome the new because I believe it is the morning light on the new that truly represents a change. I don’t believe that staying up to midnight signifies a change – except in my own sleeping habits – and I don’t believe that change in the new day like eating certain foods or changing myself, calling it a resolution, is vitally important. I believe that if you wait for a single day each year to change you are missing the whole point; we are humans and have the capacity and ability to change ourselves any day of the year. Waiting for one day just isn’t my thing. My thing is trying desperately to look inside of my own self each and every day and permanently try and change. To me, it just seems smarter. I am not perfect, and until the day I actually achieve perfection, I shall try to change and make myself better in any small way that I can.

The other thing about change is that you can’t do it for anyone else. This is told to us in movies, books, quotes, blogs, etc. etc. But it is a truth that should be stated often. You can’t change for the boy that you hope to love. You can’t change for the child you want to show greatness to. You can’t change to hold a friendship. You can’t change to impress your cat. You can’t change for any one thing or any one person except for yourself. It is an easy idea to state but understanding the reasons is a little more tricky.

Most people will tell you that you can only change for yourself because that is the only way it will work. I don’t believe this. I think trying to change for a lover is perfectly attainable just maybe not preferable. Some people will tell you that you can only change for yourself because you are the only one who has to live with yourself. Again, not a bad idea really but how many of us live with ourselves; I personally have no idea all the facets that I can show to a crowd as my crowning self. Some will say change is gonna happen whether you like it or not; I say only if you order blue cheese dressing instead of ranch. Some will say that change is hard. I say, so is staying in one place and falling over because all the blood has rushed to your feet. Change is complicated.

Change sometimes is a glaring spotlight that shows us where we have been and where we are going. Change is sometimes a slow and quiet breeze that touches our faces like a  thousand kisses. Change is sometimes jarring and you spend an incredible amount of time and energy trying to find your equilibrium. Change sometimes shows you the perfection you can’t see. And sometimes change is only noticed by those around us who dare to look into our eyes and find not just the change but the truth. Sometimes change is a truth that isn’t easily hidden but rather written on our bodies, our faces, even our waistlines. Change is not defined by a person, a dictionary, or even the feelings that are left behind.

On the first day of this new year my husband made an observation about me. Like any good husband he knows very well that pointing out any aspect of my self is a risk that could backfire and cause a dive in the very real emotional pool that I swim daily in. He can point out something small that causes me to withdraw into myself while I try to define what he truly is trying to say. He can point out something small and I will rejoice that he noticed something so insignificant. It really is a gamble for the poor man. But what he said on the first day of this new year is the same thing that my doctor has been saying for weeks: something is better; something has made me better.

I worry about hearing these words, just as much as I worry about writing them. Will I jinx this great little thing that has changed inside of me? Will I create the opposite understanding by even acknowledging something about myself? Will I destroy myself because the idea of keeping up this new and shiny difference that those closest to me have pointed out is more work than I wish to maintain? I am a person who will destroy myself just to prove others wrong. I am a person who gets extremely nervous when the truth is spoken because I fear that the realization of others, the notice of others, simply isn’t something I can keep together. I am a person who works to keep things together and most often fails spectacularly. I am a person who sits in a dark corner so that no one can show me as something I may not actually be. This is a defining part of myself that I can’t seem to change no matter how much I truly wish it was different; I am a defeatist. I am a cut-her-down. I am a person who has lost her optimism so long ago I don’t even remember the feeling.

But both my husband and my doctor did point out that I have changed. They pointed out that I seem happier or maybe just more put together. They pointed out that the normal patterns my life has fallen into these last years seem to have changed. And all three of us know exactly why.

You see I have always been drawn to toxic people. I have always tried to save the world even when the world didn’t need saving. I have always tried to change the world when it didn’t want to be changed. And doing this, whether it is by babysitting a child because I wanted to know if they were okay, or saying yes to my family drama because someone along the way taught me that family is most important, I have destroyed parts of myself. I am the yes person in the group and always have been; despite the toll it has taken and the heartbreak it has easily absorbed. I am the girl that people want in their lives not because of what I bring to the table but because I will always be the one who sets your table for you. I will always give more of myself than is healthy.

But this year I turned a big “0” number. And I realized an amazing thing. I am an adult.

This may seem a strange thing to think of one self but I am a little strange. It has never mattered, until last year, if I was physically an adult because I couldn’t see it. It has never mattered, until last year, if the world, the federal government, and my children thought I was an adult, I didn’t. But sometime last year I changed and begun realizing that I was an adult. And there was one thing that adults could do that I never had: they could say no.

Saying no isn’t easy for me; read above. Saying no isn’t something that comes natural to me no matter how old I am. But last year for the first time I wanted to say no. Not for my kids, not for my husband, not for my doctor but for me. I wanted to say no because I wanted to say no. Selfish maybe, but very, very healthy.

I wanted to say no to organized family gatherings because I hate them. I wanted to say no to shopping trips that had no purpose but to bore me. I wanted to say no to traditions that weren’t traditions to me. I wanted to say no to being put down, looked down upon, and continually hurt by the very people my family has always defined as important: themselves. I could never quite reconcile how I was supposed to love a family (as they ordered me to) but not have any joy in that love. I couldn’t figure out how to love a family that showed me no love. I could reconcile how those who were supposed to be loving and kind couldn’t show me that same kindness. It was always a one way street; me giving and they destroying. And I am not being ridiculous when I use the word destroy. What my family does to me is criminal. And it continues whether I am going to a fancy play or a family night of pizza.

But I am finally feeling like an adult, so for the first time in my life I said no. The first no was rather hard I must confess. It actually kind of sucked because I didn’t and have never wanted to be the kind of person who says no. But half way through this last year it was the only thing I knew I could finally do; I could finally say no. I walked away from all family events and so-called family traditions and my husband and doctor noticed. I should clarify: they didn’t really notice all that I had walked away from, only I could see that, but they did notice a change in me that was slowly and surely making itself known. This walking away from toxic people was not easy; but it may have been necessary. And while my Christmas present this year was so much less than what everyone else got, I can live with that trade.

Change isn’t easy and it shouldn’t be exercised on one day. But if you can get past all the guilt, the fear, the sadness and find in yourself the strength to acknowledge that maybe the change was good, I think you will find yourself opening doors in your heart that give you more room to breathe. Or maybe, change means you will only spend money on a gym membership that by March you will forget you have. Your change isn’t mine and my change can’t be yours. But here’s to the strength we all have to find a way to give ourselves a moment of resolution.