"Losing an illusion makes you wiser than finding a truth."
These last three years have seen a lot of change in my life. Not in large, substantial ways like losing a job, moving, or some other proverbial boulder-in-the-pond. Change has come in small things. I often like to say that a large door swings on a small hinge. It is the collection of small hinges that have brought about large changes.
My last several posts have kind of been downers. It's not an intentional thing—other than an intent to keep myself honest in this space. But today, I'd like to think this post is a happier one. I feel like a "happier one."
I've tried to govern my life by a strict sense of rightness. Be kind. Consider another person's feelings. Say good things. Be polite. Use good manners. Keep a tight rein on anger. Go away to cool off. Think it through. Speak diplomatically. And so on. Am I perfect in those things? I'd laugh but you can't hear it through the internet. Many times, I've done the opposite of those things. But when I do, I try to fix it. I ask forgiveness. (I'm a compulsive apologizer.) I work harder the next time to not behave badly. It doesn't mean I'm always successful, but I strive.
But in my desire to be a kinder, more thoughtful person, I forgot that I still have a choice. Kindness doesn't mean being a doormat. Kindness doesn't mean staying in unhealthy relationships. Kindness doesn't mean not being kind to yourself. For years, I let myself be treated badly because I thought I was being a kind person by letting it slide and letting it be okay.
And then something happened in one of those unhealthy relationships three years ago. Things got ugly. Things got rough. My heart was torn open in a way I never knew it could be. I didn't know how I'd make it through. And part of it stemmed from me "trying to be kind."
But time passed and I survived it. The adage "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger" is ridiculously true. I didn't die and I came out stronger. I came out with the knowledge that I had a choice. I could choose to beg my way back into an unhealthy place to smooth things over. Or I could choose to stand up for myself and say that it's never okay for someone to mistreat you just because they slap the label of "love" over it. Now, let me be clear, I don't claim to be wholly in the right in what happened. I make more than my fair share of mistakes. But neither was I wholly in the wrong.
From that hard experience, I learned things. I learned that I got to choose how deep I jumped in. I learned that I got to draw my own lines. I learned that sometimes saying "No" is a really good thing. Learning those things was great—but learning them didn't immediately translate into practicing them.
Another thing I learned is that change is a hard, hard thing. Hard for me. Hard for people in my life. Hard in general. Resistance is an ugly beast and it will shove you up against the wall and slap you around if you let it. And you can't let up on Resistance or it slaps you around a lot worse than it did before.
I backslid several times before I learned that I was strong enough to hold firm. I backslid a little less when I started pushing against Resistance and telling it exactly where to go. And I'm reaching that place where I'm the one moving forward. And I have to say, it feels so freaking good. It feels good to say, "It's okay to want something." It feels good to say, "I matter, too." It feels good to say, "I get to choose!"
There's a cost for change, though. There's the price of people who don't like change, which can lead to severed ties. There's the price of having to peel back the curtain of what I thought "was" and having to see plainly what "is." There's the price of balancing change against itself and not losing what was good in the first place—and accepting the consequences when I do lose the good. Sometimes I'm in debt. Sometimes my cup runneth over.
These small hinges have closed some doors. Some have swung a little and settled into wider and narrower doorways. And some hinges have opened new doors entirely. What I'm learning right now is that it is my choice which doorways I will walk through and which pathways I will travel.
And right now, that makes me very, very happy.