Relationship dynamics are complicated, this is not necessarily a revelation of insight. The truth remains that the more complex the relationship, the higher the emotionally stakes for all involved. When relationships have spanned decades, and you have an invested and inextricably linked history with someone (or someones) it can be difficult to pull the proverbial trigger on cutting ties with a toxic person. Like most people the start of a new year brings an intense need to be entirely altruistic about who I have in my life, what I want from my life, and how will I embrace every possibility the new year brings. I found myself asking a question, brought on by a series of events, that led me to a painful truth. A truth that I had danced around for years but was never brave enough to speak aloud, even to myself. My life was full of people who didn’t really love ME. I emphasize the ME because these people had shown love toward me, helped me, laughed with me, cried with me but inherently the teeter totter always plopped back down to the dirt of pain, division, and bitterness.
It’s hard when people who have been with you don’t really know you. They know you in the context of who they want you to be, how you make their lives easier, how you complement the areas of their weakness and build up the empty places in their lives. Yet, there is no reciprocity, in fact, the immediate default is to see the worst in you and speak the worst of you. Disagreements are par for the course anytime humanity bumps their life against another and yet, there are words that once spoken (or in some cases – often spoken) that leave a dirty and smeared fingerprint on the canvas of that relationship. Ugly words mean little to me when you compare it to ugly words from people who should only see the best in me. The tension that is created between the expectation of unrivaled love and love that is contingent on what you do for someone is a tight and painful space to navigate. Moreover, when you realize that what you want from them is clearly not something they are prepared or desire to give the decision to be made comes out of hiding, daring you to be brave enough to choose it.
When I asked myself, “What do you really want from this person?” my only response was that I wanted someone who was FOR ME. Not conditional, not as an obligation but someone who spoke of me and to me with kindness and light. Who listened as well as spoke, who respected me and never abused me, who honored me and never disparaged me. When I listed those wants and juxtaposed it against the people in my life the conclusion was clear. These people could not love me the way I needed to be and honestly deserved to be loved. The blame for this was not attributed to them, in fact, my first words after coming to this heart-stabbingly painful conclusion were that I was to blame. I had permitted behavior from people for the sake of not appearing cold or stand-offish to my own emotional detriment.
I drew the proverbial line in the sand, the one that dictates that I could no longer be someone’s stand in or substitute for the person or people they really wanted. I embraced the knowledge that love that is performance based is not healthy or, for me, desirous. That in my constant “doing” I was not “being” — honest, healthy, or authentic. The greatest sin was not laid at the feet of these play-actors that took up space in my life, but it was at my feet.
Love only adds it never subtracts. Real love means that even if my presence is not beneficial to you, it is still desired by you. True love has no split affections and rushes to your defense. True love never seeks to tear you down and climbs over itself to build you up. Love forgets anything negative it knows about you and chooses only to remember you as good, worthy, and deserving of love. Love never threatens or intimidates instead it sacrifices for you and honors the sacrifices you make of it. Love comes ready to find understanding not reveling in dissent. Love doesn’t snicker or gossip behind your back. Love doesn’t pick sides leaving you vulnerable and isolated. No, real love is as pure as the intake of air through slightly parted lips. It rushes to you, slipping into your empty places, filling every hollow spot, puffing you up and giving you life. That is love, and in this new year, I will not accept anything less than the genuine, truthful, authentic expression of it in my life. The truth is the first snip of the ties can be painful and at times feels like a petty game of cat and mouse. However, the fact is that toxicity must be eliminated in your life if at all possible. Blocking phone numbers and emails; distancing yourself from the source of your pain; becoming vocal about your need for space and respect are all good places to start. Know that it is a painful circumcision that hurts, I won’t misled you in hiding this truth, but that is ultimately the only path to emotional health. Just know that for every space you clear in your life there is someone waiting to give you the love you were always meant to have and receive. I hope that you will be brave enough to make the decision to choose Real Love, even if it hasn’t shown itself yet.