It was over 30 years ago when I sat with a priest and explained an extremely toxic relationship and why it was my responsibility to remain in the relationship. Among his many pearls of wisdom and food for thought was this… “God says to love everyone. He did not say you have to like them. And you can love others while protecting yourself from harm they want to inflict upon you.”
I didn’t understand at the time that he was teaching me about healthy boundaries but I did understand that for the first time in my life, I felt the power of freedom and choice. It was like a door cracked open and I discovered that it wasn’t my responsibility to love someone and remain in relationship with them no matter the toll on my personal being but rather to love myself and remain in only those relationships that served my highest good.
When I shared this priest’s words with my Mother, even she understood. And I say “even” because to her, this was an important relationship for me to keep. Of course I had never shared with her the extent of it’s toxic nature – the person I was in relationship with, like me, belonged to her and she just needed us to get along.
Ten years ago I ended a friendship with someone. We had been friends for most of our lives and most of the time was tumultuous at best; filled with jealousy, comparisons, hurt, and anger. While I loved my friend and understood her behaviors, I was no longer hooked and willing to engage in arguments and heated debates. I no longer experienced joy in her company and realized that energetically, we were no longer aligned. I still loved her, but I couldn’t be around her. I don’t remember exactly what I said to end the friendship. I know that my intent was to be kind and loving. But can any of us receive kindness and love when we are feeling rejected? It was a painful conversation for us both but I remember walking away from the conversation feeling lighter, freer, and grounded in the knowing that I’d made the right choice.
If it weren’t for another friend of ours, that would have been that. Chances are slim we would ever run into one another. I think of her sometimes – the good times and the bad times – and I’ve forgiven myself and her for the pain and suffering we caused one another as teenagers and adults. Since the day I ended the relationship, I’ve never experienced regret or a desire to rekindle the friendship. It hasn’t been the same for her though and through our mutual friend, she has reached out over the years; each time I’ve replied that while I wished her only love, I had no desire to develop a relationship.
She reached out again this past week through our mutual friend. She learned I was going to be in Atlanta and wanted the three of us to get together. When the idea was first presented, I replied that I didn’t want to share my time with her. I’ve missed our mutual friend a great deal and this is the first time I’ve been able to spend a few days/nights with her. I really didn’t want the distraction of the other person. But the text kept coming, “What about dinner this day?” “What if we go visit her at her house?” “What if?”
As is usual for me, I began to second guess and analyze my feelings. What if became a question I asked myself…. “What if I’m being a bad person?” “What if I’m hooked into my story and not willing to get out of the story to see the soul?” “What if this relationship can heal?” None of this felt right as I felt firmly grounded in the peace of letting go but all of these what ifs made me wonder if I was in denial…
I finally “gave in” (yes, that is exactly the energy I experienced) and agreed to see this person but only on a specific day and specific time. I sent her an email and secretly hoped she would be unavailable. But she wasn’t – she agreed! She was happy and our mutual friend was happy. And I was sick to my stomach.
I began to wonder why we were visiting with one another. What was my intention – why did I agree to do something I didn’t want to do?
I didn’t want to talk to anyone about the issue because I didn’t want to get into the story. I know what my story is and I also know that it’s no longer the story but rather my personal feeling and intuition that has surrendered and acknowledged that the relationship is not good for me – that I didn’t want it then and don’t want it now. I also knew that my truth was I did not want this visit – it’s not where I wanted to focus my energy – I had agreed to something I really didn’t want and on some level, I felt bullied into doing it. [I only just now realized I felt bullied… Our friend’s best intentions can feel like bullying if we are being asked over and over to change our no to a yes. And while I know our mutual friend had no intention of bullying and even said she didn’t want me to feel obligated, I felt bullied. And that was the energy I was feeling every time I was asked again to meet with the other person]….that was the lesson for me to learn.
I’ve had a horrible week of sleep – or lack of sleep – and this issue has been on my mind. The thoughts are not about the person who wants to meet with me but rather why I agreed to something that I don’t want to do. I clarify this because none of this is about the other person – it is all about me and my reaction and choices. That said, I often ask myself why she tries so hard to force a relationship with me. I doubt she does this with her former boyfriends or husbands – ten years after a relationship has ended. And it occurred to me that ten years ago, when I ended our friendship, she thought I just quit speaking to her. The way we would quit speaking to one another in junior high or high school.
With this new insight I realized that my intention to see her again was to end the relationship again. And it made no sense to me to do that. So I did what I often do when I can’t make a choice that feels right; I sat down with my Enchanted Map cards and asked the question,”How do I make the right choice for this situation?” I received the following card…
EDUCATION – “Wisdom comes from participating in life, not just reading about it. This card suggests that you might not have enough knowledge about what you seek, the direction to take, your circumstances, or the nature of your inquiry. Important information is coming. Now is the time to go to school, ask a person who might know more than you do, or find a teacher or course of study so that you can more clearly understand what the next right action must be….Sometimes life unexpectedly sends you to an unfamiliar school, and you must learn by experience. Now is a time to be teachable, open to changing your preconceived notions. Be a student and be willing to state the most powerful mantra of all: “I don’t know — yet.”
Well the Universe and these cards surely have a sense of humor! I was grounded in not discussing this with anyone and here I’m being guided to seek a teacher outside myself. I thought about a couple of people I could talk to and then one of those people texted to see if I wanted company. Friends are like that…they just show up!
In sharing the situation with my friend it became clear that I was second-guessing my clear intentions and intuition. She was able to point out the palpable shift in my energy when I talked about what I knew for sure and what I was doubting. We stayed out of the story of the past and focused only on my present feelings. She was nonjudgmental, compassionate, and supportive. She held space for me to reach my own conclusion and when I told her I needed to send an email right that moment to take back my agreement, she totally understood.
I wrote an email and stated I couldn’t meet the person after all. I gave no explanation – no apology. I wasn’t engaging in further discussion. I had made a decision. And when I clicked on send, I felt relief in my whole body.
I shared that I haven’t slept well this past week. Well last night I couldn’t stay awake and I slept for over 11 hours. I had a lot of dreams and I woke up feeling refreshed and excited about my upcoming trip. The weight of my experience showed up in a two pound weight gain. But today I feel lighter. I am at peace.