Show Up, Be Present

PB and I had been friends since high school. In my minds-eye, we’d been friends for much longer. Except I can’t remember our history before that moment. My earliest memories of us together were the cheering squad in junior year and senior year.

We went to the same college and were inseparable during freshman and sophomore years there too.

Fast forward to our 30th high school reunion. By then, we were both moms of twin girls, she with 3 older sons and me with my oldest daughter, who she had visited in the hospital soon after I gave birth. Life had changed for both of us, but once again, we were joined at the hip.

Two years later, after celebrating another 30th reunion for another milestone, PB wanted me to show up to share her joy, our joy really at a birthday celebration for her beau. Unfortunately, after several “reunions” in a two-year span – while also experiencing one of the most confusing times in my life – I couldn’t. It’s been ten years, and we haven’t spoken since.

It wouldn’t have crossed my mind because I like to think I respect the boundaries of others. I would’ve continued believing it, too, If I hadn’t gone to sleep angry.

Earlier that evening, I’d commanded Dug, my grand-puppy-son, to respect my brother’s boundaries. Dug obeyed and left my brother alone. But I made the mistake of not respecting Dug’s boundaries and proceeded to move him along by picking him up. Dug helped me understand I, too, had overstepped by snarling and then nipping my hand. He didn’t hurt me. I told him all was forgiven, but I refused to speak to him for the rest of the evening and well into the morning. So, my subconscious went to work.

PB worked her way into my dream. I woke up with her on my mind. I immediately remembered how it felt when PB stopped speaking to me after I pushed her back from crossing my boundary. A boundary I didn’t know I erected years before.

I always thought wimps set boundaries. Seemed to me that one should evaluate every situation to determine its limits and go the distance if they decide.

In fact, I still do.

So imagine, to my surprise, learning I have set several boundaries that I didn’t acknowledge until today. What’s worse, I realized I will rarely go beyond those boundaries to show up for anyone. Yet, I have loving friends who show up for me in ways I will always treasure.

Recently, my not-so-humble oldest twin daughter reminded me they “turned out so well” because, as I once told my daughters, my friends cared for me when I was pregnant. They were also there for me throughout the girls’ formidable, I mean formative years. My friends were my girls’ “village.”

I reviewed my past behavior to see if I was theirs. From listening to my friends’ intimate accounts and stories, I noticed I show up when there’s a spiritual, emotional, sometimes a physical crisis, much like the village Shaman. And it has a lot to do with the boundaries I’ve set, possibly because of the trauma I’ve experienced.

Boundaries are like priorities that we’ve set for ourselves, whether socially-engineered or due to cultural programming. Further, these boundaries don’t necessarily protect us unless we know how we’ve acquired them. I’m not sure how or when I acquired my boundaries, but they’ve allowed me to show up in my career as well as in my personal life.

I heard a line from some show I was streaming; maybe Resident Alien or some Hallmark movie – and the character said, what she did for a living wasn’t who she was.

I disagree.

What we do professionally, we do personally, and vice versa. The same behavioral characteristics and skill set we possess appear in our professional lives.

If we take time to know ourselves, we’ll see who we are, and what we do is one and the same. No matter how hard we try to separate the two, it will inevitably come back to the same point.

Had I realized this ten years ago, possibly, I could have salvaged my relationship with PB?

But then again, boundaries also serve as a wall to prioritize and focus on what is important. Allowing us to show up and be fully present when we do.

Journaling: Out with the Cold

dangerminefieldI’d been stuck for a while, so I went deeper in myself to find the answer.  

Then on the last day of the 2016 Gregorian calendar, I had an epiphany. 

It arrived with nirvana as its companion.   It was short-lived.  

Freedom happens in the moments. 

But I digress. 

In 2013, I left my door open. I didn’t mean to leave it open.  I thought it was firmly shut to outsiders.  In fact, up until that time, I’d spent 5 years living among strangers who decided to live the transient, closed-door lifestyle too.  

When you open your door, others feel the warmth – they want to be near you. You know that saying, “She wears her heart on her sleeve” that saying is close to the truth.  When you’re open, outsiders, like scofflaws want to steal a ride on your beat.  Their own broken hearts can’t find the rhythm, so they follow yours. 

It would be alright if they wanted to dance, but they don’t know-how.

They invite you into their lives to share their stories.  You listen to their hurt, but they don’t hear themselves opening their wounds to you; instead of their heart.  

They don’t see they’ve survived a near-fatal moment that’s now behind them.  They rather keep the pain like a badge of honor instead of depositing into the annals of the human condition.  

“What doesn’t destroy you makes you stronger” (Nietzsche’s maxim -Twilight of the Idols) is what they believe. If they read the entire aphorism they would know it was is taken entirely out of context.  

Anyone who continually relives their own personal horror story surely will not be emboldened by it.   It’s just the opposite.  Reliving a challenging time is like going into a theatre watching a film, and when the lights turn up, you sit there.  Once the lights dim, you watch the movie again.  You know the outcome.  You see what happens. Sure, you may watch again because you think you have missed a few parts, but the ending never changes.   It never changes.   So, what does one gain reliving those moments?

Honor?     

A near-fatal experience doesn’t deserve a medal, nor should it be pinned to your chest in place of your broken heart.  

But they do not hear and continue to share what is now the soundtrack of their life – a cacophony of a shattering heart that served as force field keeping all others at a distance.

And I was becoming one of those people.

 About 13 days before the years’ end, I dreamt of the other half in my star-crossed love affair.   We walked down Court Street in the County of Kings with our arms forming a sideways cross on each other’s back.   Men were yelling at us from Columbia University’s dormitory.  (Trivia: I learned Columbia was initially King’s College by royal charter of King George II of England)

Ignoring all the distractions, we continued to walk down the road. I turned to him and said, “I love ya, kid,” and we continued our walk in the sunshine.

For almost two weeks, that dream haunted me.  I searched to find meaning.  Then on New Year’s Eve,  I was unstuck. 

Epiphany 

Shit Happens. Don’t immortalize it.

If we survive it, internalize what it is left;

LOVE