Hi there I’d like you to accept me no matter what mood I’m in, please, and then go ahead and always be in the mood *I* want you to be in. KTHX.
It seems snooty when said aloud like that, but a lot of people unknowingly live this way. I did for a long time (and can still sometimes fall into that trap). I was unable to see that there were other issues in the world aside from my own. Too blinded by my own pain to understand that others were suffering even if they didn’t show it. Too weighed down by my issues to recognize that folks had their own shit going on.
This isn’t to say that I was a selfish asshole. Not at all. I was in pain, I was drowning in my pain, and I didn’t have much to give back. I was too busy frantically trying to survive. The alarms were going off in my head and I didn’t have space for other people’s issues.
I spent most days convincing myself to stay alive. Truly. It was a constant battle within myself. I was a fucking warrior for surviving. It’s hard to commend a friend on their diving skills when I’m desperately trying not to drown.
I know a lot of people in early recovery that are in that space, too. So overwhelmed by everything seeping into their awareness, all they can do is share about what they’re experiencing. It may not even pop in their head to ask how others are doing.
And that’s okay. It’s part of their process.
I’m learning to accept people where they are.
I’m also learning that it’s not my job to rescue people.
That’s the other end of the extreme that I swung to. Whenever I’d survive an emotional storm and start feeling calmer, I’d open myself to others who were struggling. I’d exhaust myself trying to help them. To “save” them.
Or I’d throw a bunch of unsolicited advice at them.
Or I’d get annoyed that they weren’t matching my cycle of ups and downs. I AM FEELING BETTER NOW AND IT IS TIME TO PLAY AND YOU ARE SAD UGH HOW INCONVENIENT.
All of those suck when on the receiving end, I’ve since learned. If I’m in a rough place and I talk to you about it and you’re like:
A. Here’s what you should do, or
B. Here’s some empty platitude that feels right to say here, or
C. Here’s a belittling comment about what you’re going through because I’m in a great space and don’t have room for your shit.
^^^ None of those feel great.
And… I’ve done all of those.
Thankfully I catch myself now when I get into those places. If I start exhausting myself trying to explain a situation to a person or offer a shit pile of advice or look down on them for what they’re experiencing, I can pause and go: “How would I want someone to treat me right now?” And, “What if I just met them where they are?”
If they ask me for advice, I can give it. But here’s the important part: I challenge myself to give it WITHOUT ATTACHMENT TO OUTCOME. As in, if they totally ignore the guidance I’ve given (most people do because we are stubborn and learn our own way), that’s okay. Putting pressure on a person to listen to what I’ve recommended and then taking it personally when they don’t do what *I* think they ought to do is a great way to put a wedge in a relationship.
There’s a lot of toxic positivity in spiritual communities. Cliche sayings like, “Stay positive!” and “I’ll pray for you!” and “Love and light!” Or – the one that really lights a fire within me – “Careful feeling the negative feelings; you’ll attract more of the same!”
I call it the Love and Light Brigade. And they can kindly fuck off with their spiritual bypassing lingo.
Did you know it’s okay to not be positive? That it’s okay to feel lousy, to feel angry, to feel jealous? Did you know you’re allowed to feel those things? That we signed up to feel all of the feels, even the uncomfortable ones?
Having compassion for myself – no matter what state I’m in – is allowing me to offer the same to those close to me. When my boyfriend has had a rough day, I’m able to catch myself if I start taking it personally. Even though he and I are super involved with one another, I still am a SMALL part of his overall life. He has way more going on than just our relationship.
And even if some of his frustration has to do with me? I can hold space for that, too.
It’s immensely freeing to let go of this sense of responsibility of other people’s feelings. Me trying to “make someone feel better” can oftentimes come across as, “Hey it’s not okay for you to feel what you’re feeling and I like you better when you’re happier.”
Allowance. Acceptance. Holding space.
I think THAT’S what we need more of. Less optimistic platitudes to change how people feel, less taking other people’s feelings personally, and less conditional love.
Let’s meet people where they are in the same way we want them to meet us.
Oh and – don’t get me wrong. I’m also not gonna’ let someone sit in their shit too long. I’ll be accepting and sweet, but if someone’s been in Sulktown for a while, I’ll lovingly call them on their shit. And I hope they’ll do the same for me.