follow that white rabbit
and fuck what they say.
~Ann Marie Eleazer
We have to consciously study how to be tender with each other until it becomes a habit. ~audre Lorde
There will be people in our lives who when we meet them, we know that we are going down a rabbit hole and when we come back up, we will be forever changed. People who we know will break us further open, who will gently guide us back to our Self, who will inspire so much feeling within us that at times we feel we might burst.
If we are lucky we get to meet multiple people like this in our lifetimes. People who push us lovingly outside our comfort zones, people who, when we are around them, we want to push ourselves outside our comfort zones. People who, simply knowing them is truly an adventure. People who we feel alive with, free with, connected with, at peace with.
Sometimes these people will be in our lives for a very long time, decades, maybe even most of our lives. Sometimes these people will be in our lives for a very short time: a few hours, a day, a couple months. Sometimes it seems like these people show up exactly when we need them to, to get us through a very specific phase in our lives.
Sometimes these people are our Forever People and sometimes they aren’t.
Just because a person isn’t a Forever Person doesn’t make them a “bad” person. Sometimes relationships end not because harm has been done, rather because it is simply time for it to end. Because one person has grown into needing something different than what the other in the relationship can give and to stay would be to keep both people stuck and stagnant.
Letting go of these people who touch us so deeply, so intensely, who forever change us, is not an easy task. It is understandable that we want these people to stay forever. It makes sense that we try to cling to them, that we lose our minds a bit in the trying to somehow backtrack and change course “soon enough” for the inevitable to be avoided just a bit more.
It makes sense because our attachment wounds and complex trauma run deep. Because learning new ways of being, which includes new ways of grieving, can feel so uncomfortable and even at times overwhelming. Because we want the stability and relative safeness of things staying the same. Because while change is unavoidable, we humans sure do try to keep it at bay as long as possible.
All relationships have their ebbs and flows. Their expansions and contractions. Their beginnings and endings. Being able to move with these shifts is an act of courage and love. It is brave and loving to do differently, to break patterns and cycles that inevitably cause harm, to allow for the autonomy of the people in the relationship and that of the relationship itself.
What is most important, always, in all ways, is that we are able to stay true to who we are, to stay in our own integrity, to do our best to not cause harm and when we do to be accountable and do the work of repair.
Sometimes that looks like walking away or staying still while the other person walks away.
And whoa can that hurt like hell.
A thing is, when we try to force a relationship, any relationship, to be something it can’t be, we begin to lose our Self. We become so focused on the relationship and the other person that we lose sight of us. We allow fear of being alone, of having to meet new people, of change, to be in charge instead of sitting in the discomfort of grief and change and allowing space and time to consider how we, ourselves want to move forward.
Staying in relationships, or trying to keep a relationship, where both people aren’t fulfilled, aren’t having their wants and needs for the relationship met and respected, ultimately causes harm to ourselves and to the other person. It may not be intentional, and any time we to twist ourselves into someone we aren’t, anytime we comprise what is most important to us, anytime we expect the same of another person, we are causing harm. We are not allowing for growth, expansion. We are acting from fear and not from love.
When we are in the place of not having our needs or wants met in a relationship, I invite us to be curious. Have we asked for what we want or need? Have we communicated in a way the other person understands how important these things are for us? Have we checked in with the other person to see if their wants and needs are also being met? Have we heard the other person when they expressed their own wants and needs?
Have we stepped into our own vulnerability, sharing parts of our Self that feel scary to share? Have we allowed space for the other person to do so, without our judgement or comment?
Have we made assumptions without actually confirming with the other person? Have we set expectations that are unreachable? Have we made demands, trying to “force” the other person to our own will? Have they done similar?
It is true relationships ebb and flow, expand and contract, begin and end.
And endings don’t have to mean something is over completely. Endings can mean a new beginning, a shift, an opportunity for honest, open communication. More intimacy, more vulnerability.
And also, sometimes, endings do mean a thing is completely over.
The important thing, I believe, is that we remain curious. We remain honest, with ourselves and with the other person(s). We ask questions and we state our needs and wants and ask if the other person can meet them. We need to honor ourselves, recognize our wants and needs are valid, and not try to shrink ourselves in the name of not being alone.
And we need to allow space for those we are in relationship with to do the same.
This essay was originally written for my weeklyish newsletter on August 2, 2020. It has been edited for publication here. To receive my most recent essays, you can subscribe here.
We will be exploring these ideas, and how to change the ways we are in our relationships with others and with ourselves in my new six month group Trauma Informed Embodiment™ for Relationship. You can learn more about it here.