“By her sweetness, her warm and welcoming voice, her lovely manner, she not only attracted those who took away an ember from her, but so large a crowd gathered before her soulful fire that they blocked her from receiving any of its warmth.”
I found this quote while I was reading Women Who Run with the Wolves. It’s taken me nearly a year to get through the book, but it’s one of the best books I’ve read and I wish every man, woman, and child read it. Granted, it’s dense material. Lots of psychology, myths, and wisdom wrapped into one publication, and still it doesn’t even scratch the surface of femininity and identity. Yet, it is profound and moving and I finally find myself nearing its end when I stumbled across this passage.
It summed up my whole life.
These words were exactly the issue I have been dealing with since I was young. I spend so much time being all things to all people I don’t leave anything left at the end of the day for my husband or myself. I keep letting people take and wondering when the giving will start, only to find that all I attract are takers. The discouragement from this fact has been apparent to me for some time, but the more I understand it the more I’m seeking ways to fight it instead of believing that there is nothing I can do about it.
Last week I was speaking to my dad who was expressing his disappointment when I told him my husband’s boss wouldn’t give him off for Thanksgiving so I decided I needed to stay home with him instead of joining the rest of the family for Thanksgiving in MI. My father expressed how upset he was and how we had this planned for months and after he vented to me about it I just told him straight “I don’t care about pleasing you or your family. I’m not leaving him home alone for Thanksgiving.”
In the past I would have cried, torn between the love of my life and pleasing my own family. I would have experienced anxiety over rejection from either or both and spent sleepless night after sleepless night trying to make a decision about weather to stay or to go. I would have been heartbroken, disappointed, and depressed either way, because it meant someone had to lose out on my company.
That was an old me. A past me.
I still revert to that part of me from time to time, but this time I knew where my loyalty was. My husband would be far more hurt to be left alone. My father was going to see his own family with my mom, and I didn’t mind a quiet holiday at home. I didn’t mind not having to travel. I didn’t mind missing the drama.
So I stayed home. I honored my word. I honored my wish to be near my husband. I honored my husband’s wish for me to be near him, and while I did care that people were sad, I didn’t mind that I was going to be missed. I appreciated them for missing me, and I appreciated how much I missed them. But I refused to go into a place of takers without support, and I refused to leave my husband unsupported. I refused to be guilted. I refused to be taken from. To be stolen away.
I said no.
I wish it was that easy with friendships. I wish it was easy to tell people I’m not obligated to please them. I’m not obligated. That’s the reality of it. I’m not obligated to yet I find it so difficult to tell my friends no. But they aren’t like your family. Your family (assuming you have a good one) may not let you getaway with everything, but they will still love you. I know mine will. My friends on the other hand, can fully reject me and leave my life. Yes, I can argue that people like that are worth losing. That they’re toxic and shouldn’t be part of my life. Yet, the idea of experiencing the rejection from the other side, from the side of still wanting friendships and to care for them, is something I find myself fearing.
I think most people fear that though, I just wish it was easier to navigate. I wish I had answers on how to make it easier, but perhaps the point is it’s not easy. If growing means going through hard things, then it’s part of the process. To risk pain is just part of the process for growth and another step closer to finishing the story it becomes.