I don’t understand…

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I don’t understand. That’s the phrase I’ve most wanted to say since my relationship break up a little under a year ago. I don’t understand why he left me. I don’t understand some of the ways he behaved that left me feeling insignificant and unimportant. I don’t understand where the man I loved disappeared to – how those big, soft brown eyes that made me melt each time I looked into them, turned to stone. I don’t understand how someone can just up and leave, moving to another country without even a second thought for me and the many important times we shared. I don’t understand how I am the one left still hurting and in recovery and how he came out of this unscarred and with a fresh new life to start…it’s as if our time together never happened. I don’t understand any of this…and yet I have realised the words I’ve uttered most have been ‘I understand’, ‘I get it’ and ‘it’s okay’. It was almost as if stupidly I thought that by showing my understanding and compassion he would finally realise what he was letting go of.

But how can I understand a person who goes from seemingly deeply in love with someone to ice cold and mechanical? The logical side of me tells me it didn’t just happen overnight but when I think back, trying to wrack my brains for the clear signs I missed, I just cannot find them. So tell me, how on earth am I supposed to understand something that is just so alien to me? A way of being that no matter how hard I scour the text books and articles, I cannot find an explanation that gives me peace and takes away my deep pain. Most days I still look at my phone, annoyed that yet another day has passed and he doesn’t give a shit about me. I try to take comfort in the fact that at least now I manage to keep my dignity and not let my hurt and disappointment pour out and onto him. I am wise enough to know when a battle has been lost but the sad fact of the matter is that while he is saved the fight, I carry on my own internal battle every day. But at least finally, I have found a way to live with it – something I thought in the beginning I’d find impossible to do. The earth shattering pain I felt at the start has dulled it’s intensity… but I fear it will be something I’ll carry now forever.

For a while I even tried being like him – shutting off and trying to erase our time together from my head. Even now I keep trying ways to turn off my feelings or to focus on something else. Throw myself into work, take up running, go out partying…I even tried counselling because I was convinced through his coldness that I was the weird one for feeling so broken and lost. Normal, mature people apparently just turn feelings on and off like a tap and weak people like me are just slaves to emotion. But despite my efforts, it hasn’t worked and I am not ‘over it’…or else it’s taking much longer than expected. I like to think the latter since I am well out of options to try.

So why am I writing this? I don’t really know is the honest answer but this evening I just felt the pull towards my notebook. I guess I realised that since I met him, my writing passion has been dulled and I really really want to get it back. There are so many things I want back – including my full, unhardened heart. This is the start of my writing recovery so please, if you are taking time to read this, accept my apologies for the lack of coherency and flow…one day soon I will get it back.

I suppose writing is a pastime that inevitably leads to facing feelings, accepting them and painstakingly working through them. For so long I was being told directly and indirectly that allowing emotions and feelings through was somehow wrong or weak. But I so badly want to get ‘me’ back and I eventually want to feel proud for being a passionate fierce-loving woman who feels things deeply and intensely rather than the shame and annoyance I have running through me at the moment. My heart tells me to be proud of loving someone so fully and unconditionally but my head says I just learnt a hard lesson and I must try to avoid the same experience again at all costs. Usually my heart wins out in the long run so I guess I just have to wait it out and keep rumbling on with the ebbs and flows of hurt a while longer.

So something (despite my writing hiatus) I still really want to do is to finish with some thoughts about what I’ve learnt so I can at least feel that something from this experience will serve to make me a better person (plus a blog post for me just doesn’t feel right without it!)…

  1. It’s okay not to be okay – nearly a year on from a completely broken heart and I’m still not okay (despite what I’ll tell most of the world). People will often tell you the usual accepted timescale for these things but the reality is we all do things at our own pace. The guy who broke my heart was over it within a matter of weeks but for me it may take a year or longer – does that make me weaker or less resilient? I like to think not – just a sensitive soul who connects deeply
  2. Just keep trying different things, something will stick – when you’re feeling low and miserable we tend to think of our usual ‘feel good’ go-to’s to pick us back up again. For example with me, that used to be writing but for a while there it just didn’t work. There are so many things in this world to try, the one thing I’ve learnt throughout a tough year has been to just keep trying – sometimes it’s the weirdest things that help to distract you for a bit or ease the pain
  3. Not everything has an answer, resolution or explanation – I’m not sure I’ll ever understand my relationship break down and the seemingly cold and clinical approach my ex took to moving on…and I just have to find a way to accept that. Some things in life don’t end neatly or with clear reasons why and if we keep chasing after an explanation that may never come, we can end up holding on to pain for longer than is necessary.

Bottom line…our journeys are all different and happen at different paces. If you’re going through something tough right now, try to keep some faith (like I’m trying to do!) that this will come to pass – even if it does take much longer than you wanted! Keep on keepin’ on lovely people 🙂

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Good girl gone bad?

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People are good or they are bad. Is it really so simple? People throw judgments like these around every day, reaching a decision based upon the information they have to hand at that point.

You have a bad run at work, all of a sudden you’re a bad worker. You let down a loved one, all of a sudden you’re a bad person. Sometimes it surprises me how few people are willing to stop, think and perhaps ask more questions about a situation before reaching a judgment. I liken this to going to the gym – it can take you months (perhaps even years!) to build up your fitness levels and just days or weeks for it to disappear. Is it the same when it comes to our characters?

Before I go further, it’s worth saying that I know we as humans are programmed to make judgments, if we did not then decision making would be nigh on impossible. But something I’ve noticed recently is that the weighting given to a person’s ‘good’ behaviours and ‘bad’ behaviours seems off – it strikes me that to be ‘good’ you have to work bloody hard but to be considered ‘bad’ it can take just one or two actions. If this were illustrated in pictorial form it would look like a set of scales with one side having a huge pile and the other just a smattering…but the scales tip in favour of the lighter side.

I suppose all of this could just be put down to differences in perspective. For example, I know lots of people really value consistency and a meeting of expectations so when you do something(s) that goes against this, it results in feelings of disappointment and frustration. My own perspective is slightly different…I have always found the dark and light in people fascinating – it is part of what makes them beautiful. When someone is their imperfect self, the more real and raw they are being. It isn’t to say they can go around being awful, disrespectful or anything like that but rather I can forgive a relatively high degree of undesirable behaviour because I believe that it indicates something deeper is going on. Perhaps it’s my psychologist’s mind at play 😉 But… I am yet to find many people who will allow me the same understanding. How many people do you know who would still be standing there even in your darkest moments when you are not yourself? And not just standing there but holding your hand and telling you how okay it is to be imperfect.

Sometimes a few tough times come along and they really shake you one after the other, to the point where you can question who you are, what you stand for and why you bother trying so hard. When these things happen, of course you won’t be the same person for a while. But does that mean that you’ve somehow fallen from grace because you’re being selfish, moaning a bit or being sad? Are you no longer valuable for all the times you were at your best? Are you less strong because you can’t always find the strength to put on a brave face? And the big one that kept coming up…Are you destined to be alone because you can’t always project the people pleasing version of yourself?

These are all questions that run through the mind when those around you appear not to really ‘get’ it and / or don’t want to. I am thankful to say that for me personally, I’m coming through the other side of some dark times but I wanted to write this blog anyway to pose some questions that I think we can all reflect on a little more in a society where mental health issues are on the rise: am I being fair in my judgement of this person that I care about? Am I looking at the whole picture of who they are or just reacting to this snapshot of a time when they are acting in a hurtful way? How can I gather more information about what’s going on before I react? These questions I believe can help us to be better and more compassionate managers, friends, partners and people.

Before I finish up with the usual key reflections, I do want to emphasise that by trying to take a more forgiving stance on ‘bad’ behaviour I am not excusing sustained and repetitive hurtful interactions or cases where you have to sacrifice your own well-being long term to take account of the bad sides of someone you care about. Rather, this blog is about those people where if you were to take a step back and weigh up of the time you’ve known them, the main of it has been positive and good but there have been some times recently where this has taken a hit or something has happened that shocked or saddened you about them. We all have the right to be respected and treated well but sometimes it just isn’t possible for people to be the person we want them to be 24 hours a day for the rest of our lives.

So, in reflecting on all of this here’s three things I personally have learned:

  1. Behaviours are usually indicative of something deeper – ask more questions. More often than not, we judge behaviours because these are the tangible things that are obvious to us. Someone behaves in a certain way therefore it must mean XY or Z. But in many situations people behave in a particular way because they can’t or don’t want to verbalise whatever is going on in their head. Taking someone to one side and reflecting back in a kind way what you’ve seen and asking whether there’s anything they want to talk about could be all it takes to fully understand the situation.
  1. Be honest but be kind. Most people welcome some honesty from those they care about but the way in which it’s delivered is absolutely key. Generally people push back and / or defend against honesty delivered in a cruel or uncaring way but will react better to honesty they perceive to come from a place of caring and support.
  1. Take a step back, if you must judge someone then do it fairly. Have you got all the information you need in order to make the judgement you’ve made? We very often have a tendency to judge first and then seek out information to back it up – to affirm that we’re right. Try to fight against the natural inclination and approach it the other way around – gather more information through questioning and then make your judgement about what’s going on.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t profess to get it right all of the time and I’m well aware of how difficult it is to press ‘pause’ and gather information when you’ve been hurt, let down or disappointed by someone. But the conclusion I’ve drawn is that if it leads to the end result of a salvaged professional or personal relationship, it is well worth trying.

Plenty of people will say that they appreciate you for all of your sides – good, bad and ugly – because they know it’s the right thing to say. But how many remain by your side when you really go through something deep, dark and soul shattering? That is the true test of strength in a relationship and if you are lucky enough to find that kind of a friend, lover or colleague then hold onto them for dear life 🙂

“The imperfections of a person, their frailties, their faults, are just as important as their virtues. You can’t separate them. They’re wedded.” Henry Miller