In the last few months, I have learned that there are two different types of people – the ones that “show up” for you, and the ones that don’t.
In my experience, I have always given people the benefit of the doubt, and multiple opportunities to “show up” for me. And sadly, sometimes I have been let down. But it usually takes some time before I finally give up on them.
I like to believe in the goodness of people, which I guess is sort of weird, given my field of work and all the badness I see in child welfare. But even in the program I work, we are always trying to give the parents the benefit of the doubt, give them a chance and some help to make things right, to show up for their kids.
And just like people in my own life, sometimes these parents can get there, and sometimes they can’t.
For me, it always surprises me when people fail this. I am a pretty reasonable person. I don’t ask a ton from others (at least I don’t think I do) and I probably give more chances than most. And when people don’t show up, I take it personally, often wondering what I did to be left like that.
And like “that,” I mean feeling like I am naked and standing on a corner in the cold winter wind, shielded by nothing other than the thin veil of my expectations. As these last few months have passed, this thin veil has done little to protect me from the painful and biting cold winds of other’s flawed character. And each time the wind of flawed character blew, the chill went through me to the bone, and the veil whipped against my faith, self-esteem and heart. With each blast of cold, I prayed for the sun, a ray of hope to warm me and let me know all the waiting in the cold will pay off - that behind those winds stood a solid friend.
Now, it would have made sense to let go of that veil, but I kept holding onto it, hoping, I guess, that it would turn into something more substantial. It never did.
But oddly, as that veil of failed expectation whipped against my body with each harsh wind of other’s let-downs, my shivering body became slowly wrapped in the feather down jacket of love, support, patience and goodness of my friends, boyfriend and family. With each positive relationship, another layer was added- a hat to protect my thoughts, gloves to protect my ability to give, and a wool sweater to protect all that is inside me. At some point, I realized that those winds were no longer able to penetrate me because I was shielded by the warmth of these new layers. And the only feeling better than that warmth is letting go of the anger of unfulfilled expectation and watching that veil fly away.
Because I know it’s not me. I know I am a good honest person who deserves to be surrounded by the same. And I am totally surrounded. It took me 31 years to figure it out, but I did. Finally.
And I have asked my family and friends, "But why did you not show me this jacket before?" And they responded, "You would not have taken it because you believed the wind would listen to you and stop blowing."
This does not mean that those winds have stopped blowing. No, in fact, those winds will always blow for as long as characters are flawed. With each new piece of information about the failed potential of others, or the “badness” of those who fail to show up, those winds will blow. And one of the harshest gusts blew this weekend, when the true character of "friend" finally swept my eyes open to the reality of what I had for so long tried to justify/ignore.
People are who they are. It is that simple.
But I am no longer vulnerable to the piercing pain of them. I am no longer surprised by the gusts, left shivering in their wakes, or left waiting for people to show up. Even with the new information about this person, I was more startled by the fact that I was not disappointed or even surprised by the news of the behavior.
Rather, I was shown - over and over - the goodness of the people that willingly show up. People willing to spend hours on the phone with me, travel hundreds of miles to be with me, spend time going to dinner with me, ride their trainer next to me, or wait while I hash out the the next two weeks of training.
And I am done being that emotionally naked in the cold. It's not necessary. Not with the life I have.
With Christmas upon us, and the literal frigid weather that Chicago brings with it, I am no longer afraid to leave the comfort of what was once so familiar and harmful, nor do I “brace” myself for the next harsh storm. Instead, I simply put on my new jacket, and all the other layers that my support system has given me, and open wide that front door.
At this moment, I am getting ready to leave for Kansas to spend my first Christmas away from my family. I am really very sad about this. But amazingly, I have packed all their support and well-wished in my suitcase, and will take them with me to show off to my new family (very excited about this!) in the form of my own character. After all, they made me who I am. With all this warmth, I can’t imagine there ever being another wind to make me so cold again.
So to my family, I love you for helping me zip up my jacket, to Cheese for tightening that scarf, and my friends for tying my boots. My post will never fully express how much I love you, and how truly grateful I am that my life is so full.
Here’s to the new year, and new clarity, and a new beginning.