A New Life: To Realize, Revitalize, & Plant
"The answer is within me."
I have a friend who pretty much disappears whenever she’s experiences a major crisis or loss. She just goes “invisible”.
Here's the backstory: I met her at work and we developed a strong friendship over the years as we navigated the “ins and outs” of the company operations and politics. We were dealing with all that along with balancing life as a working parent and trying to cultivate a romantic marriage. We bonded over these areas of our lives. She was my “go to” whenever I was overwhelmed and I automatically expected to be hers.
When she was stressed, I thought she would reach out for support. I waited for her to "lean" on me, but then she simply did not. A lost promotion alongside a personal loss left her crying at the end of the workday, about a block away from the office. I happened upon her on my walk home. I knocked on the car window and she lifted her head from the steering wheel.
When she rolled her window down, I anxiously blurted out, "What’s wrong?" expecting her to fill me in on what was happening. But she didn't. Instead, she said calmly, "Oh, I'm just tired, sorry. I didn't mean to scare you." I could see her eyes watering and flushed face. I knew it was more that.
I knew she had lost that promotion and she was going through a difficult time. I was surprised by her answer, but respected her "boundary". I told her I was glad that she was okay and after a short chat decided to head home. My daily walk home gave me time to relax after a stressful day. I spent the rest of my walk home worrying about her.
Over the next few weeks she grew quieter and quieter. She was always "busy and not up for this or that." Whenever I tried texting her how she was feeling, she'd text back "Under the weather". Then she stopped responding to my texts altogether. I wanted to be there for her like she had been there for me but she wouldn't let me. I didn't know how to help her at that point.
I was trying to be empathetic and then I started to feel sympathetic. After a while, I started feeling angry. Why wouldn't she let me be there for her? Didn't she trust me? Didn't she know that she'd feel much better having friends around to lean on? I started to believe our friendship was not what I thought it was.
I even told myself "I should step back, let it be, and look for a new best friend."
I almost ruined that relationship but my best friend stopped me from doing that. I finally met up with her and told her exactly how I was feeling. She then told me exactly how she was feeling, which wasn't what I was expecting at all. "First off", she said, "how I handle my loss or perceived loss (according to you) is my choice. After all these things happened to me - not you. And while I appreciate your concern, what I am hearing is that your greatest concern is you. How you feel, what you need me to do and what you are planning to do if I don't do what you want."
Her simple explanation has stayed with me since then. In fact, I use parts of it myself when I experience changes and challenges. More importantly, I step back now and let her be. I know that she knows what is best for her own life and will "return" once she is ready.
I will always remember what she taught me: "The three key things that help me the most whenever I feel bad about myself, or a situation that I am in are:
1) I stop referring to these events as "crises” because they are life events that I realize almost everyone experiences. Now I call these experiences “life events.” These “life events” are sometimes surprising, disappointing, or delightful. When I am in the middle of a “life event”, my productivity goes down due to stress even if I’m making a good change in my life. During these times, I try to stay organized and productive so that I am able to make a smooth transition. It isn’t always easy.
2) I rest and revitalize. I literally step back from everything to rest. I disengage from discussion, media, and conversations happening around me. I do this so that I can clear my mind, sort out the situation, and brush away the "debris". Journaling helped me with this.
"What debris", I asked her. I wasn't sure if I was a part of that. "You know broken pieces of dreams, relationships, stuff like that". she responded. "Oh", I said wanting to hear what the “last thing" on her list was.
3) "I “plant.” That means I search within myself thinking through each step of the situation. I create a stronger plan for the future and set up boundaries in order to protect my peace. I try to do this each time and I do it in a better and healthier way. I need a lot of time, space, and rest to start this process without outside opinions or advice"
She stared at me, blank-faced and I knew then that what she was doing made sense.
“The answer is within me."
This process will help me reflect on these three key things for the next "life challenge" I face.
As for my best friend, I apologized and let her know that going forward, I'd respect that important boundary she communicated to me. I thanked her for helping me to think about how taking
time away from everyone can be the beginning of clarity.
Now I realize that each individual experiences challenges, and changes in their lives differently. In order to provide them with support as a best friend, colleague, or neighbor, it is essential to take time to listen - not only to what is wanted, but what needed.
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