Relationship dynamics are so complex. It doesn’t matter which type of relationship you look at…romantic, friends, coworkers, family…there’s fragile framework in a lot of them. Sure, some are pretty rock solid, but as far as I can tell, many are like a house of cards. It can look nice, and be fun to participate in…but you’re always mindful and know that one misstep can make the roof collapse.
It’s funny how you can live in a house of cards your entire life, and not even realize it. Maybe you think everyone’s house is made of cards. Or maybe you know your house is made of cards, but you don’t want to let anyone else know about that shoddy construction. Or even more likely, you don’t want to admit to yourself that there’s just no real support around you. So, you tell yourself everything’s just fine. “This is SO normal”, you say, as you walk on eggshells, trying to keep everything in place.
OK, this analogy is getting away from me, sorry. It sounded so good in my head when I started. Let me switch gears here… some people create these little ecosystems of lives. Like Sandy Cheeks on Sponge Bob. She’s a squirrel living in the ocean. As a land animal, she needs to put her entire home in a bubble in order to survive…her own little ecosystem. Except Sandy is living there because she wants to enjoy life with her friends. The people I’m talking about, well…they create these ecosystems because they are hiding. Not so much from people, but from the truth. I’ll let you interpret the truth in any way you choose…the truth of a painful past, the truth about their insecurities, the truth about their guilt, the truth about toxic behavior, the truth about shame… pick whichever one suits your fancy. Or maybe they’re hiding from a toxic person. An abusive person. Or addiction, or abandonment, or neglect. Or past failures. For this conversation, let’s call the truth and/or the toxic person/environment “The volcano”. So, if you spend enough time in their ecosystem, you don’t even realize what’s going on isn’t normal, because everyone living in the bubble is acting just like you are…walking on eggshells to keep the volcano from erupting. Acting like it’s perfectly normal to live in this giant, explosive shadow. Or like it’s normal to live with shame and guilt. Or like it’s normal to live with abuse. Keeping the lid on the volcano becomes automatic. It’s a survival technique. No, it doesn’t always work…that sucker still blows it’s top from time to time, but if everyone tiptoes around enough, it settles down. Till the next time….
The trouble brews when you finally realize, “Hey, I’m thinking maybe this isn’t so normal, after all”. You take a step back, outside of the bubble, into the sun. At first, it’s too bright….so bright, it hurts. Because you’re used to living in the dark. Like living in a cave. It’s so much easier to hide in a cave. The dark corners can feel safe, although they are cold and lonely. You sort of end up picking your poison. So, you find some sunglasses and do some hard work…facing things no one else wants to face. You face the truth. You face the toxicity. You face the guilt, the shame, the insecurities, the pain…you even start to talk about it. And trust me, that’s a big deal. NO ONE talks about what goes on in the bubble. No one. But you do it, anyway. Because it’s freeing. And once that’s said and done, you realize walking on eggshells hurts like hell. You can’t believe you never noticed the pain those shells cause you. And then you look at everyone else in that bubble and wonder how the hell they can stand it in there, bleeding from walking on shells, just to keep a volcano from erupting. The sun doesn’t hurt anymore. You throw your sunglasses to the ground and yell to your loved ones “Just leave the volcano, for crying out loud! Save yourselves!” They look at you like you’re crazy. They are wincing, from having to look at you in that bright light of the sun. “Leave the volcano? God no!” and just like that, you are the black sheep, because change is hard. They get mad at you. Maybe some of them gaslight you. Maybe some of them shame you for talking. Maybe some of them resent you for doing and facing what they are incapable of doing and facing themselves. They might even allow you to come back in, IF you stop talking about “it”…whatever “it” is that makes them so uncomfortable. God, you even think about it for a while. I mean, these are the people you love, for God’s sake! You want to be with them, to be loved by them… accepted. Chosen. You really think about it, without even noticing that these conditions they are putting on you means they aren’t choosing you at all. So, you try, but soon discover, in order to survive in their bubble, you need to let go of your light. And you find you can’t do that, even if you wanted to…because you realize, you ARE the light. They just don’t realize that the light will stop hurting once they face it, and there’s not a damn thing you can say to make them understand. Oh, you try alright. But it doesn’t work. They just become more angry, more reactive, more withdrawn. All because you cracked open their bubble, their fragile ecosystem, their house of cards. The light shined on them, and on all the things they are hiding from. It’s blinding. They are not ready to look at those things. You really can’t blame them…you lived in the bubble your entire life, just like them. Coping. All you can do now is love them from afar, and pray for God to give them just a touch of grace, like he did to you…back when you found the light. A touch of grace to allow them to see the light. Just enough to find their path out of the cave.
P.S. I will always be waiting at the end of the path to share my light with you.
This post was written in response to Linda G. Hill’s Stream of Social Consciousness Saturday. No edits allowed! (none needed…this flowed from my soul…)