Choosing Who Stays

Do you have people in your life that you know are not good for you? Maybe they put you down, make jokes about sensitive subjects, perhaps they continue old behaviors that they know are hurtful to you? Are their people who make you feel awkward, worthless or small? Does anyone in your life making you feel unsure about yourself? Unwanted? Does someone say they will call you and then they don’t or make plans to only cancel them last minute on a regular basis? Do you have anyone around you that you feel you must constantly please just to get them to stay by your side? Is there anyone close to you that you need to wear a mask with? Just being yourself isn’t good enough? Does anyone call you names or hurt you in any way at all?
I could go on but I am sure you get the idea.

I will admit that these questions are exceptionally personal for me. The harsh reality is that I’ve lived through an incredibly abusive childhood and then grew right up into being a battered wife. There is nothing listed above that I haven’t faced. I didn’t really know that I deserved better than that. I was taught that I deserved nothing and I learned to expect even less. Even basic human dignity was denied. This made me in to a young woman and mother that felt I belonged at the bottom of every list. When someone handed me a crappy set of cards? I kept them. I know this sounds like  a sad song but I promise you that I did not stay that way.

It took me 34 years but one day my mother looked at me straight in the face and said “I never loved you but I don’t even like you.” This was insult number 2 million or something around there but for some reason that day it hit me differently. Something inside me said ENOUGH!
Even with my first thought of this being the final straw that broke the camels back, I still called her the next day to ask her if she meant what she said. I just couldn’t believe my own mother could say that to me even though she’d never been any other way. When her answer was “Yes, every word.” and then she asked me if I would come down and fix her television set for her. Something shifted. Didn’t she see my worth? Wasn’t she able to appreciate the hours I spent with or doing things for her almost every day of my life? Sadly no, she did not.
On that day (November 11th, 2004) I did go down to her house but I did not fix her TV. I handed her a very short letter than said I’d had enough and wasn’t taking it any longer. That is the last contact we had.
You know what was really sad? I grieved her loss. She’d never treated me well, she’d actually been inhumane and yet I grieved that loss as though my best friend in the whole world had died. Why am I telling you this? Well… I think it is important to be honest and make sure that know my advice on this subject is not just  something I spew out of a textbook. I lived it. I hurt. I grieved.
It took me 2 years to get to a place where I felt okay about it all. 2 really hard years while she badmouthed me to our entire small community and other family members (she still does this 10 years later). I have never said one word about her to anyone.
At the end of these 2 years, something clicked again and I realized how much my life had improved without her in it. Slowly I began letting go of other people who were hurtful, not helpful or unkind. It took me 34 years to make the first break and another decade to completely rearrange my circle of friends and family. I’ve had to say goodbye to siblings that are still abusive or so knee-deep in addictions that a healthy relationship is impossible, I’ve said goodbye to people I thought were my best of friends. I had to take a good hard and long look at other family members too including my father who I worshiped for most of my life. When I started to think more of myself and started wanting to be treated respectfully, these people were unwilling or unable to offer that to me.

It was HARD. Really hard. I do not look back with many fond memories of all those goodbyes. They hurt. Some of them still hurt. When your own mother doesn’t love you and your own father never thought enough of you to protect you? Your friends belittled you or showed a great lack of respect and the remainder of your family is too ill themselves to even be able to know what kindness to themselves or anyone else even is? NOT EASY!

Well, you know I can’t end a blog on a negative note so I will finish this up by telling you what life is like today. After the goodbyes.
There have been many healthy hellos. New friends that are healthy, strong minded, opinionated, caring, loving people. They don’t hurt me (intentionally) EVER! If there is a time where a line is crossed? I can say something to these people and they respect me for speaking up. I would do the same for them.
The family I have in my life now does not include even one biological relationship. That’s tough. I miss the relationships I WISH I had. Not the ones I actually had. The family in my life now are all of my in-laws. They are an amazingly, loving and warm family that occasionally makes me crazy. Just like a real family should! They are considerate, kind and would never hurt each other. They have accepted me in to this fold and I am grateful.
I also have the family I have built. My husband and my 3 children. We are a respectful group of people who love each other very much. The “kids” are all just getting out of their teen years so that “respectful and loving” idiology has been tested many times but I do know that deep down, we are a very good HEALTHY family. As they get older, I see them making decisions that are good for themselves and they respect their own needs. I feel pride in being the one that taught them to do that.

So here is my advice.
Take a good long look at the people around you. A good honest look. Do you have people in your circle that should not be there?
Even if it really pains you to do so, you need to let these people go no matter who they are to you. Friends, family, co-workers, even your therapist (I dealt with one that never believed me. She was on the chopping block too) or other professionals.
Letting those people go will hurt. Probably hurt a lot but the good news is that for every unhealthy relationship that you let go of, you make room for a healthy one. Be choosy about who stays. Be even choosier about who you draw in towards you from now on. You don’t need to explain yourself to anyone. You just need to do what is best for you.

So here I am at 44 years old and every single person in my circle deserves to be there. My husband is wonderful to me, my children have been raised properly and are becoming respectful adults, my family of in-laws thinks the best of me and I of them. My group of friends span the globe and each one offers me something totally unique.They are good people with good hearts. My circle only has room for healthy relationships and it feels wonderful. They can lean on me and I can lean on them.

You deserve that too and I know you can have it. The time to start (or continue) your journey to a better life is today.

Cutting

9 responses to “Choosing Who Stays

  1. I’ve learned to be more choosy about friendships too these last few years. It makes absolute sense that you would grieve the loss of your mother. The loss of the relationship you always hoped you could have. Finally realizing and accepting that it would never exist is a painful thing. It is still a loss that deserves acknowledgement.
    As always, great post!

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  2. Heather, you and I have shared our experiences on this subject a lot over the last few years, and I am so glad you have done this blog. Your great advice and willingness to talk about your awful experiences helped me enormously to let go of “bad” relationships and learn to re-define others, and I am sure it will help others.
    Of course you grieved for your mother – no matter how negative the relationship, you need to grieve in order to move on. I just wish things had been better for you and that you had the parents you so richly deserve. “Yay” for your great in-laws though!
    Thank you Heather – for what you have done for me, and for this great blog.xxx

    .

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    • Oh Wendy, your words are so sweet and went straight to my heart. It is only recently that I realize I did deserve better. The problem was them and not me. I am so happy to have been there to help you as well. Love you bunches!

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  3. I agree 100%! 🙂 Distancing myself from toxic individuals, and letting them go, was the best move I’ve ever made towards inner peace, and now a life without depression. It’s been two years, and though it, of course, was a very difficult process to say goodbye to those toxic individuals I really cared for, I don’t regret it one bit. A peaceful positive life is a happy life. 🙂

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  4. I love this and agree with everything you say! Someone at work told me the other day that being in healthy relationships means being able to ask for what you want and feeling able to tell people what you need, as well as to be there and respectfully listen to their needs. We were talking about someone else, but what she said really stuck with me.

    Grieving for the loss of your mom makes total sense. I think it’s like we grieve the loss of A mom, that mom role that we know needs filling and maybe never has been, or has been filled in an anti-mom way. So much I could say about this! I love reading your blog and thank you for your openness.

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    • Thank you for your understanding in regards to this. I feel for some reason that you really get it on a personal level.
      Your co-worker is a smart cookie. I wish someone ha taught me what a healthy relationship was years ago… but then I would not be who I am today… My kids know what it is though! 🙂
      Thanks again for your comments! They mean a lot.

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