My life is far from still. It is, and always has been chaotic.
A couple of fond memories from my childhood include #1. pushing steel trunks in front of the doors of our apartment so that rebels wouldn’t enter, #2. evacuation in a helicopter, #3. being reintroduced to grandparents that were barely part of my life growing up (through no fault of their own), and a lot more chaos in between, including the obvious yet subtle horrors of puberty, the confusion of adolescence, etc, etc, etc…
Needless to say, I’ve been swept up in a lot of emotional turmoil, not realizing I’d been ultimately basing my behaviour on this turmoil. (For example, having a hot temper and excusing myself for it because “I wasn’t ever able to predict uncertainty.”) And when you lack control in one area of your life, you’re bound to seek it out in another.
Because I didn’t have very much control throughout my childhood, I instead sought control over my reputation, my success, etc…
But it doesn’t take very long for you to realize you actually don’t have control over that area of your life either. You can’t control how people view you. You can’t measure how much they love you. You can’t predict illness, which may stunt the success you’ve been chasing after.
And you don’t need to have been through trauma to be wrapped up in a circumstance, relationship, or job, even. You simply have to be human.
For example, you may have been an emotional crutch for someone throughout life, whether it was a family member, friend, co-worker… not being fully aware that was what you were. And because I believe we humans try to do the best we can with what we’re given, we like to help, fix, mediate, remedy. Can’t blame ourselves for it.
Emotional exhaustion is real though. And you will get to the point where you realize that is exactly what’s happening to you. I also think there is always an inner voice that aims to help us avoid pain before we get to this point, but we don’t like listening to it very much.
I still have yet to discover why.
I recently realized that for my whole life I have been in fight or flight mode. Not only because of my past, but because of various ongoing circumstances. I had been overexerting my body without realizing it, because I so badly wanted to make sense of things around me. I so badly wanted to run away from anxiety. I so badly wanted to distract myself from the chaos that hurt me growing up.
So I dug myself in work. In social media. In unhealthy habits. And in ignoring my body at the end of the day.
I used to pride myself on my lack of sleep and ability to “keep pushing” when in reality I should have been giving myself a break a very long time ago.
I used to allow people to unload on me and I would take it all in and have empathy with no boundaries. AKA: self-destruction.
There comes a point, and in my case it was a spiritual awakening (also see: nervous breakdown), where you stop and realize you need to take responsibility for your own life. You need to make changes, however drastic they may be. You need to build self-confidence to make decisions and move on.
Nobody will do any of this for you.
I realized the only control I would have over my life was the decisions I made on a day to day basis. Decisions that would impact my thoughts, feelings, and ultimately my future decisions.
The way I could manage my emotional wellbeing was the only control I could have over my life.
I can’t influence anything external; I can’t make someone love me (otherwise I’d happily be in a relationship with every crush I’ve ever had); I can’t secure a job forever; I can’t change someone or how they treat me.
I can, however, detach (healthily).
With the help of God in all his grace, therapy, family, friends, and kind-spirited strangers (I’d like to think they were angels sent from above), I have been able to sit with myself this first half of the year and sort some things out.
I am so thankful for my past. It taught me a lot about how life can be unconventional, and completely meaningless at times, and yet how truly it is in our own power to make sense of it all.
It taught me that I can’t dwell in earthly peace, since it can be easily taken away. I shouldn’t attach myself to people, material, or anything external from myself. I only have my own mind, body, and spirit to work with while I’m here on earth.
So I have chosen to do what makes me feel less heavy. That means I have chosen to detach from the chaos around me. I have chosen to look at people with all their brokenness and decide that what they are saying or doing does not define me, but rather defines them.
I have chosen to no longer be a fixer. I have chosen to no longer allow people to enter my life unannounced to pick flowers and leave. I have made a commitment to guard my heart.
This doesn’t mean I have my walls up and am vowing to be this distant, “independent woman who don’t need nobody.”
I am simply choosing to detach from narratives around me. To see them. Hear them. Hold them. Chew on them. But refuse to let them in too deep.
Knowing how to detach from your environment takes time, and there’s no perfecting it.
I do practice it, however. When somebody is complaining to me about how awful their life is, I do not take it in. I sit there, give them prompts, and help them sort through their emotions as a good friend would, but I don’t let it get to me the way it used to.
People are in different seasons of life. You can only partner with them in pain when you know how to detach your own story from theirs.
I breathe. I listen. I respond. I do not do more than that.
In fact, doing any more may cause more harm than good.
We are all here to learn, grow, fuel what makes us breathe with ease, and bask in the beauty around us. You are not here to fix anybody. Do not let anybody make you think otherwise.
I hope this frees you the way it did me.
Let go, keep moving.
And looking back to the picture in the beginning: if you’re hoping to break generational chaos (like me), or you’re hoping your future won’t catch fire the way your past did then take a step back. You can detach. You have all the right in the world to do so.
The world needs more people detaching and processing their wounds. And I’m proud of you for choosing to do this while you still can.