Everyone has a self-defense mechanism when people start approaching a subject that makes them uncomfortable. For some people it is denial, others repression, and for me it is humor. There are dozens of ways to avoid delving too deep, especially when it comes to examining our own flaws.
Why do we do this? Well we don’t want to be uncomfortable. We don’t want to accept responsibility for where we are in our lives. Or we may not be emotionally ready to face whatever the truth is at that time.
Eventually though, someone or something comes along that chips away at our self-defense that we have been building. Somebody sees through our bologna. I don’t know about you but I typically feel pretty terrible afterwards. I feel naked. I feel exposed. I feel incredibly vulnerable. But after the terror of someone seeing my soft side has subsided, I feel relieved.
Over the holidays, I am wonderful at keeping people at a distance. The holidays stress me out. I am working on it but it is a work in progress. I am constantly worried that my mom is going to drink or someone else’s holiday will be ruined by her actions.
This holiday season was no different even though my mom did well. She didn’t drink at any of the family events but that didn’t keep my dad from having me follow her around at our relative’s to make sure that she didn’t ruin their time.
Normally, I would not do this because its incredibly enabling and it is not my responsibility but this year was a special year. We saw family that we never see and we had some older relatives celebrating a special anniversary. None of us wanted my mom’s drinking to ruin that.
So that left me to be on babysitting duty. By the end of the trip, I was exhausted. It has been years since I had been so enabling and been so physically involved in keeping my mom from drinking. It was a long few days and I was ready for it to be over by the last day.
As my Uncle drove me back to the airport, I knew my humor was already cracking. I didn’t have the energy to put up a front. He, a recovering alcoholic himself who has been sober for almost 30 years, knows all my tricks.
He cut through me like soft butter. When he asked about my mom and my dad and the home situation, I was honest but I also made a joke out of it. I didn’t want to go there when I was already so tired. I just wanted to go home.
He wasn’t having it though. He reminded me of how many people love me and are praying for me. He kept saying it over and over. I felt like I was in that scene from Good Will Hunting where Robin Williams keeps telling Matt Damon “It’s not your fault…It’s not your fault” and Matt Damon ends up breaking down crying. He didn’t let Matt Damon laugh off the comment. He pursued him.
By the time we got to the airport, I felt so exposed. I had cried about my mom’s alcoholism. I forgot all of my jokes. I couldn’t think of a funny way to end the conversation. I couldn’t hide behind my sarcasm or negativity. I showed my weakness.
The first flight, I truly felt horrible. I felt weak and small. I felt like all this armor I had put around myself had been stripped away from me.
But by the second flight…I felt so weightless.
I had been holding in that cry for a long time and it was SO refreshing for someone to pursue me and push through the bologna that so many others just take at face value. He saw my hurt. He saw my pain. He made me face it. It was not something I wanted to do but it was exactly what I needed.
This raw feeling I still have from that conversation was so important to me. He might not even know that but isn’t that the best part? It is so easy for us to reach out and show someone we love just by not running away when they start to push us away.
I know our self-defense mechanisms help keep us safe most of the time but I hope you face your truth when you need it. I hope that you pursue others who need to be pursued. I hope that someone shows you that they care. You are worth it.
Get comfortable with the uncomfortable.
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