It’s the scent of an old perfume I used to wear, or the first chord of a song I used to listen to that takes me back, back to a time when I viewed life from a different lens, a lens some would naturally call naive, others likely foolish. I used to think that my family would always look the same as it did when I was a child. I was wrong about that. I also used to think that I was somehow different than all those other girls you were rumored with. I think I was wrong about that too. Come to think of it, I guess I’ve been wrong about a lot of things. When I was a kid, relationships (both romantic and platonic) seemed so effortless, so controllable. But the older I get, the more I become painfully aware of their radical disobedience to my preferred taste. I begin to understand how such small indifferences can lead to such heartbreak. I discover that perhaps my biggest fear isn’t blatant ridicule as much as it is apathy. And, lately, I have come to realize that as much as I like to pretend independence is a trait that I possess, often it is merely a facade I put on to convince myself that I do not need the people who seem to not need me.
I think that we often mistake vulnerability as weakness. We assume that if we put ourselves in a position of even slight dependence on another human being that we are somehow beneath them, that we have lost control of the situation and inevitably our hearts. We become hard and distant, always throwing the first punch in the hopes of obtaining superiority. Broken promises and failed expectations become ghosts from our pasts, haunting us while we are both alone and with others. They dictate what we do and say, creating bullies of people designed to deflect the pain and rejection that we once encountered. Not again, we say, never again will I hurt like that. And so we, feeling justified, do the hurting.
I would like to say a couple of things about this. For one, I do not believe that recognizing this about myself means that any mistreatment I receive in a relationship is merely a figment of my imagination or an assumption made from my past. For another, I also do not think that this means that I am incapable of forming healthy relationships at all. Rather, I am inclined to assume that just like any other piece of baggage that one carries (and we all have baggage in some form or another), it is a reality that must be worked with. I am not unlovable, nor am I destined to live life as a recluse.
There is a balance here, I believe, a balance that I am in the process of finding. A sweet spot somewhere in between extreme dependence and total solidarity. If I’m being honest (and really, why stop here?) I did not mean to write all of this. I’m not even exactly sure where it came from. But perhaps that means it is important. Not only for whoever reads this, but also for myself. Authenticity is often uncomfortable, intimacy often scary. But I have come to find that so is pushing people away, so is finding yourself in a place of complete isolation. Finding contentment in oneself is different than keeping others at arm’s length; independence is not synonymous with fearful seclusion. So I will take a step, however small, towards this desired balance. I will learn to take the risk, yet again, in the hopes of experiencing relationship as God intended. I will learn to let go of the hurt and pride that has for so long driven my behavior. And maybe, just maybe, I will one day be so thankful that I did.
words by Jodie Jones and photo by Hailey Pierce