We See Family From Our Own Perspective
I ran into a fellow member of the dance community at our local county fair one night. We were reminiscing about the “good old days”. He told me the thing he misses most is the feeling of family that existed in the early 2000’s when there were parties and gatherings outside of just the dance venue. I listened but didn’t have much to contribute because I wasn’t part of the “family” he remembered during that period of time.
The truth is, I feel more of that family connection now, and have for the last 3 or 4 years, maybe a couple more. Before that, I didn’t have more than a couple of phone numbers, or connections on social media. I didn’t see any of my dance “friends” outside of our regular Thursdays and Saturday nights. I could probably count the people I called “friend” as opposed to “acquaintance” on one hand and have fingers left over.
I used to envy those who clearly had a connection that went beyond dancing. I saw people making plans, or coming in after having dinner together; sharing lives, holidays, vacations, and bonds I didn’t understand. From my perspective at the time, no one wanted to have that kind of connection with me.
I’ve since learned, to quote an old and tired relationship-ending phrase out of context, it wasn’t them, it was me. Many of those people were probably reaching out to me, but my rough, defensive, knee-jerk responses told them I was neither approachable nor amenable to sharing more of my life with them. After awhile, they moved on, leaving me oblivious to their efforts to include me.
You Have to First Open the Door
It wasn’t until I lowered my walls and offered up a bit of myself that things began to change. I let people see that much of my unconscious defensiveness was my way of hiding the pain I’d been taught never to let anyone see. The false set of beliefs I’d been given from birth said no one wanted to know I struggled with anything unless they were going to use it to take advantage of me. In short, my early education was as riddled with holes as Swiss cheese.
I developed a version of “normal” which was about as far removed from reality as that of anyone who’s grown up in a dysfunctional family. Granted, we all have at least a bit of dysfunctionality in our lives, but I’m talking about extremes.
For example, I grew up believing that having a few drinks every evening, and drinking to excess at social gatherings was normal. I didn’t share the desire exhibited by my parents and their peers, so I thought there was something wrong with me. It wasn’t until decades later I learned I wasn’t the one who had a problem. It was one of many reasons I didn’t fit in with my own family, and I’d learned to accept it as part of my reality.
Making Connections is a Learned Talent
Not making real, deep connections was another part of my reality I believed was normal. My parents certainly had people I’d call close friends, but in hindsight, I think that closeness was simply a product of similar outlooks, and a common belief in self-medicating to escape a harsh reality. I don’t think they shared their vulnerability with each other, and frankly, they’d have been horrified at the suggestion. They wouldn’t have been comfortable on the giving or receiving end of something so deeply personal and honest. In their minds any raw emotions they shared while under the influence could be explained away by the alcohol.
The point of this post wasn’t to wander down memory lane and wake up the ghosts. It was to recognize how differently two people can see the same time and place. Borderline is probably medium-sized when it comes to bars; not a tiny, dark, hole-in-the-wall, but not a giant venue where thousands can gather on a busy night either. To be honest, for those of us who frequented it regularly, it was just right. (OK, so maybe we’d have liked a bigger dance floor, but for socializing purposes, it was perfect).
How each person views an event or situation is largely dependent on their own history. How you’re raised is, of course, a huge factor. You’re also influenced by painful, if not traumatic events. How you navigated those events, and the person you became once you’d healed (assuming you did), or established coping mechanisms affects not only how you see things, but how you interact with others.
Do You Build Walls or Bridges?
I know I’m not alone in building enormous walls, and creating coping mechanisms which shield me, not only from the cruelties of life, but also from the things which bring joy, delight, and pleasure. The trouble is, while living in that seemingly pain-free place, you miss out on how a gathering place can take on the feel of a loving, accepting, non-judgemental family; something many of us weren’t fortunate enough to know.
Granted, I’ve met a few people in the last few years whose early lives make mine look look like summer camp. I’ve also learned it’s not about comparisons, but how you come through your own personal storms. Some learn to live better than they were taught. Others spend their lives huddled in a turtle shell, poking their heads out a little at a time until a painful moment sends them scurrying back inside where it’s safe—albeit desperately lonely.
Reaching Out to Those Who Instinctively Hide
Part of my purpose in writing posts like this is to hopefully reach some of those who believe as I once did that hiding away is the only solution. That avoiding pain at all costs is their only choice. I learned the hard way that you can’t hide from pain. You might avoid a lot of what could be inflicted by others, but you wall yourself away with your own demons. Often, that’s far worse than anything the outside world might inflict.
There’s a level of joy and comfort in human interaction that can’t be felt inside your own walls; inside your turtle shell. Sure, if you’ve never experienced it, you might say you won’t miss it. But I’m here to tell you, you do.
You miss it every time you see other people connecting, and know you’re not part of that connection. Your heart breaks a little more as you watch your friendly acquaintances plan get-togethers without you. The more you’re left out of opportunities to connect and bond, the darker your world behind those walls becomes.
Sometimes the Reward is Worth the Initial Pain
I won’t lie and tell you it was easy to break down those walls, nor that I’m anywhere close to finishing the job. It was, however, the best gift I ever gave myself. Coming out from behind those walls and becoming a true part of my community has brought me immeasurable joy. Just having people like a security guard at the fair remember me for my friendliness, even 2 years and hundreds of thousands of people later makes the pain of demolishing those walls worth it.
In conclusion, you don’t know how many lives you touch when you’re closed off from the world, much less, when you allow yourself to become an active participant. You leave an impression regardless. It’s up to you whether it will be one people remember fondly, and that brings a smile to their face and warmth to their heart, or one they remember as cold and off-putting.
Between you and me, I love knowing an encounter with me was pleasant enough for someone to remember years later, and that the memory brings a smile to their face.
Grateful for Every Little Thing Every Single Day
My gratitudes today are:
- I’m grateful I chose a little pain so I could experience a lot of pleasure.
- I’m grateful for the positive impressions I’ve left on people in recent years.
- I’m grateful for the sense of family I enjoy with my community.
- I’m grateful for the opportunity to share the good, the bad, and the ugly of my own life, in hopes someone will relate and see they have choices.
- I’m grateful for abundance; love, friendship, joy, community, music, solitude, insight, inspiration, motivation, health, peace, harmony, philanthropy, and prosperity.
Love and Light
About the Author
Sheri Conaway is a writer, blogger, ghostwriter, and an advocate for cats and mental health. Sheri believes in the Laws of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. Her mission is to Make Vulnerable Beautiful and help entrepreneurs touch the souls of their readers and clients so they can increase their impact and their income. If you’d like to have her write for you, please visit her Hire Me page for more information. You can also find her on Facebook Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author or in her new group, Putting Your Whole Heart Forward