We are having a snow day, a sick day, a curled up on the couch day. The birds are darting out of the swirling snow to breakfast at the feeder. The Tinkerbell movie is on, coloring books out. Iris has a fever. I am walking Oliver to sleep, a latte and a book of poems discarded along the pacing route. Somewhere in the snowstorm Carl is on his way to work.
And I am reflecting, trying to get beyond the irritation and judgments to a place of basic knowing.
Yesterday I decided to take a break from one of my friendships.
There are a lot of reasons, but that doesn’t make it less conflicting. It’s good to be available and to root for people. It’s good to believe in people’s capacity to grow and change. But there is also value in seeing patterns and recognizing your own limits. And I’ve been here before.
I think most of us have learned unhealthy patterns somewhere in their lives, and this is mine: I’m emotionally gullible. I believe when people are distressed, I respond to crisis-talk, I over-identify and over-invest.
I forget that people in unhealthy situations have chosen–every day, most of the time for years or decades–to stay in them. That’s their choice to make, and I, knowing only the selective details I’ve been told, am probably no better judge.
And inevitably there comes the bait and switch as the cycle grinds mechanically around. Things are looking up! Everything is going to work out. I’m committed to this job/marriage/family of origin. And it feels a lot like being used, a lot like betrayal, a lot like an act of emotional vampirism.
But being an adult is different from being a kid. As an adult, people rarely hurt you without your permission. You have the ability to say no. You have your own house, job, life.
And I choose to say no.
I choose not to bring toxicity into my life. I choose to sleep soundly at night. I’m done being complicit in generational traumas, and I am uninterested in the potpourri of half-truths and small deceptions set out to clear the air.
We all get to draw our own lines in the sand, and this one’s mine.
I choose to wipe Iris’s nose for the 84th time, write this and be done, gaze out at a world of gorgeous, heartbreaking winter and think my own thoughts.
I choose to be free.