A few times a year, I review my life. I assess how far I’ve progressed with my goals, what I need to work on and plan new adventures. It is during this time last week that I began reviewing some of my old journals. I love journaling because often, we forget lessons. Like our best friends, our journals can remind us of things we already know but have forgotten. I came across a journal entry that reminded me of a conversation with an older female friend. She’s struggling with letting go of family and lovers that are toxic and unkind—this entry aligned with the things we discussed as we allow ourselves to start over.
This journal entry included a text exchange with one of my siblings and an article on trauma bonding. I was looking for an article to share with someone else and stumbled into self-evaluation. The article in question defined Trauma Bonding. Catchy name, but disturbing occurrence. The piece ended differently from what I expected, but I learned a lot about myself. The article was so triggering that I shared it with one of my brothers. Here’s our exchange after he received my text with the article.
Brother: You trying to tell me something?!
Me: Maybe. But it was a good article. I am honestly thinking about myself.
Brother: Maybe??? You saying I’m a narcissist?
Brother: That’s bad
Brother: Sad face
Me: Idk. I think in our lives, we have all played the role of both abuser and abused.
Me: It wasn’t an attack on my part. But if something touched you. Explore it.
Me: I’m triggered by my inability to hold boundaries.
Brother: I think I do kinda love bomb people, but I’m never abusive verbally or physically
Me: Art was happy before I came along
Me: Why does my “love” require that he become someone new?
Me: You think I’m talking about you. I’m unpacking my own shit.
Me: Now that he’s reached his limit for growth, I’m over it. When he was already at his max capacity when I strolled into his life, newly hurt But refusing to acknowledge it.
Me: Demanding (with my uncharacteristic tears and vulnerability) that he choose me.
Me: I was very narcissistic to think what I wanted for his life was better than what HE had chosen.
Me: Now, I am disgusted at who he is when I ignored all of these things to be “loved.” Now I’m worshipped by the Court Jester. Longing for a king. 🤦♀
Me: What if my demands for him to be other than (who he is) have silently broken him too? (Not my intentions) but just as abusive in nature.
Brother: Definitely a similar pattern.
Me: I’m not better or more intelligent or more advanced than Art
Me: We are simply different kinds of people?
Me: Who’s the dumbass?
Brother: Well, you gotta be kind to yourself, but I also understand
Me: Absolutely. But I also must be accountable.
Me: And I know my intentions have always been to give love.
Me: But what if they don’t want it. Or don’t want what/how I’m giving it.
Me: My struggle has been loving people that did not ask for it.
Me: Overwhelming their ass and getting mad/hurt because they don’t want it. 🙄
Me: Well, I’m writing a new story.
That was a profoundly cathartic exchange for me.
So, what did I learn?
Heal. Be Present. Love yourself. Be patient with yourself, others, and life.
Healing is necessary to be present in all the decisions we make in life. Self-care is crucial to acknowledge the pain we feel. We cannot fix something that we refuse to see. If we choose to run from pain and discomfort, we miss an opportunity to unpack it, dig deeper, and grow. Suppose we can understand that nothing is against us? Everything that is happening is happening for us and is an opportunity. It is a lesson and opportunity for something better, whatever relationship that did not work out, or job we did not keep, or car that got wrecked. And if we always have ourselves. We can persevere through all things.
The reasons that people say ”you need to love yourself before you love someone else” are countless. What comes to my mind immediately is that I tolerate behaviors that I would not accept when I do not love myself. During these times, I am defenseless and not entirely participating in life. In hindsight, I realized that too often, I started relationships while I was numb. Incapable of feeling anything, but amazingly efficient with providing love and support to those around me. I was afraid to admit that I was hurt. I chose to allow myself to begin relationships while in denial, melancholy, and defenseless. I was sad when Art met me. He fell in love with my tears. I watched his admiration turn to disdain as I began to heal, and my true self emerged. The confident, take no bullshit Tam emerged. This man was taken aback, flabbergasted, even. He thought he had a damsel in distress and got a whole ass Warrior Queen Witch too.
I say too because I have given myself the freedom to be emotionally diverse. I am not always tough. Moreover, at the time, I did need saving. Nevertheless, I began to realize it was a disservice to allow myself to commit to someone when our meeting was under false pretenses. In my defense, these are things that I discovered after realizing that, when I met Art, I was not over the multitude of hurts I had endured before him. Art got the most compliant and agreeable person that I have ever been in my life. While I am those things, I am not those things when someone continuously hurts me.
My best friends were shocked by my newfound tolerance of blatant bullshit. I thought I was calmer because I was in my 40’s. Nope. I was dead inside and just happy to have the comfort of Art’s presence. Being alone was not an option. I don’t believe that my relationship with Art was the wrong decision. I think that we came into each other’s lives when we needed each other. We held each other’s hands for a reason and a season. I felt guilty in hindsight because the window of opportunity to truly get to know each other passed. We didn’t even know or like the real people underneath when we took off the protective masks. I thought I was in a relationship with a caring, funny, strong protector. Art probably thought he was dating a soft-spoken woman accepting of infractions he felt were minor but were high on my list of deal-breakers. To make matters worse, Art was a repeat offender. What a Dear Friend calls a “habitual line stepper.”.
As with any habit, resilience and perseverance are skills that become stronger with use. Often, we find ourselves pushing through because acknowledging one more disappointment is overwhelming. Life is about choices, decisions, and outcomes. They are not always perfect. However, taking the time to become self-aware can limit unfavorable results. Growing and learning about yourself is the greatest love. Denying our feelings is not how we become resilient. Refuse the notion that you must always “push through.” If used long-term, pushing through is a form of denial and self-hate. Pushing through is a temporary tool like a spare tire. Get to safety and heal.
Whatever you feel, whether it is considered a “good” or “bad” emotion, it is natural. It is yours, and you have the right to feel it. Your emotions are always valid. It is how you choose to express them that will enhance or hinder your life. Take the time to understand the what and why of your feelings. Emotions are very individual. Get to know YOUR triggers and what makes you feel good. Emotional intelligence is how you begin to live proactively with intention and power. Your emotional IQ is how you start to own your part in the decisions you make. You can then acknowledge that your actions and the words you spoke in love were not, in fact, loving. Instead, your behavior was an attempt to gain power over someone so that you could feel safe. Learning and loving yourself may be overwhelming at first, but it is powerful.
Don’t beat yourself up. As my brother reminded me, be kind to yourself as you begin to understand things you could not see because you needed healing.
As we turn the page on the calendar, I implore you to learn, explore, praise, and love yourself.