“Avoid the Toxic Playground.” I read this today, in an email from someone I admire and follow. There are many reasons I stopped to read this. And as I did, there was a lot that was relatable. Of top importance is that I recognized myself in her words. My old self, and I do NOT mean my post divorce self, I mean my old, much younger, trying to find my way in the world self. The thing about that younger self is I had absolutely no idea I was projecting my inner feelings onto others in my life. My un-easiness, my confusion in finding myself, my confusion in not knowing what I wanted out of life and my own “dislike” of who I was becoming was coming out of me and onto others. Others that I cared about and considered some of my best friends in the world. My issues, issues with me, were pushed down and instead I “let them loose” in the form of judging others, criticizing others and thinking I am sitting pretty here, I’ve got life all figured out. Hardly!
Over the holidays I was having lunch with a couple of my oldest and dearest friends, one of whom has moved away so the holidays are the only time we get to squeeze this date in. It lasts for hours and is always so much fun to laugh, talk and catch up. This year the general topic of friendships came up and my friends went on to share some observations they have had about some things they have noticed from a distance, you know from the outside looking in. As the conversation progressed I had a full circle moment and looked at one of my friends and with a moment of tears in my eyes I said, what you are seeing and describing is exactly what I did to you, how I treated you “back then” and how I projected “me” and MY issues onto you. I had no idea back in my 20’s that what I was “feeling” was envy and jealousy and uncertainty. And I was the one “doing the projecting.”
At this point in my life, I have been projected on and I have been the projector. I have been on the judging side and I have been the not always nice one. And conversely, I too have been judged and treated poorly. At the end of the day I have learned this. We are each responsible for our own happiness. It comes from within. If someone is judging me, talking badly about me, that’s about them., not me. If I am judging or saying hurtful things about someone then its time for me to look inward and fix whats broken, whats broken inside of me. When we are unhappy, when we have jealously and envy towards others, when we are hurting, and when we don’t “like” ourselves very much, we can’t help but leek it onto others. It seeps out, it carries over to those we care about, those we spend a lot of time with. We tell ourselves the problem is them, not ourself. We think changing our environment solves all of our problems. When we project, when we lash out at others, when we blame others we are stopping ourselves from looking in, getting to know ourselves mind, body and soul and we are doing ourselves a disservice in the long run. It’s self defense, its coping and it happens. To everyone. I played that “blame game” for a big chunk of my life. Always someone else’s fault, right? Until now. I know I am one of the lucky ones. I ‘woke up” and realized that no-one and I mean no-one is to blame for anything in my life but me. Not a spouse. Not an employer. Not a friend. Not a family member. Just me! I have a brain, I GET to take credit for the good, the bad and the ugly and that my friends, is a gift. It’s a gift I plan to keep channeling, keep using and I am working to turn it into the gift that keeps on giving!
I am happy to say that the friends from that lunch are friends I have had for close to 30 and 40 years, respectively. Our friendship made it from middle school and a cross country move, through our crazy city living 20’s, through marriage, lots of babies and one divorce in our 30’s and 40’s and now in our 5th decade we are having some of the most real and heartfelt conversations we have ever had. What a testament to the cycle of friendship. Like in any relationship we love, we support, we have fun, we would do anything to make the other person happy and we want nothing but the absolute best for each other. This is what true friendships, that stand the test of life, of change, of challenges and disappointments, are all about. In this self proclaimed period of growth I am in, I have been “forced” to go backwards and look at ALL phases of me. Not just the grown woman who got a divorce version, she doesn’t define me. But also that young, getting life started version of me who helped shape who I am still becoming, the good, the bad and the ugly. There’s a lot of digging to still be done, but at lunch in late December, the full circle moment of realizing that I have recently had “a dose of my old twenty something medicine” came very clear. It gave me a sense of peace knowing that as women we are not alone in this growing phase of life. Grateful for my wake up call and life lesson. And grateful for life long friends who helped me to see the lesson and know that its absolutely 100% ok.