Saturday, 28 March 2015

Let it go

Oh the joys of Disney and the power of animated princesses. That little phrase will never be the same again. It was a hit at our house too. Ella loved the princesses and the music. George loved the snow but wasn't  too keen on the snow monster. I liked Olaf and his dreams of summer. His blissful ignorance that the season he wished for would lead to his demise had something tragically poetic about it.

But that song. Despite how annoying it became (Ella actually screams with pain if I sing it near her. Five year old girls love to be dramatic), there are sentiments I like.

Spoiler alert - if you have not seen Frozen then maybe save this post for another day...

Anyway, I like the words of the song as princess Elsa sings about the struggle to be good and acceptable and keep her ability to freeze things around her, under control. When she runs away she sings about being able to finally be free and let go. To be who she is and no longer locked away and afraid. Of course it is not that simple. But the freedom of being herself and expressing herself is clear. As I pondered why I found it so profound, I was struck by how easy it is to suppress my passion, enthusiasm, gifts or interests due to the fear that somehow that might not be acceptable to other people. Or that if I truly revealed who I am, and stopped trying to be what I think other people want, that I would be rejected and abandoned.

And that fear is not without reason. I imagine many of us have experienced times when others have rejected us because we have turned out to not fulfil their expectations of who we should be. Or someone has discovered that we are not the person they thought we were and they find it difficult to accept this new facet of our identity. It doesn't have to be something major. Maybe you became friends with someone through a mutual interest and all was great until you broadened the friendship. And suddenly it wasn't so easy. Maybe you have divergent views or ideas. Maybe you just don't understand each other. Or perhaps in a work situation you took a different view than a colleague you usually see eye to eye with. It can be so hard to let each other go. To let each other be who we are and not hurt each other in the process. Because none of us fit together comfortably all the time. There is always friction and discomfort because we are separate people, each working out our lives in different ways.

I am often hyper aware of the underlying expectations others may have of me and the narrow view they may have of my identity. Sometimes I cultivate that. I don't think it is deliberately deceptive. I think most of the time we want to find common ground with others and we emphasise what we have in common. And after a while it can be hard to bring attention to the parts of ourselves that don't fit the relationship so neatly. It is like when someone calls you by the wrong name and you don't correct them and after a while it is just too awkward to say anything. The same can be true when I realise that the box I have thrown myself into for the benefit of connection with someone, has become a bit of a cage.

And then I have a choice. Do I keep sitting in the box or do I risk stepping out and possibly breaking the relationship. You might think this is a bit dramatic. But have you got friends who you always expect to respond in a certain way to you? Do you have people who you expect to always understand why you are late cause they struggle with lateness too? What if they suddenly said when you turned up late to meet them for coffee "Hey, I am getting really frustrated that you are always late. I know I said I was also someone who struggled to be on time, but 45 minutes waiting for you is just too much". It is highly likely that you would feel hurt but also betrayed. You were buddies who were late together and she was supposed to get it. And she doesn't any more. Another example might be someone you met through a baby group but as your children get older you realise your parenting approaches are getting further and further apart and it is getting harder to spend time together cause at some point the differences will become so awkward that hanging out is not fun at all.

These boxes we find ourselves in are no-one's fault and often if you take the risk of stepping out of the box, your friendships and relationships will actually deepen as you get to know each other better. Suddenly the 2D cut out becomes 3D and that growing knowledge of each other can fill in so many of the gaps and make it so much more joyful to share life together.

But if you are people pleaser or someone who fears abandonment (both my hands are raised) it can be very hard to let go of the impression I have created and projected and allow myself to be seen as I really am.

At the same time it can be very painful when someone I know steps out of the box in front of me. Suddenly they aren't playing the game by the rules I expected. Suddenly I am not sure who they are anymore. My expectations are not being met and I .might be disappointed, or outright angry.

However, the only choice which will allow the relationship to remain intact, is to let it go. (Thanks Elsa). I need to let go of the need to control the opinions of other people about me. If I step out of the box and get rejected well it is probably for the best. I only want to be close to people who love me and accept me in all my mess and complexities. And others have the same rights too.

And who am I to know what anyone else thinks of me anyway? What a lot of wasted energy trying to manage other people's opinions. Instead I could be just getting on with living.

I remember a colleague talking to me about being in her 30s. I was bright eyed and angsting through my 20s. She said that the best thing about being almost 40 was that she just didn't care what anyone thought about her anymore. She was too busy getting on with living. I hope I can get busier living and let the opinions of other people go. They are just people anyway, and with just as many flaws and weaknesses as me. Well maybe not that many ...

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