Join me for a flashback:
My boyfriend is in the other room with a half decorated Christmas tree and a box of ornaments. He agreed to come over and help deck the halls. Even though it's not even Thanksgiving yet. He seems to like me enough to accept my rationalization that since I skip town to visit family over the holidays, I need to decorate early so I can spend enough quality time with my tree and the lights I love so much.
Where am I?
I'm hiding in the bedroom in self-imposed time out.
If I were thinking about him right now, I'd be hoping he found a way to entertain himself while I take this break of undetermined length. After all, besides the holiday cheer the main entertainment in my living room is a clunky box TV that has no cable, just a sad set of bunny ears. But I'm definitely NOT thinking about him.
Here's what happened:
I was standing on the comfy chair stretching to achieve perfect placement of a favorite ornament and we're having what I think is an uneventful conversation when he says
"You're not very good at letting things go."
Cue: emotional meltdown. Armor cracking. Unanticipated soul exposure.
He has just zeroed in on one of my deepest struggles. A flaw I'm not only aware of and am not proud of but that I've also been actively working on getting better at for a while.
As it turns out, this guy SEES me. All of me. And he's being honest about it.
I’m trying to be different with this guy. Authentic. Real. True. So I can't say "No I'm not" or "You're so wrong." Besides, he's an analytic thinker and will see right through any "because I said so" B.S. that I might offer as evidence that I am totally so great at letting things go.
So instead I say I need a minute.
And now I'm hiding in the bedroom.
Unfortunately the time out is not achieving the results I was hoping for. Isolation is NOT helping me feel better. It is NOT helping me make any progress on this emotional journey.
I feel vulnerable.
On the plus side, despite feeling tragically exposed, I did not lash out or explode.
On the tough side, running away isn't helping either.
It turns out, the only way out is probably through.
I emerge from the bedroom, deciding to be real.
I say: "I know that I'm not very good at letting things go. It's something I'm working on. And it's really hard to be called out on it."
We both apologize. We both forgive. Our relationship grows a little bit stronger because he didn't shut me out and I made a choice to own my sh*t.
Brené Brown says "Every time we choose courage, we make everyone around us a little better and the world a little braver, and our world could stand to be a little kinder and braver."
I like to think that every time I choose to own and embrace my story, it makes it a little easier for the people around me to own and embrace their stories. In that way we can create a (possibly imperfect) ripple effect that - like Brené says - makes the world a little kinder and braver.
Truth? I'm getting better but I still struggle with letting stuff go. But I have figured out that most of the time, if I'm not moving on, it's because I feel like I haven't been heard. (I am still learning how to feel heard without hammering on endlessly about the thing that is upsetting me.)
More truth? I married that guy. It turns out making the choice to do things differently and trudging through the often painful feelings of vulnerability makes relationships stronger.
One more bit of truth? Being vulnerable is hard. But we're all in this together.
You are not alone.