Last week had some major bright spots but as a whole the theme of those seven days can be summed up in one word: "disillusionment." Disillusionment could be found within some of my closest friendships, within my professional life and within my extended family. I had no idea how many blindfolds I had been wearing until they were ripped off of me one by one.
By the time we reach puberty we have already had to let go of more illusions than we can count. We quickly learn that there is no Santa Claus, that the Mickey Mouse that gave us a hug at the theme park is really just a sweaty actor in a costume counting the minutes down to his break. We learn that our parents aren't all powerful and can't solve all our problems or protect us from the hardships of the world.
So you would think that by the time we reach adulthood saying goodbye to new or remaining illusions should be old hat. We should be able to take it in stride.
But of course we can't. As human beings we cling to our illusions the way a shipwreck victims cling to their life preservers. Our illusions make life feel easier. They take the pressure off and they seem to give us clarity. Harsh and unadorned reality is much more complicated and messy. It usually requires us to be a little more proactive and to take on more responsibility. It requires us to make hard decisions and give up certain short term comforts and luxuries. Worse yet it requires us to do those things without any guarantee that our efforts are going to pay off.
And yet we have to lose those illusions because in each loss there is a lesson. When we are stripped of our comforts we are given new strength in return. Does it make us harder? Perhaps a bit. But even that isn't such a bad thing. People, particularly women, are told that when we're "tough" we're really just putting walls up while men are just considered to be...well, tough. Life isn't easy, we ALL need to be a little tough. For me the lessons were that I have to trust my instincts more. When people talk about "instincts" they usually think that they're referring to a gut feeling that has little to do with logical observations. In fact instincts frequently appear to defy logic. But I'm beginning to realize that's not the case. What we consider "instinct" is really our brain putting special value on small, fleeting observations that frequently flat out contradict the big obvious observations. We think we can't follow our "gut" by following path B because all the big, obvious signs tell us that we should be following path A. But if big, obvious signs always pointed to the truth then we'd have to believe that our earth really is the center of the universe and the planets, sun and moon really are orbiting around us because when we look up at the sky that's obviously what appears to be happening. But way before we had satellite imagery a few astronomers saw little signs that contradicted those "logical" observations and then their "gut" told them to research those little signs a lot more thoroughly. So going forward when my instincts tell me I need to deviate from a certain course or distance myself from certain people I'm going to stop and really think about WHY my instincts might be right.
I've also learned that I don't need to put up with as much crap as I do. There have been people who have in this last week treated me pretty shabbily, some did so completely unintentionally and others did so with venomous purpose. Intent is important but either way I don't need that kind of stuff in my life. Forgiveness is all well and good but that doesn't mean that I need to set myself up for more abuse by giving people multiple chances in the hope that they're going to change their ways. How can I expect anyone to change if I won't. When I continually agree to open myself up to more of the same I'm not changing. It's always good to be the "bigger person" but sometimes that means you have to just walk away.
So I'm disillusioned, I'm stronger and I've learned how to set limits and take care of myself.
Maybe it wasn't such a bad week after all.
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The Sophie Katz Mystery Series
So Much For My Happy Ending
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