One less piece, please

I haven’t written anything lately that didn’t revolve around organizational performance or some type of project. But today, today something was tugging at my hair and dragging me behind this keyboard to turn all the messy thoughts that swirl around in my head into something relatable and real.

My memories on social media the last few weeks have stopped me in my tracks more than once. It’s almost unbelievable and undeniable how much has changed in the last 4 years- hell in the last year. Zip codes, jobs, people….so much letting go of things and fighting off the urge to turn around and frantically find as many pieces as I can to recreate something that’s gone. I’ve spent an equal amount of time putting my foot in the water to see if I’m able to feel the same things I once did. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to answer that if I don’t stop taking my foot out as quickly as I put it in. But, if there’s one thing I’ve become aware of about myself during this continual life transition, it’s that no matter how messy or awkward I feel, I’m a whole person because I make the choice to be. People in general seem to get lost in the notion that to be “whole” there has to be something or someone to make them feel complete. I couldn’t disagree more.

The outward appearance of completeness isn’t always what you think it is. Have you ever put a puzzle together and noticed it almost seems to buckle in the middle when all the pieces are in place? Every single piece is packed in so tightly that there isn’t any space to breathe. The way we pack our lives full of what we need to do, what we think we should do, and with all types of hidden expectations sounds a lot like that buckling puzzle. At what point did we convince ourselves that taking a piece out to relieve some of the pressure and stress was a bad idea?

Think about it-what’s truly necessary? What emotions are you dragging around because you think you should? What’s sucking the joy out of your life experiences like a sponge? One sided relationships or friendships, things you have programmed into your routine out of habit that aren’t value added, not being able to say no because you don’t want to hurt someone….any of this sounds familiar? You can’t see it, but I have my hand raised right now.

So how do you break those cycles and take better care of yourself? What I’ve discovered, the hard way mind you, is managing my expectations. There has often been a disconnect between how my minds eye envisions things and the reality of situations. According to my internal lens, every wish I’ve made on shooting stars should have come true and Brad Pitt would have taken me to my senior prom. The direction my life has taken is a far cry from how I idealized it over the years and while some of those twist and turns have been incredibly painful, they have all taught me that I have zero control over anything outside of my own mind. If I want to find happiness, I need to change the way I look at things and how I react or don’t react to situations and people.

I remember being frustrated at my dads calm response to my teenage world crumbling around me. He would say if you expect nothing you’ll never be disappointed. He wasn’t wrong. There are some growing pains that come along with expecting people to treat us a certain way because we’re a good person. Reality is that regardless of intentions, not everyones intent is the same. When you wrap your self worth around the validation of others you’re going to be disappointed because not everyone is your “person” and not everyone is going to be a gardener that makes your soul bloom. You own the responsibility of loving yourself in such a way that others know exactly how to do it.

The only expectations I have these days are of myself. I expect to wake up and put out good energy that I hope to get back in some way, shape, or form. I expect that I’ll still look at periods hoping they’ll turn into commas because I’m still learning to walk away for things not meant for me. I expect that I’ll be a bright spot and maybe even the villain in someones story. I expect to feel joy, cry tears, and have a reason to smile and I expect to feel a little lighter the more I accept where I am in this very moment. I expect to collect experiences and memories and to continue to wrap my brain around the fact that not all people are in my life to stay. I expect to feel amazing, weak, and courageous and if I’m lucky, maybe I’ll feel all of them on any given day. And, I won’t expect that everyone will fall in love with my rough edges or love me the way that I love them.

The last time I checked the mirror I was a whole person. Even after suffering a loss, even after being selfish with who I have in my life, even after being scared to feel, and even after drawing much needed boundaries I am a complete person. I think we would all do a little better if we practiced some self preservation and self love and took a piece out of our life’s puzzle every now and again so we could breathe a little easier.

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