Breaking Up Showed Me The Importance Of Speaking Up
I was thirty-one years old and standing in my kitchen when I got the zingy text from a close friend. Just the day before I had spoken with her for over an hour (which was really like four hours in mom-with-little-babies time). We had discussed work stuff and life stuff, but there were still words to be said. I told her that I would call the next day. But the thing is, I didn’t.
Every hour had been filled up and I didn’t have the time or the energy to be fully present for another adult phone call. Though I thought my friend and I were on the same page, I soon found out that we weren’t. She was upset with me. Furious.
When I read the zingy text I felt it in my gut. The experience was hollering a big “NO!” to me. We had been friends for several years. We had shared life events and cheered each other on through moves, jobs, and marriages. We were going to be those friends who stayed connected through every season.
That’s why I was shocked when things deteriorated so quickly. It was like watching a war between the Starks and the Lannisters. It was bad. Reading her texts and emails literally made me shaky. I kept asking myself, “What is happening?” I invited a close girlfriend over to help me check my crazy meter. I let her read the exchange between us and she confirmed: The situation was crazy.
I began to feel extremely stressed out. The timing was terrible. It was right before the holidays and there had been some intense family and worldly events that happened at the time. I was totally wide eyed and depleted. It was like drinking too much coffee and feeling keyed up yet drained at the same time. I knew that I needed to implement a pause button.
We agreed on a cease fire.
I looked inward. I tried to dig into what in the world happened. The answers weren’t simple and they didn’t stack nicely in order. My feelings zigzagged as I waded through the history of our friendship. We had been good friends and I really loved her. But as I picked these layers up and looked at them closely, I saw what had been missing all along: my voice.
I could vividly remember experiences when my values were squished and I chose to stay close to her rather than ask, “Is this right for me?” I could see myself getting smaller and smaller like Russian dolls closing in on me. Somewhere down the path her feelings became more important than my own. I wanted to make sure that she felt seen and accepted at all times. I needed to be open and available. I needed to be perfect. This perfect, however, meant that I needed to be quiet and bendy.
Part of my work in The Daring Way™ is helping people to identify their core values. Knowing what is important to us helps us to stay on our path. When we’re living with our values at the forefront we feel good. When we don’t honor our values, things get dark. By staying true to ourselves we get to live wholeheartedly. Our chosen values, our priorities, our real selves showing up every day.
When I got the zingy text I understood on a deeper level that things were going to be different. It took weeks to understand that things would never be the same again. The old friendship had to go. My hope was that a new friendship could be born. My fear was that it would end.
In those weeks alone, I began to understand a little bit more about who I was. My priorities moved from awareness to something that I lived out loud. Here’s what mattered to me:
My family The wellbeing of my people My work
And something new…myself.
Look, I was never actually bad to myself. That wasn’t the thing. What I noticed was that I tended to put the needs of others before my own. I didn’t say anything when I had questions or feelings about certain situations. I was often silent when I should have shown that I was outraged. I never was my whole self.
Maybe it comes with age or perhaps it was the season that I was in, but it was clear that I could not go on this way. I could not continue to show up for someone in the same way, because I wasn’t the same person.
Everything would need to shift in a new direction.
You see, my life looked much differently than it had nine years before when I met my dear friend. Of course, that makes sense right? We understand that we change, but we’re quick to ignore how this change alters a friendship. When we’re not who we were originally, we have to figure out how to move forward. Do we grow together and adjust? Ebbing and flowing until the rough edges run smooth again? Maybe there’s a wedge that stays in place and diverts the flow until the streams move farther and farther away from one another?
I think the latter is what happened all those years ago. Our lives had both changed us, but we tried to use the same dynamics and roles. We held tightly to what had always been because that seemed like an easy option.
It wasn’t working.
Every time I would get my feelings hurt, I would tuck it away. When situations that were about me suddenly became about her I was shocked and upset, but I said nothing. I was becoming resentful, because I had been silent for too long.
When I took that pause to look inward, I saw that a major new line of communication needed to be established. I had to tell her how I felt and how I was different.
In the middle of winter, I sat huddled in my car gripping my cell phone. I was shivering more because I was nervous than from the cold. I dialed her number. The conversation was short.
She said who she was and what she expected from me.
I said who I was and how everything would be different, because I was different.
Like lines drawn in the sand we concluded that we were no longer a match. I couldn’t be who I was before and the new me didn’t have a place in the old friendship. We said goodbye. We haven’t spoken since that day.
But it wasn’t the ending that I had feared. It was the beginning of a new era in friendships. I began to pay close attention to the women around me. I slowly grew friendships like seedlings in miniature pots. In time they that got transferred to larger containers, then gardens, then in the earth itself. These new friends learned who I was. They were keen on what I loved and also what upset me. I learned to say how I felt when it mattered. I understood that I had to be fully myself or the connection wouldn’t last. It would fade with the season if I stayed silent.
Though the healing has taken years, I am filled with gratitude for my former friend. The old friendship is still thought of with love, but now there’s awareness as well. When we shrink ourselves there’s no way to bring our whole selves to the relationship. That isn’t fair to us nor is it best for the friendship. For this, I am sorry. It’s a pattern I don’t want to repeat again.
This is my plan from this day forward:
I will show up with my whole heart. When it is hard I will use my voice. When I stay silent, I will circle back and open the conversation again. I promise to honor who I am. Wholeheartedly, truly, me.
Jen Padilla-Burger helps perfectionists heal. She supports overfunctioning perfectionists with developing self-care practices, meditation, hypnosis, and self-compassion. Jen is a lover of coffee, plants, and podcasts.