When thinking of spring we think of newness, renewal, growth, transformation, the passing of the cold winter and the shedding of it’s dead branches and dried leaves, and the beginning of a rebirth of sorts…something that is new, young, growing, healthy and blooming into new beauty. We think of changing clocks. We think of springing forward.
As I once heard a famous former college football coach say; Much like a tree, we are only doing one of two things with this life we’ve been given. We are either growing or we’re dying. There is no in between. We are either in the act of growing or in the act of dying. We, like the tree, are never just doing nothing.
Spring forward, to avoid falling back.
Someone recently said something to me that has stayed with me for several weeks. It resonated with me in a way everyday conversations very rarely do. Her thoughts were so profound, so introspective, and so deeply thought provoking. She said to me some people go through life as if it is just one big never ending party, and anything that reminds them of the reality of their own real authentic life, their hidden pain, their regret, their fear, their guilt, their shame, is to be avoided at all costs. She said many people don’t want to feel their own pain or look deeply inside of themselves which ultimately as a result, stunts their growth. Often they’re afraid of what they’ll see if they do take a close look inside. They will quickly avoid anyone who brings reality into view for them, even if it’s not their own pain but someone else’s. Even to the point where they become toxic and cruel, and discouraging of the growth and self-awareness of others. It makes them think of their own pain. They will avoid it like the plague. In order to grow we have to feel pain. Pain of disappointment. Pain of loss, disloyalty, tragedy or betrayal. Pain of shock and sometimes pain of failure whether it be in a personal relationship or a professional one, or maybe a combination of both. It’s how we learn. We learn much more from our mistakes than from our triumphs. We all go through it but some do their best to avoid acknowledging and feeling their pain by (temporarily) convincing themselves with substance addictions and abuse that they are so very “happy.” Anything less makes most people uncomfortable. So much so no one really cares whether their happiness is genuine or fabricated, just so long as the message is there. Real or not. The life of the never ending party. Life is so good. So positive to be around. So much fun, no matter what. These types are happy alright, until they sober up. Once that party ends and the morning sunshine of reality begins to rise, it’s time to do it all over again quickly…before they actually allow themselves to truly feel anything real at all. They are as shallow as a dinner plate. A waterless pond. The depth of a straight line. You cannot feel anything real around these kinds of people, unless you too are a never ending party, feeling the same nothingness yourself. An empty, dried up well. These are the people who will continue making the same miserable mistakes in their lives over and over again, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year. They never sober up long enough to be authentic with themselves, much less anyone else for that matter. Life itself, life as a whole is completely inauthentic for these kinds of people. Authenticity is far too uncomfortable and threatening. Some may even coldly watch another who may be visibly wasting away–gaunt, with a new emaciated frailty–only to absently pose for pictures with them wearing a profoundly empty, cold, disingenuous smile. For most it’s merely a morbid curiosity, as if they’re rubbernecking a tragic traffic accident so they can gossip afterwards and tell others what horrors and hilarity they witnessed. It’s sickening. Perhaps that’s the sentence, the penalty for long living an empty life and running off all the good people, leaving them with what’s left over–the users, the addicts, and the cheaters, the ones who are just like them. The disingenuous. Sometimes karma is who you end up with. This conversation has stayed with me long enough that I decided to build my April blog entry around this great and powerful conversation.
That conversation led me back into reflecting upon another powerful conversation I’d had months back with another group of people who said they believe everyone should always talk to the exes of someone new they’re seeing. In a normal relationship there are always two sides to a story. In a normal break up the same is true. In an unhealthy relationship where there is any form of domestic abuse for instance, there’s only the truth and the lie. There aren’t two sides to the story whenever abuse is present. Abuse is never okay. If they’re telling the truth, there should be nothing for them to fear and they should encourage you to speak to their ex(es) and if so, they’ll likely share in the blame of their relationships’ failures. They likely won’t be poisoning the well against their ex if it was a normal, amicable split between two people who tried their best. If they speak ill of someone they’ve been with for a very long time, that’s a huge red flag. Narcissists especially love to play the victim and accuse the other of doing to them what they did to the other. It’s textbook behavior. Projection. One that I can personally say I too have missed. His exes were all “narcissists” and “adulterous” even verbally abusive to in-laws only to learn afterwards, it was actually the other way around. After meeting them personally over time, it didn’t add up. Lovely, classy, well-educated, hard-working, attractive, graciously charming ladies (up until now). Nothing like they were described and there were more of them than most people knew. Another missed flag. Having now been on both sides of the fence as the new “narcissistic supply” and the ex, one learns the hard way if they will speak ill of their exes, that’s a big, huge, red flag–and one day they’ll do the same to you if given the chance. They continued suggesting that if people would talk to the exes of someone they had recently begun seeing, ask them (if they’re willing to discuss it) what happened in their relationship that brought it to an end and listen to the answers, listen for their authenticity, think of all the enormous mistakes one could avoid making by discovering things themselves through conversation instead of going through the same experiences and/or sadly believing things just because they were said, or because they shift into a higher gear of love-bombing overdrive–to distract and counteract any doubt. At the very least you’d notice the flags sooner than later with a verbal warning planted in the back of your mind. Why would an ex lie? What could they possibly have to gain from lying? They wouldn’t. There would be no point. Especially when multiple exes share the same or similar tales. How could they ALL have the same (or similar) experiences if it was not all true? After all, I think most people believe (the majority of people) are good, honest, forthright people. Lying never works long term anyway. The truth always comes out eventually, so why would anyone bother to lie? Odds are, they wouldn’t. Having learned firsthand (unfortunately much too late), that they hadn’t lied is certainly not a pleasant discovery when it’s learned in hindsight.
Supporting that theory once again was another woman going through a very sudden, unexpected break up due to infidelity. There was a parallel incident that played out on social media where a woman was discussing her ex and how she lived with years of narcissistic abuse that developed over the course of their marriage, but true to form it was not seen until after the end. She said (in hindsight), they never change. They may hide it for a while but it’s always there waiting to re-emerge. Upon looking at the last name she recognized this was the ex-wife of the man another woman had just caught cheating. Leopards truly do not change their spots she said, but can camouflage themselves successfully for years. He had done the same to three women (probably more) who all ended up talking and realizing they too had the same tales and experiences of love bombing, then to ambient abuse (also known as gaslighting), then to sudden discard years later. She began thinking, if only I had spoken to her years before and she had been candid about what she experienced, imagine how much precious time could’ve been saved. She’d likely have recognized the red flags and not shaken them off as meaningless bad days.
I believe with all my heart from then until now the ones who contacted me after my own break up had the kindest intentions. They offered me candid sharing, telling their own experiences with that same person and offered a relatable sounding board they had once needed too, but did not have for themselves. Absolute kindness. Learning that their stories were almost identical to my own experiences with that same person was numbing and shocking to hear at first. Like having a sorority sister in a sorority you didn’t realize you had pledged and where you were now a member. I had fondly (at the time) nicknamed an ex “the most interesting man in the world” which swiftly caught on with several others and became a commonly used moniker. Many jokingly referred to him as the fifth Beatle because of the self-reported vast and varied accomplishments for which he (oddly) never seemed to get much credit for, only to later learn directly from his former bosses, none of what he’d ever told me was true. Even the circumstances of his “departures” I was also later told were untrue. My “sorority sisters” shared in these experiences and others. I learned I was not the only one to experience it, not even close. Having kept my relationship’s secrets and never having shared most of my experiences with anyone (not even my closest friends), it would’ve been impossible for them to have known the things that were so specific, they had also happened to me exactly as they described them happening to themselves. It’s because they were telling me the truth. Their experiences and mine were the same. A first life lesson of its kind and assuredly, the last.
I think of my friend talking about that never ending party that some people try to perpetuate. The fear that if the party ends, reality will creep in and unwontedly look them dead in the eye if they allow themselves to sober up long enough to feel anything. It makes you wonder… are they running to something with that never ending party, or running away from something else? Perhaps the answer is a little of both. It gets to the point where they don’t even notice the damage they’ve done to so many (including themselves) and the damage they’ve recklessly caused in their lives and in their families. Interestingly, that fear is what prevents so many from facing their pain. Eventually though the never ending party will come to an end, whether we want it to or not. We mere mortal humans don’t have enough power to keep it going indefinitely. That’s why honesty and purpose is crucial to avoiding regret. One of the things I’ve learned through my experiences in palliative medicine is that so many people will die with unfulfilled wishes and unactualized dreams and much, so much sad regret. It’s heartbreaking. There won’t be time to apologize, to make amends, to perhaps tell a loved one, a child, or a friend how they really felt about them and not how they pretended to feel perhaps due of selfish pride. It sadly happens everyday to someone. Someone who was cowardly, braveless and too afraid to let their never ending party of self-denial end and authentically face their fears, face their pain, then be able let it go in order to grow. We are meant to grow through the things we go through.
If there is one thing I’ve learned it’s that life is very unpredictable. I hope you will strongly consider talking to their exes early on before you take their words as truth with blind faith to later potentially find yourself buried deep inside their facade of years of tightly woven fabrications. As the saying goes, what tangled webs we weave when we weave to deceive. I do wish those calls I received afterwards had come much sooner for me. Time is a valuable commodity that cannot be bought or sold. But as one couple later said to me, you wouldn’t have believed us back then and it likely would’ve ended our friendship. Admittedly, I wouldn’t have likely believed them, (he was just that good at lying), but at least I’d have had a warning to be aware and perhaps would’ve recognized the flags I’d missed much sooner. But it had been very awkward for them, and I understand their previous silence. This couple was wrong however about it ending our friendship though, it certainly wouldn’t have impacted that. We not only continue to share a close friendship and deep respect, but also a kinship from the disappointment of betrayal we received from that very same source. (I was fortunate, mine wasn’t nearly as lengthy as theirs). I am grateful, thankful and blessed to have had the truth finally revealed to me. That kind of genuineness and support is priceless. Just like time, authenticity and genuineness cannot be bought.
Avoiding that authenticity and self-reflection is literally and figuratively a dead end road. No one is getting out of here alive so truth should be the only thing that guides us and that matters, even when it’s painful. See people as they truly are and not who they tell you they are, even if their true identity is deeply disappointing. Conduct your own discovery, first. Searching for truth in our lives and in the people around us shouldn’t be avoided. Surround yourself with grounded, supportive, authentic people who live in the light of truth and honesty, who aren’t afraid to cry when they’re sad and celebrate joy when they’re happy. Otherwise one will spend each beautiful new season of their life indefinitely, continuously falling back and never ever springing forward into that glorious new season of blooming beauty. 🍂🍃