Have You Ever Heard from Your Younger Self?

I recently heard from my 20 something self and what she had to say was quite interesting… When I was in my 20’s, I taught high school at a wonderful Catholic school.  Marist changed my life, and perhaps on another day I will go into all the details of exactly what I mean by that statement.  But to put it succinctly, I loved my time at Marist… I loved teaching there, I loved the students, and I loved the community.  One of the wonderful things about the Marist experience is that students have the opportunity to go on spiritual retreats each year of high school.  Juniors and Seniors go on a particularly moving retreat that is led by students and one of the school’s priests.  The retreat is filled with opportunities for spiritual growth and reflection and some endearing traditions.  One of those traditions is that the student leaders ask teachers to write letters that are then read to the group over the course of the weekend.  Ten years ago I was asked to write one of those letters.  It was this letter that I discovered a few weeks ago.

I forgot I had even written the letter.  The letter was comprised of a list of 15 things I had learned up to that point in my life that I thought would be beneficial to share with this group of individuals who were only a short time away from leaving the nest and entering into the next chapter of their lives.  Re-reading the list was both interesting and amusing.  It’s interesting to recall what your 20-something-self thought was important or humorous or worth passing on.   Here’s the list:

  1. On the first really beautiful day of spring, go eat somewhere with a porch.  My suggestion would be a Mexican restaurant with a porch.
  2. At least once in your life, go on a completely random and pointless road trip. Don’t plan it - just get some friends and go.
  3. Develop a weird, yet interesting, talent.  Mine:  gargling the theme to Jeopardy.
  4. The people you meet within the first three weeks of college will most likely be your closest friends for the remainder of your four years.  Example:  I met three of my bridesmaids during my first four days at college.
  5. This one is for the ladies:  Treat yourself and buy at least one bottle of Chanel nail polish.  You will feel so special when you wear it!
  6. Although TV is apparently corrupting society, I have found that watching Friends usually makes me feel better and, contrary to popular belief, Beverly Hills 90210 can answer some of life’s most puzzling questions.  If you are unfamiliar with Beverly Hills 90210 you can catch reruns on Saturdays and Sundays at 9 AM on FX.
  7. Stay up all night with your friends the first time it snows when you're in college.  It sounds cheesy, but in a cheesy way it is truly magical.  If you don’t go to a college in which there is snow, this life lesson will be hard to follow.
  8. It is more important to have a few CLOSE friends than many acquaintances.
  9. Life is not fun.  It will kick you in the gut and when you fall it may continue to kick you, but you WILL make it through.  YOU WILL.  It is those gut-kicking moments that make and mold you.
  10. Don’t date someone because you think you can change or help him or her.  Chances are you won’t be able to permanently help them, and you may do real damage to yourself in the process.
  11. Always bring extra money to the Waffle House for the jukebox.  Their jukeboxes are the best!
  12. Memorize your social security number.  It is the only piece of information you will need to know for the rest of your life.
  13. No matter how much you change once you leave Marist, stay in touch with at least one person from Marist.  It will help you remember where you came from.
  14. Memorize a quote or scripture verse or song that you can recite in your mind that will give you strength and encouragement when you are down.

And lastly…

  1. Nothing you can ever do will separate you from God’s love.  You may not feel His presence, you may fail at everything you do, and you may consider yourself a complete disappointment, but God will NEVER give up on you.  All you have to do is reach out to Him.

 

Yes, it is fascinating to hear from your younger self.  It is fascinating to notice the things that have stayed the same and the things that are different.  For instance, I’d completely forgotten I could gargle the theme song to Jeopardy.  I don’t know how one forgets such a factoid, but I guess that little talent has gotten buried over the years.  I can’t remember the last time I splurged on a bottle of Chanel nail polish, and I haven’t been to a Waffle House in ages.  (That being said, those two points are still true- you really do feel fancy wearing Chanel and the Waffle House does have an awesome juke box. Some things never change.)

The item that really stumped me was #2- go on a pointless and random road trip.  I stared at that sentence for a while racking my brain trying to remember why I would put something on there which seemed totally out of character for me.  And then I remembered… oh I was young then!  I did spontaneous, non-purposed filled things! Alas, my current self is anything but spontaneous.   The most spontaneous thing I have done recently is deciding to go to Target by myself for two hours last Friday night.  Oh dear, we are a far cry away from road trips these days.

Nowadays, my list would probably include such practical items as it’s okay to leave a job and it’s more than okay to change careers.  Deciding that you want to do something else or making a change because something is not a good fit is a sign of courage, not failure.  Don’t give into the pressure of “timeline living.” Meaning, if your adult life does not unfold according to the socially acceptable timeline, it’s okay.  You are not behind.

There were certain items, though, I was pleasantly pleased to see are as much a part of my life as they were a decade ago.

Episodes of FRIENDS really do make you feel better.

Yes, a few close friends are better than many acquaintances.  They know you better. This can be both a comforting and scary reality.

Life is NOT always fun and sometimes you may be shocked at how low it can spiral before it starts looking up. The trick is letting life mold and make you, not damage and defeat you.

Scriptures, quotes, songs, mantras- these are the walking sticks that help you keep climbing the mountain.  They are the tools we lean on when we feel like falling to the ground.  Your attitude and motivation are determined by what you tell yourself.  Since that is the case, you better make it good.

And lastly, I believe more than ever we are not alone and nothing can separate us from God’s love.  You are never beyond the reach of God’s redeeming love and grace.

Have you ever had the experience of “hearing” from your younger self?  What did she have to say?  Did it surprise you?  We collect life lessons and little nuggets of advice along every step of the way.  It is interesting to see the ones that stick and the ones that fall by the way side.

If you created a list of the things you have learned to this point in life, what would be on it?  How would today’s list be different from a list penned ten, twenty years ago?  Are there elements of your younger self that you might benefit from bringing into the present?  (A little true spontaneity never hurt anyone, right? J )  What beliefs have remained and grown throughout the ups and downs of adulthood?   I would love to hear your words of wisdom!

Repairing Broken Trust (Part 2)

Last week we began discussing the impact of broken trust in our lives and relationships.  Broken trust is incredibly hurtful.  It rocks the foundation of a relationship and can leave you wondering what was real.  Knowing how or when to trust someone again can be tricky business.  Often, we get caught either wanting to trust too soon, so as to move on from the painful event and silence our own heartache, or living behind the multiple walls we have built out of self defense.  Both options often lead to continued heartbreak and sadness. So all of that begs the question:  How do you know when to trust someone again?  How do you know when it is emotionally safe to re-enter the relationship or to begin a new relationship?  How do you repair broken trust?  Here are five factors to consider when repairing broken trust:

 

How does he function in other areas of his life?  Who are his friends?  What does his previous behavior tell you about the possibilities for the future?  One of life’s greatest truths is: past behavior is the greatest predictor of future behavior.  That being said, is he addressing his previous behavior?

 

After trust has been broken, both individuals understand the relationship is going to be different moving forward.  This isn’t “let’s go back to the way things were.”  Rather it is “let’s start a new chapter and learn from the previous mistakes.”  The person who broke trust needs to understand the ripple effect of her actions and wants to change her behavior.  At the same time, you (the person whose trust was broken) need to understand that you cannot move forward unless you peel back the layers and deal with your own emotional wounds.  A repaired relationship cannot heal a broken heart, but a healed heart can help repair a relationship.

 

When you try to share what you have been through, a trustworthy person will not only stop to listen, but he will genuinely care about the ripple effect of his actions and respond accordingly. It is hard to trust someone if whenever you bring up what happened he responds defensively by either redirecting the focus to you (Well, you…) or blaming someone else.

“Desiring and, ultimately, requiring that someone be concerned about his or her impact on you is not a matter of self-absorption or ‘it’s all about me.’  It is your responsibility and evidence of self-stewardship.  You only have one heart, and that heart is the core of you.  If you repeatedly subject it to bad treatment, constantly have to protect yourself, or realize you are the only one in the relationship who is concerned about you, you are not taking good care of that heart.”        -       John Townsend, Beyond Boundaries

 

Remember, we said that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.  It is for that reason that there must be noticeable and sustainable behavior change.  If there is no behavior change, it is impossible for you to have realistic hope that the relationship will ever be different.

“When the person changes behavior, but you see no evidence that the change is due to a heart-level understanding of how the person impacted you, most likely what you are seeing is compliance.  You are not seeing transformation.  Compliance is about getting caught and not wanting to get caught again.  It does not develop trust.”      - John Townsend, Beyond Boundaries

 

Rome was not built in a day and neither is trust.  Whether we are learning to trust someone for the first time or we are trying to repair broken trust, building true trust takes time.  Remember our quote from last week:  “Love is free, trust is earned.”  If you are willing to quickly trust again, then it may indicate that you are trying to avoid healing.  If the other person is pushing you to quickly trust her again, then it may indicate she is trying to avoid changing.    The work of healing and repair is a marathon, not a race.  There are no extra points for fastest time.

Trust can be repaired, and hearts and relationships can be healed.  It takes work and time, and the hurt you may be feeling today will not last forever.  As you work to heal your heart, you may feel confident you can trust this person again or you may feel less certain about the future of your relationship.  Whether you stay in the relationship or decide to go, you have to let go… let go of the hurt, let go of the old patterns, let go of the broken relationship.  You have to let go so you can be free and enter into this next relationship chapter healed and untethered by the past.   Your heart longs for and deserves that free.

What hurt do you need to heal and begin letting go of today in order to free your heart?  What have you learned about yourself during your healing process?  What behavior change do you need to see from the other person in order to begin trusting him again?

 

Townsend, John, Ph.D. (2011).  Beyond Boundaries: Learning to trust again in relationships.  Grand Rapids:  Zondervan.

Repairing Broken Trust (Part 1)

Do you remember the famous Charlie Brown and Lucy storyline that involved the football?  Lucy tells Charlie Brown she will hold the football while he kicks it.  Because of previous attempts at this game, Charlie Brown is suspicious and doesn’t trust that she will actually hold the ball.  Lucy tells him that this time it will be different.  Charlie Brown, ever hopeful that maybe this time Lucy is telling the truth, runs as fast as he can to kick the ball, and sure enough Lucy moves the ball just as he is about to kick.  Poor Charlie Brown ends up flat on his back deceived again.

Did you ever read the comic strip or watch the Charlie Brown specials and think, “Don’t do it, Charlie Brown!  Don’t do it!  Don’t trust her- she’s up to her same old tricks!”  Charlie Brown wants to trust Lucy and what she is saying this time around.  He wants to believe that things are, and will be, different.

Have you ever been Charlie Brown?

Trust is a funny thing.  For the most part, we want to trust people.  We want to believe people.  Trusting someone allows us to feel safe.  Even the most untrusting of us started out with a trusting spirit.  Just as we want to love and be loved, we want to trust and be trusted.

Have you ever had someone break your trust?  I can’t think of anyone who hasn’t.  How does this very common rupture in relationships occur?  Broken trust occurs when someone acts the opposite of how you assumed/hoped/expected he/she would act or when he/she goes against the spoken or unspoken “agreement” in the relationship.  Lucy said she would hold the football, and she didn’t.  You expected your relationship would be safe from wandering eyes and hearts, but it wasn’t.  You hoped your loved one would stop his self destructive, addictive behavior, but he hasn’t.  You assumed your friend would never betray you, but she did.

Our deepest hurts are often caused by those we trust the most.  It isn’t part of the plan for that relationship.  That’s why it hurts so much.  It is unexpected.  We didn’t think that person could do this to us.  A spouse.  A parent.  A best friend.  Sometimes it is hard for us to admit that trust has been broken and this person is no longer trustworthy because it shatters our image of that person.  This, in of itself, can be devastating.  Sometimes we may even try to convince ourselves to overlook broken trust because it may feel easier to just move forward than stay in the present and heal the wound and repair the brokenness in the relationship.

However, we cannot ignore someone’s untrustworthy behavior.  To do so is like running when you have shin splints.  Yes, you can run through the pain and eventually you won’t feel it anymore, but you are doing damage to your body.  Eventually, you will have to stop and take the appropriate steps to heal your body.

We can keep trying to ignore broken trust and the emotional wounds it leaves in its wake, but eventually we will just become emotionally numb.  Just because we stop feeling does not mean our hearts aren’t breaking.

How do you repair broken trust in a relationship?  How do you learn to trust again?  Rebuilding trust in a relationship takes two people… two people working on themselves, fixing the areas that need fixing, healing the wounds that need healing, and strengthening the emotional and communication muscles that need strengthening.  It takes BOTH people working, growing, and changing to rebuild and repair trust.

But wait a minute, you might be thinking, I did not deceive this person…I did not break our agreement.  No, you did not, but we cannot successfully repair a relationship, or enter into a new one, unless old patterns change and deep wounds heal.

We cannot expect the other person to heal us.  That is our job.

But earning trust?  That is the other person’s job.

John Townsend in BeyondBoundariessays, “Love is free, trust is earned.”   I absolutely love that and I think it is so true.  We give our love freely.  Love does not fall on a grading scale.  But trust… trust is different.  Trust is earned.  We trust those with our hearts who have shown themselves worthy of our trust.

As you work to heal your heart, you have to simultaneously discern if it is safe to trust again.  How do you know someone is trustworthy?  How do you know if the relationship can be saved?  How do you know when you are ready to enter into a new relationship?  Trust is an integral part of any relationship.  You cannot have true connection without trust.  This is part one of our discussion on repairing trust.  I hope you will join me for part two when I will discuss five key factors to consider when learning to trust someone again.

Healing takes times and rebuilding does take work, but your heart can be made whole and you can have a healthy, loving, trusting relationship.

When has your trust been broken?  What was that like for you?  How has broken trust in a relationship impacted you and your life?

Friendships: Now and Then

Over the past several years, I have asked anyone I could find whether they thought friendship was more challenging in adulthood or childhood. I wondered why my friendships seemed different in this season of life than previously.  I wondered if I was the only one that sometimes felt like everyone had all these friends and girls nights.  Eventually a friend directed me to a New York Times article on adult friendships, and I let out a sigh of relief- I must be normal, I thought, if the New York Times was writing about my latest worry.  According to my friends, the New York Times, and some researchers in the Mid-West, friendship is more challenging in adulthood.  Great.  Now what? The evolution of our friendships in adulthood can feel like a shock to our system.  We wonder if we missed the memo or if someone forgot to even send the memo.  We wonder why no one ever mentioned these relational transitions in the volumes of advice we received over the years regarding adulthood.  At some point, we realize friendships are different now.  The landscape has changed.  It feels more challenging to form and sustain friendships.  It is harder to meet people.  Sometimes it feels like everyone is moving on and you are being left behind.

I think the biggest root of this different landscape is:  CHANGE.  Everyone goes through so much CHANGE in adulthood that it impacts our ability to make and sustain close, in person, in touch friendships.

Previously, we saw people on a regular basis, we lived near one another, and we were involved in the same activities. We had mirrors.  But as we grow older, things interfere with establishing these connections because everyone is in a different place:  single, married, married with children, focusing on career, changing jobs, having a job but not a career, going back to school, financially secure, financially insecure, etc.  It is hard to find that “mirror” and as a result we may feel distant from one another or like no one really knows us.  Also, I think (hopefully) as we grow older, we get to know ourselves better, and we may have less tolerance for conformity and nodding along when really we disagree.  When we were younger, we didn’t really know ourselves so it was easy to mesh and conform to the group.  But we’re older now, and we know what we like and don’t like, what we value, and what we need, so it is harder to ignore or mask all of that for the sake of fitting in.

Sometimes we are our own worst enemy in forming new friendships because we can’t help but compare our new friends with our old ones.  Will I laugh the way I did with Joanna, Kim and Melissa?  Will someone understand so much about me like Patty?  Will someone make life so fun and full of color like Annie?  I once read that nostalgia is the worst form of comparison, and I think that is particularly true when it comes to friendship.  Our historical friendships have something that our newer relationships can never have- they know our history.  They know our quirks.  They know our families.  They know how far we’ve come, and they know that on the week you open your new practice you will be riding a roller coaster of emotion so they call and send cards to encourage you and check in on you.  They know you.  There is something truly beautiful about history.

But for most of us we don’t live near our historical friends, and so whereas they know our past, they don’t always know our day-to-day news.  This is where our new friends step in.  They know the things that we are currently facing. They know what book we’re reading, or how work is going, or what we decided to do about that issue with our child.  Our new friends are more likely to know us now and this is a wonderful thing as well.   Sometimes, though, we may feel that although our new friends know what we fixed for dinner, they don’t know us on a deeper level.  This is where patience and vulnerability enter the picture.   No matter how instant the connection, a true friendship takes time.  In our instant gratification society we want a best friend now, but searching for true friendship in adulthood means you have to invest time and you have to invest yourself.

Being vulnerable is critical to developing deeper friendships.  For women, especially, the depth of communication dictates closeness- the more communication, the greater the feeling of closeness.  Intimacy is in the details.   If you never share yourself or your story, people are never going to know you.  If you never share your struggles, people won’t know when to comfort you.  If no one ever really knows you, then you are never going to feel known. Without vulnerability and openness, we stay locked behind our walls performance and perfectionism.  We keep people at arms length.  We miss out on the gift of friendship and growing in connection.  Vulnerability is the key that unlocks the door to deeper friendships.

As you navigate this ever-shifting terrain of adult friendship, remember, our historical friends and our newer friends both serve important roles in our lives.  There is nothing like being able to send a one line email with a FRIENDS quote and know that your old friends know exactly what you are referencing and why.  There is also nothing like sharing in day-to-day life with your newer friends.  If we want closer friendships, we have to let people get close.  If we want to take those newer friendships to a deeper level, we have to invest time and ourselves.  Sometimes this can feel like a risk, but it is worth the risk.  It is worth the risk to be vulnerable and let people see the beautiful mess of our lives.  After all, vulnerability is contagious and the person you open up to might very well be searching for a true friend, too.

 

Challenge:  Share a little more of yourself with a friend today.  OR  Let a friend know how thankful you are to have her/him in your life.