Something we all probably face at points in our lives. It seems another aspect of life with the ability of being both positive and negative. While growing up the idea of letting go didn’t make sense. Letting go of people one cared about felt wrong. Loyalty appeared to trump anything that might go askew inside a relationship. We were all growing together. Sharing our everyday experiences and supporting one another along the journey. Possibly a naïve way of looking at relationships and the world. Without the possibility of parting ways with individuals. As the years of life continued, this philosophy of undisputed loyalty continued. Trying to be kinder and gentler when things got rocky. Believing if friends were causing pain, I wasn’t being supportive. Never thinking relationships could end up going sour. People having the ability of moving into completely different directions. That wasn’t going to be my story. Mine would be one of moving in the direction of others. People who were supposed to be my friends. Even if the consequences were sacrificing pieces of myself. Throwing out the beliefs important in my life, because they obstructed the relationships. It feels like an incredibly complex situation to unravel. But, maybe the whole idea boils down to the lack of boundaries. Which seems to point itself to missing the emotional belief of self-worth. With my cerebral palsy, I questioned whether those principals of self-worth were even deserved.
For years, having cerebral palsy has played tricks on my emotions. The challenge has lied in looking around at others. Realizing most everything the world does has been harder with my disability. The images continued wearing on my ability to be confident. So, negative perceptions of everyday life began seeping deeper and deeper into the mind. Surfacing the feeling of being inferior to most everyone walking by each day. The world wasn’t designed for someone with cerebral palsy or other disabilities. Companies design things to be user friendly for typically developing people. Which led me to feeling placeless inside the world. Providing the emotion of attempting to get in where I might fit. People willing to accept me even with cerebral palsy became my friends. It didn’t matter what their motivation for accepting me might have been. Things got even more tricky with age. As self-worth continued plummeting, those people who truly cared were slowly pushed to the back ground. Until they could hardly be seen. The only worth being felt was that of playing a doormat to others. Feeling like my role in this life was that of being used. If there was pain in watching people succeed at everyday tasks, where that same success wasn’t possible for me, this must be all I deserved. Any positivity coming my way was pushed away, making room for even more negativity.
There were plenty of good things going on inside my life. The problem was that positivism was being ignored at every turn. Trips were always being planned with the family. Even with other families adding to the possibility of good times. Bringing about opportunities of traveling to some amazing places in the world. It didn’t seem right for someone with a disability to go along. The adventures were meant for people who didn’t struggle. Who wouldn’t be slowing the others down in the group. Remaining at home seemed the place for me to be. Here, there was an entire life making more sense. One of being treated in ways fulfilling the perceptions of myself. My fear of leaving those people and therefore being discarded took precedent over everything. They were the people who were most likely to keep me protected. The friends who needed something from me, appearing to genuinely care. It became my way of life year after year. As family went on adventures, excuses were made to stay home. Even to the point of turning those excuses into trembling fears. Placing me trapped inside situations of my own creation. Surrounded by people who appeared to look upon me with one possibility. Someone who wasn’t going anywhere, who was open to being used. The protection of those who loved me was severed by my own doing. They became pushed away despite the continued effort to help. An effort from them never wavering, which remained for whenever my path back was found.
The life being led felt suffocating more often than feeling comfortable. The feelings of safety hadn’t been part of my days in years. Life had become marked with anxiety and fear. Attempting to gain approval from individuals who didn’t see purpose in providing safe places. Relationships were purposed around the gaining of information. My place in the world had become one of the rat. An individual who was willing to spill information on others to gain approval. When in reality those actions were gaining me the very opposite of the affection sought after. The snitching being perceived as giving me the inside track was simply diminishing my respect. Not only the respect from others around me, who probably perceived me more like a pawn. But, also as someone who could be used to gain information or favor. The actions also took away any respect remaining for myself. The dignity of an individual battling the impact of cerebral palsy was washed away. The only thing mattering was approval of people who seemed content keeping me at a distance. Calling on me most often, only when information was needed. I had become a shell of the trusted person I was aiming to become. The cold feeling of emptiness was so familiar, love lacked the opportunity to make its way inside. Then, an opportunity was held onto with both hands, and the healing started. The courage to embark on one of those trips came to fruition.
My feelings of self-worth were improving, but remained on shaky ground. Still, surrounded by most of the people who I begged for acceptance. Even though things inside life were beginning to change. It was going to be a long journey in my case. Starting my work with Dr. Montgomery years before this life changing trip happened. Our work together had been full of ups and downs throughout the beginning stages of the process. One of the goals was and has always been turning feelings about cerebral palsy into something more positive. Helping cease the idea of my disability making me worth nothing more than a source of gossip. Geared around making others feel informed, while hurting the subjects of the information. Growing out of this place would be painful and would require some growing apart. A part of the journey I didn’t see as part of my future. The loyalty being held so dearly would need to be infused with boundaries. Which meant the violation of those boundaries could lead to retraction from the closeness of friendships. In many cases, space would be invaluable to understand the pliability of those boundaries. Meaning some friendships would be left completely. As succumbing to the pressure of sharing details regarding others would slowly grind to a halt. Relationships built on that sharing of information would eventually fall from view. Some of those relationships remain challenging to see even today.
Everything began truly changing five years ago when an adventure took me to Hawaii. Getting onto the plane for that trip was challenging. Flying had been one of my debilitating fears. Possibly an excuse, which had carried on so long, it became paralyzing to even think of leaving. Anything to keep me around the people showing me the continuous cold shoulder. However, at this point, that cold life and those negative perceptions of myself had slowly started to falter. As my work with Dr. Montgomery was showing signs of improved self-worth. Translating into courage and the slow trickle of accepting that people close to me cared. My world moving forward, might not require those taking advantage of my wayward mouth. Because the healing was circumventing the need to use damaging gossip to gain approval. Passing through that airport on the first trip to Hawaii was no picnic. At one crucial point, allowing fear to dart myself out of the security line, leading to moments of frustrated hesitation. The possibility of falling back into old patterns was real in those minutes. As I sat in a chair near the airport entrance. The predictably easy thing would have been to give up and go home. But, so much emotional distance had already been traveled, allowing for the ability of listening to loving reason. The moment in the airport was just one of many, pulling me out of toxic relationships, stepping me into more loving ones. The frustration was suddenly melting away through the releasing of tears. Once composed, life found me rising from the coldness of the airport chair and reengaging the security lineup. That situation was over five years ago, but the steps can still be felt. I had no idea what awaited on the other side. I just knew the idea of staying home provided no comfort. The plane left with me buckled secured in my seat. A vacation that would change my life.
The following week was spent in the Hawaiian sunshine. The island last visited some fifteen years prior. Walking through the airport on that first trip, we walked from inside to an exterior breezeway and back inside again. Landing on the island at eleven in the evening, I couldn’t tell the difference as those transitions were made. It was the first unique emotion in a week full of them. Golf being played and relaxing on the beach were the main attractions. In the middle, the island was explored, along with some excellent dinners to experience. Through the week, one unfamiliar emotion never escaped. It was the feeling of safety. No matter what was going on, I felt more secure than I had felt in forever. By weeks’ end, the thought of returning home was petrifying. There was no feeling of emotional safety like this one on the other side of the Pacific. The emotions led me to one conclusion, the life being led at home would require change, and I was scared of that inevitability. The happiness felt on vacation seems difficult to replicate once someone returns home. Otherwise, people probably wouldn’t clamor for vacation. But, my life had become the opposite of the emotions of that week. The challenge of beginning to live a healthier life would involve closing the gap. Especially after realizing the trip wasn’t a one-time thing. Similar emotions would be felt in the years to come. And for the first time in years the feeling became, heck yes, I wanted to go again. The time had come to start the process of letting go of relationships causing pain.
Moving life into another direction doesn’t happen overnight. The journey takes time to come to fruition. Pieces slowly stacked one on top of another in the hopes of building a sturdier foundation. With the decision being propelled into motion, there would be another set of challenges. There remained fear around the process of moving on. Even after returning from the unbelievable trip, falling back into old habits felt natural. The difference was the emotion tagging along with me following the return trip. The feeling of happiness had been shown to exist among the darkness. The actions required to experience that happiness involved the adaptation of courage. Getting onto the plane seemed to show an act of courage amongst momentary fear. But, the journey being embarked on after returning would call for a more continuous stream of courage. Learning how to protect the sensitive information being dispensed. Instead of looking upon it as being used to gain acceptance and cause pain. It would mean the continued challenging of my own self-perceptions. Attempting to build on the belief that becoming happy was no longer some far-off fantasy. For at least one week, happiness could literally be touched. The goal was to bring that emotion into everyday life.
As the years have gone by, life has continued to slowly change. Re-evaluations seem to happen on an ongoing basis. Sometimes those relationships in question have simply required an extended break. Time spent to gain perspective on myself, the boundaries, and the extent of the friendship. Other relationships have taken different turns. When for many reasons salvaging them hasn’t appeared achievable. Those become the points of heartbreak. When the overwhelming signs exist of having allowed myself to play the pawn in someone else’s show. The years have proven, there weren’t friendships involved when those things were happening. And it required time to truly understand when those actions were taking place. Many times, wondering to myself about the number of relationships requiring releasing. Today, the journey of discovering self-worth seems far from over. Even while I continue to feel on the achievable path. That week in Hawaii presented me with the gift of a feeling goal. An emotion to use as the beacon of light. Understanding like with any journey, there will be missteps along the path. Letting go of toxic relationships has proven one of the biggest challenges in a life full of challenges. But, if the end result could be feeling happy and safe, striving for the courage of letting go seems a worthy goal.