Two weeks ago, a friend of mine called to ask me for some advice. I gave her my undivided attention and listened to her talk for 2 hours. I provided her with the safe space she needed to express her feelings and I gave her my honest thoughts about the issues she was dealing with when she asked me to. She repeatedly asked me- ‘I trust you. What do you think I should do?’. Whether or not she takes on board all the suggestions I made doesn’t matter to me. What matters most to me is her happiness.
My friends call me their ‘Agony Aunt’ and it’s a role I happily took on from ever since I was as a young girl. When I was in 5th grade, a friend of mine went through her first ‘puppy love’ break up. I still remember her tearing up the love notes this boy wrote for her on some fancy stationery. Then, when we were dismissed for recess, she ran to the garbage can and asked me to help her find the love notes she regretted throwing away. I helped her pick up the little pieces of paper and together, we got some Scotch tape and put the pieces back together.
Ever since then, I’ve always been the one to help others pick up the pieces of anything that’s broken. Am I qualified and experienced enough to help? Maybe… maybe not… All I know is that my friends always run to me for help and they all tell me that they love how honest and ‘real’ I am. They say that they respect the way I deal with things. They love and hate the fact that I don’t sugar coat anything just to appear agreeable. I don’t tell them things they want to hear. I’ve even given some of my friends some really harsh reality checks that shook them to their core.
Can I do the same for myself?
I’ve recently found out that my honest answer is, No.
I’ve spent most of my life figuring things out on my own since I’ve played this ‘Agony Aunt’ role for so long. I felt like I couldn’t ask anyone for advice because, I’m supposed to be the expert at giving it. I love helping others but I’ve always found it hard to ask for help myself. I share some of my problems with my partner sometimes but I don’t really reach out to anyone that much because, I always think, ‘I got this.’. Even though I doubt myself sometimes, I just think, ‘This too shall pass’ and then I just keep on moving forward with faith, hope and love in my pocket.
I had, not just one, but many bitter pills to swallow lately. I found myself right at the epicenter of a storm which had been brewing inside me for a while. We know that it’s calm in the middle of the storm but, it wreaks havoc all around. I had to face reality and I realized, ‘I don’t have it all figured out after all.’ I knew I wasn’t happy and I chose to do nothing about it for years. I spent years of my life helping others but I couldn’t help myself. I couldn’t find the answer to this one problem I had. I found it really hard to accept that I’m just as flawed, clueless, torn and as lost as everyone else.
I had so many things I had to face and acknowledge about myself and others. Some of the things I thought were wrong became right and I found that some things which may appear to be right, can actually be wrong. We make assumptions about certain things based on what we see externally, but, if we dive deep within, we’ll find that we mostly always think we know, but really, we have no idea what’s really going on. I always try my best to see things from every angle so that I could keep an open mind but there have been many situations where I’ve been too narrow-minded, stubborn and unforgiving.
Last month, I was humbled. Out of nowhere, I had a change of heart about a lot of things. I felt feelings I never thought I’d feel and saw things from a different perspective. I looked deep within and realized that I had been sleep walking my way through life. I was in denial and my biggest wake up call came unexpectedly.
I say the ‘biggest wake up call’ because I had many wake up calls prior to this one. I just kept hitting that snooze button for years. For a long time, I didn’t realize that I was settling for less because of comfort, familiarity and fear (of the unknown). I’m too scared to rock the boat in case I, along with those who I love and care for, fall deep and drown.
I preach to others and say, ‘Follow your heart.’ and yet, I failed to listen to my heart for a long time.
I used to always say, ‘Where there’s a will, there’s a way.’
but now, I fully understand the meaning of ‘Some things are easier said than done.’
I still believe in ‘Actions speak louder than words.’ But, now I understand that some people can be so overwhelmed and paralyzed with fear that they become stuck in a destructive cycle of inaction.
A friend of mine called me a few years ago after her husband laid his hands on her. I told her,
‘I don’t know why you stay? I don’t understand why you settle and take all this pain when you can choose to live a more fulfilling life? ’
I suddenly realised that the assumptions and judgements I made in the past about others and certain situations were unfair because I didn’t take into account other factors . I had no right to make judgements about things I didn’t understand… things I’ve never experienced. I remember someone telling me in the middle of an argument once,
‘Of course you won’t understand why I did what I did. You’re perfect.’
But really, no one’s perfect.
Although I always try to do the right thing, what I think is right may actually be wrong in someone else’s eyes. Some people judge others like I used to do and think, ‘How could they do that?’ but if we knew what’s hidden behind closed doors, what we’ll probably end up saying is, ‘They had every right to do what they did. ’
There may be people out there who deliberately hurt people for no reason other than they just love inflicting pain on others. They may be the exception. I can’t help but think about the reasons why these kinds of people choose to hurt others. Maybe they were hurt before? They say, ‘Hurt people, hurt people.’. There are those who choose to walk along the wrong path of self-destruction so they can blame external sources for their failures. They look for scapegoats to hide behind so they don’t have to show the world their flaws. There are those who settle for less and there are those who are always hungry for more. Some people throw away relationships, families, careers, material possessions and years of hard work because they’re not happy anymore.
Some people may choose to never learn their lessons in life… that’s their own life journey. I’m not making excuses for anyone or anything. There are still many things which I find inexcusable and unforgivable but now that I know what bitter pills taste like, I will choose to be kind, compassionate and more understanding.