Sometimes, we have to be courageous in ways that we’d rather not. You know, like telling someone who is far more trouble than they’re worth that you don’t have time for their friendship. It’s hard, but so is enduring their time suckage. I’m sure you know what I mean – “friends” who treat you as their toxic dumpsite while they suck your energy dry. Sometimes it takes awhile to see what’s going on, but it isn’t healthy for either of us, and we owe it to ourselves to cut them off.
Courage is needed even more in our long-term relationships with those we’ve gathered around us: our parents, siblings, children, spouses/partners, and true and enduring best friends. Sometimes, we have to tell them truths that they’ve been avoiding. I’d like to avoid the truth I see, too, sometimes. But sometimes, the ones who see clearly must speak up to those who don’t. It’s easier to hope they’ll just wise up, even if, deep down, we think the odds are low.
When recently faced with such a situation, I had to consider that the discussion could hurt our relationship. I had to consider that we’re all adults here, and we all have a right to mess up our lives. With most relationships, I wouldn’t feel the need to speak up. Who am I to say that my wisdom is any better than their own? That is real arrogance. But after some soul-searching, I felt that I needed to call someone on her lies. Not lies she’d told to me, but the ones she’s telling herself. Maybe she really isn’t living happily ever after. Her personality has changed, and not for the better. The new relationship/living arrangement/job isn’t working out and I can see that it isn’t. Actually, I think this person is depressed. Why can’t she see it the way I do?
Then the denials start. No, everything is fine. Really? So why doesn’t everything feel fine? There’s a lot of back-and-forth. I hang in there, and refuse to believe the excuses she tells me. My heart is my compass, and it tells me that this person is way off-course. I firmly suggest that we discuss the situation. Not willing to say you’re depressed? That’s okay, what’s in a label anyway? Let’s talk about ways to make your life better. Leave the job? Change positions? Move to a different location? Keep the relationship but change your attitudes and beliefs? What will it take? Do you have the courage to pull yourself out?
So we talked about changes that directly affect the issue head-on. Are their ways to fix the relationship/living arrangement/job? We can’t stop there, because we know that the life situation is just a reflection of an unhappy inner landscape. So we discussed ideas to bring creativity back into this person. This person’s strong creative drive had been dry-docked for a little too long. A creative pursuit helps everyone, and I do mean everyone. We discussed some ideas for new creative projects. What about spiritually? There’s room for this person to find and build a better relationship with the higher forces in her life. What alternatives would she enjoy? It doesn’t really matter to me which path she chooses, what belief system she pursues, what wise counsel is sought out. But the spiritual nature of mankind is ignored only at our peril.
I’m encouraged by a person in my life with whom a similar conversation took place years ago. “I didn’t know that I was depressed, until one day, I realized that everything was fine. I felt good. Looking back, that’s when I realized I really had been depressed.” Sometimes, depression is like boiling a frog: slow and deadly. It creeps up unnoticed and gets ignored. I look at elders I know who are bitter, angry, afraid of everything, and I shudder. I don’t want to be like that as I age, and I don’t want my loved ones to, either.
This person and I had a long conversation, and it wasn’t all about the other person. We talked about challenges and changes too, because I must allow myself to be vulnerable in order to authentically speak to someone else’s vulnerability. The whole thing took a lot of courage – I had to have the courage to say “I care too much to see you flush yourself down the depression toilet. Let’s find a way out.” This person had to have the courage to listen to truths she didn’t want to hear, and have the courage to take action. It takes courage to refuse to accept a life that isn’t satisfying, happy, and fulfilling. So many people settle for just okay.
This person seems to be doing better today. She’s not out of the woods, but examining the situation and her options has helped. Seeing that I care what happens to her helps. We quietly talk about next steps. She’s not flushing on my watch.