Saving Our Sanity
I’ve always been a long-suffering superstar; perfecting, over time, higher levels of patience and toleration than is … mentally healthy. And although I was once told I would earn jewels in my crown in heaven for my excruciating stick-to-it-iveness, that delightful enticement couldn’t hold out forever in the flesh.
For some of us, there is a scrawny, squiggly line sketched between patience, commitment, dedication, and … insanity.
Which reminds me of a story a friend shared a few years ago after she rammed her Suburban into her boyfriend’s house during, which would prove to be, the last hurrah of that relationship. She called me in hysterics. She shared all of the reasons he was awful, the many times his indiscretions had come to light, a long list of broken promises, and how he had driven her to madness. She had proof, too. Hard evidence she could share. Screenshots, even.
She wanted me to join her tirade, to break the air with his bashing. She sent me the evidential screenshots I hadn’t cared to see, and I looked at them against my better judgement. They were not in his favor. She wanted me to agree he was awful, but I couldn’t. I certainly wouldn’t be a fan of experiencing what she shared she had experienced. But, I know humans are really good at giving those around them an education on themselves, and it’s up to us to decide how we want to navigate those “truths of identity.” We can accept others fully as they are, or we can walk away when that connection is no longer serving us well.
Thrashing him wasn’t something I cared to do. I have discovered, on more than one occasion throughout life, that focusing on someone else’s actions is the least worthy investment of time. I wanted to be supportive of her, to help her come down from it all, to ease the pressure built-up in her head, and to defuse her inclination to defame him. “You stayed too long,” I said. “He is who he is and he proved that to you over and over — he’s obviously not a good fit for you.”
"When we feel our emotions wrap their tentacles around the physiological spaces in our bodies — when our heart thumps into our ears, or we begin breathing through our pores, or our gut launches a war within — it’s a good sign to ease off the gas a bit, and invest attention toward what is occurring within us in regards to what surrounds us."
The trouble with situations involving connections to others is that we ride the line of our “want” so fiercely our vision is blurred to the realistic (non)possibility for something different — we want and demand change that people or circumstances aren’t able, capable, equipped, ready, or willing to make — and we make them the bad guys for it. When it’s actually on us — not them — to make that reckoning and adjust accordingly.
So, there was my friend in the dark of night sitting behind the steering wheel of her supersized Suburban revving the gas to smash her car — and the fury it contained — into the side of her boyfriend’s house. Some may check themselves at this moment. Ease up on the gas pedal. Keep their wits and call a lifeline. Anything to interrupt the madness of the moment so a sliver of sanity can slip in. But, instead, my friend eased up on the brake pedal of her big rig and let her anger run it straight through his garage door.
This was years ago and everyone has since recovered. But I have used the visual of my friend sitting in her Suburban, ready to slam the pedal to the metal, when I’ve felt like I was about to snap. “Don’t stay too long, sister,” I say to myself. “They are who they are — or it is what it is — and you better adjust before you lose your mind.”
It’s not a noble act in any setting to stay beyond the expiration date of your mental and emotional health — in the workplace, on social media, in a friendship, within a romantic connection, ties to family members, conversations on topics such as politics, social economic disparities, biblical righteousness, et al.
When we feel our emotions wrap their tentacles around the physiological spaces in our bodies — when our heart thumps into our ears, or we begin breathing through our pores, or our gut launches a war within — it’s a good sign to ease off the gas a bit, and invest attention toward what is occurring within us in regards to what surrounds us. When emotions are hard to decipher (or honor), the only proof you need that it’s time to step out and away is how your body feels.
I recently told a friend who was perched on an emotional ledge that she’s the eagle in the coal mine — a canary would have been long gone by now. It’s a dangerous space for our mental health to stay in environments, relationships, and conversations that brutalize us. There will always be challenges in life, and there is much worth fighting for — but it’s important to discern the effects on our well-being, take a stand for ourselves, and do everything in our power to course-correct as swiftly as possible.
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