This time last year I was reeling emotionally even more than I am this year. This time last year was the end of a year of turmoil and anguish, and the beginning of a year of healing. I was filled with fear about spending time with my family during such a silently painful time. I couldn't share anything, and I had to act as if everything was right. I had just discovered A Blog About Love, and it was a fairly new blog so I reached out to Danny, asking for advice about how to cope. He wrote some very wise things, I'll share in my later post.
But last week I went searching for his emails, desperate for something to help me through. In my search I came across an email from Michelle (Hope and Healing) that was an answer to a prayer. She said this:
"I've thought a lot about this with the struggles I have with extended family relationships and expectations for what such relationships 'should' look like. As I read through recovery materials, it seems the message is that as soon as we have expectations for others or for life, we set ourselves up for pain. Resentments are a key force in keeping us stuck in unhealthy behaviors and mindsets.
I think it's hard to wrap our heads around, but I think that ultimately, 12 steps are about letting God fill our needs. Fully and completely. Once we don't have to rely on anyone else, then we don't give others power over our lives and our well-being, and we trust ourselves to the care of our God.
I'm reminded of a saying my mom used to say when I was dating: "Love is sharing your fullness, not filling your emptiness." I'm also reminded of the scripture that says "All things must fail" -- except the love of Christ. I think once we realize that we simply will and do fail each other, we can stop expecting others to fill our needs and instead be grateful for whatever goodness comes in a relationship without being dependent on others for our well-being."
It was exactly what I needed. I have already discovered, in doing a Step 4 inventory and after much reflection, that so much of my unhappiness comes from disappointed expectations about my relationships with my family members.
We are all imperfect people, and by expecting my family to be in charge of my well-being, I set them up for failure. How can they know of my expectation? And if they have their own emptiness, how can they be expected to fill mine?
This is not to say that we should surround ourselves with toxic people, people who offer nothing and suck everything out you. Nor is it to say that our families don't offer us a great deal of love. It is only to say that my peace and emotional stability need not be dependent on my idea of how my family should act and treat me.
And because my family aren't toxic people, there is much I CAN be grateful for about my relationships with them. I know that ultimately I can rely on God for filling my emptiness, but additionally he has given me other people to help fill my emptiness. When I don't feel love and kindness exuding from my family members, I know I can fall back on the love and kindness I feel at group meeting, or from my online friends that I carry with me constantly. It sustains me when I feel alone.
I finally realized that I can best appreciate my family by releasing them from my unreasonable conjectures about how they should be, and just accept them as they are. Which is the subject of my next post, not because I can do it, but because I've read some great things about it that I want to share.