Until the lesson is learned

Are we bound to repeat the same mistakes and continue in the same patterns until the lesson is learned?

That’s what I keep reading anyway.

I don’t believe the universe is testing me by sending me people or putting me in situations that require me to break a pattern or continue to grow. The universe is not interested in me or my life enough to make such moves.

But we seek such people or situations out ourselves, consciously or unconsciously.

I keep reaching for the wrong people. Always the ones that don’t reach back. I’ve written about this before. It’s a pattern that I am aware of. It’s not that I do this all the time. But over the years, I keep running into people that I end up wanting to hold onto even though the effort is not returned.

There is one such person in my life right now. I have plenty of reason to like her and to pursue a friendship. But the effort is not returned. It was, for a while. It no longer is, though. And still, I keep trying.

It takes a lot for me to give up on someone. When I ultimately do give up, it is out of the need to protect myself from hurting any longer. And it’s not as if these people go out of their way to hurt me (not actively and at least most of the time), but I am hurting, nonetheless.

Do I have to keep letting people go until someone decides they want to stay? I don’t need a ton of friends in my life. But the ones I choose, I always hope will choose me as well. And enough of them do. But when someone doesn’t, or I am not sure that they do, are they just another lesson for me to learn to let go? To stop reaching for someone who doesn’t reach for me?

This is just one example of the many repeated patterns we can’t easily shake. We always end up in the same or similar situations and keep making the same mistake. Usually, because we hope for a different outcome. Perhaps this time things will be different.

But why would they?

What reason do we have to believe that things will be different this time? Because we can’t be that unlucky again?

Except, we bring these situations about and these people into our lives, at least in part. We attract them and don’t say no to them. We go into it with an unfounded hope that we’ll do better this time.

And eventually, we will. When the lesson is finally learned. I know this from experience.

I know I have a tendency to attract or be attracted to emotionally unavailable people. And I want more from them than they are able to give. It’s not their fault. If the interest would be mutual, the effort would be equal. It’s not. I can’t blame them. And I don’t.

But letting go and moving on is not one of my strengths. I have to keep working on it. People come and go. Most of the time with most people we are okay with that. But there are those we don’t just want to let go again. It sucks when we realize we might have to.

It sucks to realize that they might be part of a lesson you have yet to finally learn.

I get better at it. But I don’t think I will ever be good at it.

Reaching for the wrong people

Every now and then I have an epiphany. It usually happens when I talk to myself, thinking out loud. That’s when I seem to have the best ideas.

I’m currently in a situation where one of my friends has retreated. I’m not entirely sure why. We had a miscommunication. We were exchanging messages when I was feeling a little down. In fact, I was feeling lonely. That doesn’t happen to me very often. I can usually deal with it, but I didn’t deal with it very well when we talked.

And that meant that what I said, which could have been meant in jest, weirded her out. the problem is that she didn’t say anything. Instead, she simply didn’t answer at all. And of course, that weirded me out. I knew I could have handled that situation better, could have chosen my words better, but for her to simply not reply sucked.

Ultimately, after two days or so, I wrote her again to defuse the situation. That’s when she confessed two having been weirded out. I admitted that I have been in a weird mood which affected my responses to her, and I apologised. The problem here is that she again simply did not reply.

That did not just suck, it hurt.

It’s completely unnecessary. Instead of reaching out, talking to me, or asking what might be wrong, she retreated, and I don’t see why.

Usually, I would have followed up and sent her another message, just to explain myself a little more. I have composed that message, but I decided not to send it. Because I always do that. And in the past, it never served me well.

My impulse is to reach out. I have a problem with letting go. Especially when I like somebody. But I have been the one to reach out more often than not. At some point, I’m gonna have to leave her to it. If she wants to reach out, she knows where to find me. But I don’t expect her to. In fact, I expect that she will send me a random message at some point and pretend nothing ever happened.

When I deal with situations like that, I think out loud to myself, essentially conversing with the other person without them actually being there. I can only go with what I would say myself, not how they would respond, but it helps me sort through my thoughts.

And there it was, this epiphany, as I was thinking that I keep reaching for the wrong people. Not because there’s anything wrong with them, but because they don’t reach back. And what is the point of reaching for someone who doesn’t reach back? I’ve been doing that so much in my life and I was always the one ending up hurt in the end.

Mind you, I have people in my life who do reach back. They ask how I am, they want to know. They are my friends. And I’m blessed for every single one of them.

The question is why I keep reaching for those unavailable ones. One of my friends would probably say that this is one of my projects to figure out. Maybe it is a lesson in letting go, which will repeat over and over again until I finally learn. Because it is very clear that I haven’t yet.

In German, we have a saying that hope dies last. And I am one of those people who seem to operate on that premise. As I said previously, always giving somebody the benefit of the doubt even when they have shown themselves to be undeserving.

Ultimately, to find the ones who will stay, those who reach back, we have to go through a lot of people who simply don’t care enough.

Repeating patterns

If you ever ask yourself what’s wrong with you, the answer is probably ‘a lot’. Though that’s not necessarily the best way to look at it. We shouldn’t think in terms of something being ‘wrong’ with us. Of course, the feeling that something is just not ‘right’ tempts us to think of the opposite as ‘wrong’.

The truth is, we’re all complex and complicated. We’re all damaged in some way. And much of that damage has been done to us by our parents. Even if we had happy childhoods with loving parents, they inevitably screwed us up in a way we’re probably not even aware of.

I had a good childhood. I was free, had friends, could play outside without worrying about predators. I had all I needed. But I also had an often-absent father, who barely had a hand in raising us, and a relatively strict mother, who had an introverted child at her hands and didn’t know how to connect to me emotionally.

Don’t get me wrong, I always had a good relationship with my parents, and still do. I love them dearly and they love me without question.

But that doesn’t mean that I got everything I needed when I was a child. Especially emotionally.

This isn’t anybody’s fault. My parents had their own burdens to carry and are probably not even aware in which ways they’ve been damaged by their parents. Every generation damages the next one, usually without intent or without really knowing any better.

We now know better. We know that parents influence their children in a fundamental way as they grow up, especially in their early years. Our adult attachments patterns are a repetition of our attachment to our parents, the way they loved us and connected with us.

We may grow older, turn into adults, but the child in us never truly disappears. It would be a tragedy if we lost our inner children, the part of us that never truly grows up.

But sometimes it is just as much of a tragedy how this child influences our behaviours and needs as adults. How we keep repeating patterns that are not good for us because this child is still desperately trying to find something that may not be there.

It helps to recognise this. It helps to be aware that this is happening. We can’t blame our parents for raising us one way or another, unless they are narcissists or abusers (or both), they usually tried their best. And we can’t blame ourselves for turning out the way we did, for forming certain attachment styles and having unmet needs.

But where do we go from here? Especially since everybody else is just as screwed up as we are.

It’s a lot of work.

My past relationships and many of my friendships have taught me what I need and want. That’s a good thing, though sometimes I paid a pretty steep price for a lesson.

This work we must do, the growth we must undertake, it’s painful. It can be heart-breaking.

I know my patterns. I know my unfulfilled needs. I know what I look for in people and I know that I somehow always land on those who can’t give me what I need. I also know that I keep hoping to be wrong about someone. That we just don’t know each other well enough yet and that things may not be as they seem.

But that hope is unsustainable because when people show you who they are, you really should believe them.

When I’m at a low point, this is very hard to accept. I prefer to give people the benefit of the doubt, but I am usually the one who ends up being hurt in the end.

Walking away from your own patterns—breaking out—is difficult. We grasp onto straws, which will inevitably break. Our inner children are pretty stubborn, especially when they potentially discover a kindred spirit.

The thing is, you can hold onto people all you like, if they don’t hold onto you as well, letting go really is the only option.

That sucks. And it hurts. And it never gets any easier either.

But it does teach you that the people who do hold onto you as well are the right ones for you. And they are the ones who will help you break your patterns.

You will likely only have a few such people in your life, but they matter more than all the ones who keep letting you go.

All we have is each other

But sometimes not even that.

I’ve been thinking a lot about friendship, what it means, what it requires, what a friend could or perhaps even should be. I have no definitive answer and I cannot impose my ideals of a friendship on someone else. How I might be as a friend to someone has no bearing on how they might be as a friend to me.

We can’t all give in the same way, have different capacities for love and different expectations for our interactions with others.

I know what I can give a friend. I know what I need in a friend. I never know what I may get from a friend.

Considering this new project I am working on, I find myself revisiting old blog entries, which is enlightening to say the least. I ended up reading this blog I published in August 2019. Not all of it is relevant for what I am trying to say here. But I must repeat this as it is relevant to friendship and where I find myself at right now:

I believe in fighting for one another. Not against each other. When there’s love, how can we let it become hate or contempt? Sometimes love is not enough, no matter how much we love. When someone is not receptive, it doesn’t matter. But don’t we have a duty to still treat each other with decency?

Is it necessary to be hurtful or cruel? Yes, rejection hurts and there’s practically nothing we can do to ease the pain. Whatever our intentions might be, the other person will still be hurt. And if that’s the case, we should try our best to do the right thing.

What is the right thing? That depends on the circumstances but at the very least we can take responsibility for our actions. Accept the consequences. And perhaps apologise.

Burning bridges and pretending that everything is alright is certainly not the right path.

At the end of the day, I don’t believe in causing pain to one another. Sometimes it happens despite our best intentions. Such is life. I’ve hurt people before. I’m not proud of it. I did my best to own it and make it better. But I can’t heal someone else. They have to do that themselves. I can only apologise and hope for forgiveness one day.

We’re all we have, you know? Ultimately we’re all the same. We’re all human. We have hopes and fears and sorrows and the capacity for joy. We all want to be loved. We want someone to see us. Someone to choose us. Someone to stand by our side.

Sometimes we don’t get these things. Sometimes we don’t get what we need or want. And that has to be okay as well.

Because it is not okay to take what somebody is unwilling to give.