Avoidance-(my personal definition):
The act of ignoring, dismissing or misrepresenting something that has the potential to cause emotional or relational pain. Also known as not telling the truth.
The above is the unsuccessful method of how I navigated conflict and negative emotions for most of my life. I portrayed strength and confidence on the outside, but secretly I was unable to successfully engage and resolve conflict within my intimate relationships. It was an exhausting circle of trying to not offend, avoid conflict and ultimately, choosing to be numb for self protection.
When I started my journey in talk therapy, I had no idea that I was avoiding negative emotions. I was disconnected, from anger especially. I knew all about fear, but for deeply personal reasons, I did not allow myself to feel angry. In a simplified sense, I was lying to myself to avoid making changes.
The truth always requires a decision- either you decide to change or you decide to stay the same, but a decision must be made when confronted with the truth.
Many areas of my life were truthful. I had faith in God, had been a Pastor, had an amazing credit score and made sure I told the truth about my weight and age at my annual doctor visit. I mean, if you don’t lie about your weight while applying for a drivers license then I should wear my halo here on earth, am I right?
But I was lying. I was lying about my self image, my marriage and my needs. Somewhere in my journey, I accepted the message that a woman like me didn’t have the right to define herself. She was to be defined by those around her, the loudest voices got to shape me. And folks, as you might know, the loudest voices are not usually the healthy ones!
So I let religious messages shape me, embracing a false idea of what a godly woman looks like. She is meek, mild, deferential, self sacrificing, esteeming others, a confusing tincture of holy and hollow.
And I let my desire to please my former spouse carve me into the woman he wanted.
But most importantly, I convinced myself that I needed to be a different woman. Messages from childhood and adolescence, voices of people I respected and authority figures I wanted to please rang in my head, over and over. Too bossy, too opinionated, too aggressive, out of control, who gives a shit attitude, lazy, dumb as a rocking horse, flaky…. You get the idea. According to those around me, I was a hybrid of a ditzy control freak.
Does such a person even exist? If so, I was sure it was me.
As a result of that broken thinking, I set out to empty myself of the things that others found offensive. I had the craziest idea that the best gift I could offer those close to me was to become a blank white projection screen, a space for them to cast their personalities upon. I became:
The year I turned fifty my inner world erupted. Anger, desolation and self hatred came spewing out. I tried so hard to cool the smoldering lava. Eventually, I couldn’t cope any longer and began seeing a therapist. It was hard, humbling and confrontational. Slowly my counselor and I disassembled the structure of falsehoods that I had built my life upon. Major life changes ensued and for a season searing emotional pain would become my new normal, but finally I was telling the truth.
“ At the edge of every healthy new beginning is the truth”
– Midlife is Magical
So let me ask you a question friend:
What are you lying about? Are you afraid to tell the truth?
Caught in a soul sucking job?
Lack of healthy communication with your spouse?
An unsatisfying sex life?
Neglecting health issues?
Skimpy retirement accounts?
Co-dependent with your adult kids?
Maybe you are a bit like I was and thought you couldn’t handle the truth. You are afraid that telling the truth will disrupt patterns, affect lives and it certainly won’t be convenient. Yes, there are times that telling the truth can bring discomfort. But living in freedom brings great comfort, and opportunity for growth.
Adults tell the truth. Midlife women tell the truth.
I promise you can handle the truth. Wherever it might lead you.
Here are three ways to encourage internal honesty:
Find a safe person to talk things out with. I recommend a qualified therapist. I understand the obstacles of money, time and what others might think of you if you begin therapy. You are the only one who can put a price tag on your inner emotional order. At minimum, find a friend that you share a balanced power dynamic with; you don’t desire to please her and she doesn’t need to fix you. Sometimes just hearing your own voice speak the truth out loud is all that is needed to begin self awareness.
Give yourself permission to change your mind. Very few things in this life are permanent, it is okay to grow and change. There is nothing wrong with realizing that an old idea doesn’t fit you anymore. There is no shame in pursing new ideas and bigger purposes in your life. Remember, grow or decay.
Start. Yup, it isn’t enough to identify truth. You have to move toward truth. Some steps on this journey require very little effort. Maybe you want to learn to belly dance- well, get on YouTube and start watching videos. Stand in front of the mirror and practice. Allow yourself the joy of moving your body and the wonder of being a beginner again. Or you have something bigger to tackle, like your relationship with your mom. Family dynamics are challenging, but you could start with a simple conversation about the areas of your relationship you would like to repair. Nothing happens until we choose to take action.
Everything in life is a beginning. Until we exhale our last breath, our life is ALWAYS on the edge of a new start. Each day, each hour, each minute is an opportunity to create a fresh, completely original beginning.
Let’s honor the gift of of midlife and begin to speak the truth.