We’ve all been there, the moment where you’re walking along and minding your own business…and then something stinks. Congratulations, you’ve stepped in poop. It’s slippery and smelly and makes a huge mess, even if you discover it right away. It’s one of those clean-up jobs that seems to get worse before it gets better. Now, the best case scenario is that you’ve discovered it immediately and although it’s disgusting, the clean up is generally easier. The flip side, is that sometimes you step in it…and have no idea. You end up figuring it out later when you’re searching for the stench and realize that it’s you and you’ve successfully tracked it everywhere you’ve walked as well. Cleaning up this situation can take much longer because of the widespread nature of the mess.
Similarly, there are situations and people in life that cause some “stinky” situations. Maybe your workplace causes you more than the average amount of stress, and you have huge panic attacks while you’re getting ready for work. Your significant other is struggling and you’re staying up all night feeling sick worrying about making ends meet. Or your closest friends decide that they have strong opinions that you oppose, and the interactions that you have with them are causing you to want to avoid spending time with them. Perhaps your family isn’t on board with your life choices and they go out of their way to tell you all the ways you’ve let them down. These are just a few of the MANY life situations that stink.
When you’ve got an animal who uses your backyard as their toilet, you need to get out there and clean up the mess so the yard doesn’t stink, the grass doesn’t die and poop doesn’t get tracked all over your house by Fido or Fluffy. The solution? Shovel the sh*t. You’ve GOT to take control of your life and your emotions, similarly to how you’d avoid stepping in poop. The people, places and situations that cause you the most distress, the most grief, the most trauma–they need to be dealt with or “cleaned up.” Obviously some situations are delicate and a great deal of time and planning can be required (for example finding another job or setting aside money to leave a relationship), but whenever you’re able to safely and confidently move forward with resolving the situation–don’t make excuses, just do it.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how many people stay in our lives out of duty or obligation, how many uncomfortable situations we ignore rather than address, how many times we complain about something without taking action–and for what reason? It’s important to be intentional about the situations and people that we willingly permit to be a part of our lives. Naturally, we cannot control other people and every circumstance that presents itself, however we can react in a proactive and meaningful manner that will set a precedent for the type of behavior that you will willingly tolerate and the situations that you’re agreeable in participating in. I absolutely believe in being kind and civil and polite to everyone that crosses my path, to look for the good in humanity; but there’s a certain point in which loving yourself will help you to love others better.
Earlier this week, I had a very necessary encounter with someone whom had at one point in my life been very important to me–my late mom’s husband. He and my mom had dated from when I was about 12 until I was 18, and then reconnected later in their lives and eventually married. Without sharing all the details, I will just mention that he and she were very happy together for the first period of time that they were together and my teenage years were a lot of fun. He definitely contributed to my upbringing, and was involved in many of my milestones (taught me to drive, cheered at my graduation, etc). Later in life, even after he and my mom had split, we kept in touch. He held my babies when the kiddos were born and we would go out to lunch from time to time and I was happy to keep him as a part of my life. When he and my mom reconnected a few years ago, things changed a bit and we lost touch. Their relationship this time around had a myriad of ups and downs, largely due to her uncontrolled mental illness and his relapse into alcoholism–and to be honest, I developed a lot of resentment towards him. My mom had significant medical needs that he refused to acknowledge or address, and while I don’t blame him for her eventual death, I don’t think that he was the type of husband that she deserved. We made it through her memorial service in a civilized manner, however from that point forward every time I would think of him or hear from him I would instantly feel angry. I’m not generally a very angry person, and I totally agree that anger (although at times, healthy) can be harmful to someone if they harbor the emotions. After some serious thought and discussing things with some wise council, I made the choice to write him a letter sharing my feelings in a calm, non-blaming manner. I also thanked him for being there for me in my youth and then requested that he and I have no further contact.
Anger, resentment, grief, sadness etc. left unadressed WILL end up getting tracked into other areas of your life. Do your best to work through the situations and relationships. Be kind but be firm, and deal with things. Does “dealing with things” mean that you have to end contact with the person or situation? No. What it does mean, is that you bring whatever feelings you’re having to the forefront and let the other person know how you’re feeling and/or what you’re thinking. It may be as simple as an honest conversation with people who likely do care about you enough to listen. Life is short. Honor the relationships and people and situations that make you feel safe, loved and happy. Shovel the shit–and if you can’t do it alone, ask for some “landscaping” help from those who love you.