Friday, March 27, 2015

TCK Relationships Part 2 (Walls)

I've been avoiding writing this post. I am quite aware that no one is making me write it, but also so aware at how important it is to know and recognize this topic.

One reason I have been avoiding it is because it is hard to explain. While we just talked about the gung-ho, jump-in personalities of TCKs there comes a time where this comes to a sudden and very firm halt. Maybe you are enjoying a fantastic friendship when suddenly the TCK becomes distant. Maybe you are in a relationship and out of nowhere the TCK starts pulling away. Where a TCK had jumped into deep topics suddenly a deep friendship has come to a standstill and suddenly you find yourself standing at a very tall wall.

Let me first say that there is a reason (though not an excuse) for these walls. The life of a TCK, while being very rich and wonderful, is also a life of huge loss. The cycle of constantly making and then losing friendships, the hellos and goodbyes do a number on the heart and eventually a TCK will come to a point where it seems easier not to let someone in than it is to go through that feeling of loss again. That is the second reason I have avoided this. I love to champion the wonders of being a TCK but there are also struggles.

A lot of you who have been reading expressed that the concept of how hard it is to maintain a long-lasting friendship resonated with you. Can I tell you why? It is because you are more used to saying "goodbye" than you are to saying "hello, again". In our lives "hello" usually leads to inevitable and often sudden "goodbye".

If you were to read through my journals (please don't, but if you were) you would find this type of thing occurring over and over; something like: It will just hurt too much or I can't do this to them, I know I am going to put up a wall so I won't hurt them when I leave, so I will start to detach now. It will just be easier.
Hint: it never is. That early detachment does more hurt than a final goodbye with all the pain ever would.

But it isn't just when leaving. I wait for people to get sick of hanging out with me and am prepared to move on to another friendship at a moment's notice. In my marriage there has been a strange complexity between being so excited to have someone who will be there with me forever, and also that urge to put up walls just in case it is too good to be true. 5 years in I still fight it.

So, here I want to do two things.

First, I want to tell you that it is okay to feel that loss. You have had your heart broken again and again. I have too. You have had to say goodbye too soon, or too late, or from too far away, or from too near. You have had to let go of things you were holding tightly to. You have been hurt. You have been pulled away. You have lost things you cannot replace. You have felt deep, deep pain, and that is okay to feel. Let yourself grieve.

Second, I want to tell you that you are doing more harm than good. Every time you go cold inside, (you know what I am talking about, the empty, dead feeling you take on) you are not helping yourself. You are making things worse, you are making more pain, and you are hurting those around you. The walls are instinctual to protect, but deep friendships and deep connections are not something you need to protect yourself from. The pain at the end is deep, but the lasting pain of missed connection and love, that is far more destructive. It will take time and practice. It will take many "mind over matter" moments, where you simply decide to feel, where you decide to connect, even when you feel like turning off. It will take many moments where you must be honest with the people around you, where you must give people permission to pursue you when you shut down, permission to scale those walls. And it will take letting wise people give you direction. I do not claim to be one of those wise people, but I will pass on words from someone who is.

When a very close friend of mine was leaving our community in Egypt, I felt myself shutting off. Her mom was there to help her pack up and move back home and one night she pulled me aside and told me how glad she was that her daughter and I were friends. I smiled. But then she told me this:
"Don't you dare pull away from her. Don't you dare. You are too good of friends and it would hurt her too much if you did."

That admonishment has stuck with me. I thought I would save myself but I knew it would do irreparable damage if I did. So I didn't. And let's all just give a short applause to technology which allows us to keep meaningful friendships from far away so much easier than we used to. I have a little whatsapp group of girls who are spread across the world but who I can share my heart with in an instant, and that friend is one of them.

So take a sledge hammer to those walls. Let some people in. Schedule coffee dates, skype dates, cupcake dates, whatever you can. Send a long email. Give a long hug. Share your true heart. Then keep doing that.

And you who have reached a wall with a TCK, please know that it is not because of you. There is a lot of hurt there. Please, be understanding and patient.

When have you struggled with putting up walls? When have you encountered a wall with someone else?