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?


  1. I can't say I do (or I guess can) totally understand the TCK aspect, having only ever lived my entire life within a mile of where I currently am, but I certainly relate to the idea of it being easier to put up walls than deal with eventual goodbyes. I have some friends at church who I had prayed for for a long while, and then it seemed they would be moving shortly after we had grown close. It was painful enough with the possibility being there, and I closed up a bit as a result, for protection. Thankfully they didn't leave, and I decided that even if I DID only get to know them a short while, how long could we really be apart if they moved? We're only all on this planet for a blink in time, and then you've got eternity hanging out in the Courts of God. So now I look at it not as a goodbye but "Alright, you go live across the country, and at worst I'll see you in a century when we're all together again forever." In that way, there never really are goodbyes at all. :)

    On the flip side, I find it tricky to handle a few people in my life who have put up such thick walls because they are afraid of being abandoned. I do my best to prove I'm not here to judge or that I won't suddenly leave, but it's exhausting. After a while you get so worn down on the other side of the wall that you don't feel you have the energy for another attempt over/through. Then, I guess, the self-inflicted prophesy comes true: The people they worked so hard to keep out simply drift away.

    1. You are totally right, walls are something we all put up and also have come up against. I love thinking about how goodbyes rarely stay goodbyes. But in those harder moments I have kept people out for so long that they did drift away. Now, I think, even just being aware that I tend towards that can help me prepare the people I love around me to help me fight that tendency.

  2. Walls are never easy to overcome. And maybe this is something older children do. But as adults we still have walls. Perhaps walls of regret. When I was a child we moved a lot. Every four years our family would pick up and move to a new state. Being very young (before the teens) it was easy to leave friends behind. I think this was due to lack of maturity and not understanding the loss. But as I got older (our second to the last move was when I was in 10th grade), I remember promising to write to my best friend at that time. We would remain BFFs. Like I said no walls. And we did for a couple of years. But then life changed. She got married, I went off to college. We lost touch.

    Today I regret that I have not kept in contact. Hence the loss. The wall I have now is one of regret and fear. I don't know how to contact her. Or if I did finally find her would she even remember me.


    1. Auntie Mel, there are a lot of things that can build up walls in our lives. I think those walls are always worth tearing down though. That regret and fear doesn't have to stay there, and while I have had to leave some very strong friendships behind to drift into the wind, even little moments of recognition bring back memories and are not lost.