I used to think that I was good at hard conversations. Taking pride in my ability to be uncomfortable in any given moment, not understanding the way trauma gives you super powers sometimes inside out. It turns out that I wasn’t good at hard conversations at all, I was good at confrontation. Confrontation without healthy communication or emotional maturity though, is just a disaster waiting to happen. Leaving no room or foresight for a positive outcome or peaceful aftermath.
My inner child standing on a table telling everyone off who had ever harmed, taken advantage, bullied, or abused me was many times in the same moment of my early 20Something self standing drunk, cussing out a friend, a stranger, an enemy, for crossing my boundaries. Bypassing hundreds of chances for communication and finally snapping one day from holding it all in. Proud of myself, because I finally got comfortable with letting her speak. The 8 year old, 13 year old, and 18 year old. Finally stopped allowing people to walk all over her, take from her, and silence her, or so I felt. But that was never the reality….
I used to think that I was good at hard conversations, in my mind I was eloquently standing up for myself, rising to the occasion. But not often issuing previous chances, setting or respecting boundaries, or addressing the stories we tell ourselves. When you don’t understand the depths of your trauma, spending years masking it into something more palatable for those around you. Making sure you cut it down into bite size pieces so you don’t have to appear to be the broken girl. The girl mistaking healed for put together. You don’t give yourself the room to see where you’re still in pain. Projection and anger in that place can easily become a second language. The still getting walked over due to your own avoidance, to allowing people to scape-goat you, to losing your sh*t on them months later pipeline can make tornadoes out of gentle rains. Leaving you wondering how you got here. You learn to keep in practice all of the ways adults taught you to self regulate. Promising you would never be the same, but wearing their shoes and walking in them on a daily basis.
Sitting where I’m sitting now I still find myself in quiet moments wanting to go back and address, explain, apologize for, and receive apologies for. “Maybe if I had said it like this, explained this, told them this…” fills my mind on nights that I can’t sleep. Wishing for resolutions that aren’t wishing for me. But the flow of life is unstoppable, and releasing control of the “what if’s” is liberating. My therapist recently told me this about a situation “just because you have the tools now, and the understanding now, doesn’t mean reconciliation is the goal. If they valued YOU enough for hard conversations, you wouldn't be the only one reaching out." My heart stalled, life is a funny game of reciprocation and I realized in that second that I had been spinning all my wheels all alone. It’s such a weird thing, 20/20 hindsight, wishing you had shown up in ways that you simply didn’t have the capacity for, but wishing it anyways. My early 20’s were filled with freedom, escapism, aching, pain, and moments of fleeting joy. Being a ticking time bomb disguised as a bottle of water. A traumatized, abused, beat down, girl; disguised as a woman. Playing the game constantly of how many arrows can I take before I react, while simultaneously being clueless to how living in a traumatized state makes you show up to others.
I used to think that I was good at hard conversations, turns out I was just really good at war.
& there are no happy endings to war, no understanding. No hugs, I’m sorrys, or i forgive you’s. Just destruction and death. Battlefields of wreckage that make it hard to see what the initial problem even was in the first place. Even war has it’s time in some cases, has its rare moments where dead relationships and abuse run their course. But for the most part as people we just want to be seen, respected, appreciated, and loved. We ask for pain to stop and wounds to heal, and those brave moments tell us all that we need to know about the other person across the table. Tell us everything about if they are with us or against us, good for us or toxic rain, gentle or destructive. A friend, or a long time enemy. Those moments where we reach out for a hand of understanding tell us everything about intention.
I don’t claim to be the best at hard conversations anymore. But in my 30somethings they’re my favorite. Thriving in a place of empathy both given and received. Living freely and dancing on graves of projection and misplaced anger, enjoying the abundance of reciprocated relationships. I still have moments, where the fire may stir in my stomach, making hurt feelings or a wounded ego cause smoke to flare up in my nostrils. But true peace and real love make for a really good extinguisher. Reminding me that my end goal is just better connection, to see and to be seen, or to gently walk away from whatever and whoever may not be for me. When you choose to live amongst people that understand you, and you understand yourself, it gets easy to see that in the right environment being a fire breather looks a lot more like being a healer. Not with a cape on feeling obligated to save. Not forcing, controlling, or pushing. Just focusing on my own healing, inviting those around me to do the same. & my inner child finds a lot of joy in finally being her true self, in alignment with who we were always meant to be.