"All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances..."
And oh, how right The Bard was. In this day and age though, even if we still have heroes, villains, lovers and everything in between, those entrances and exits are a little less clean cut that what I can imagine good ole' Shakespeare witnessing and scripting in the 1500's... Through social media we're hyper-connected so the community of 'players' we interact with on a daily basis is much larger and infinitely more complex than Shakespeare's.
In fact, as a modern human, you're likely find the following characters or a variation of them in the play that is your life (starting with the antagonists/villains):
The person you gave your all to and it wasn’t enough to keep them interested in a relationship...
That person who still thinks that you’re in love with them even though it’s been years, you’ve moved on, and it couldn’t be further from the truth...
The person who owes you an apology but still hasn't had the courage to ask for your forgiveness...
The person who always needs and gladly takes your help but who is incapable of reciprocity...
The person in your family or group of friends who knows just the right buttons to push to make you feel small...
The person who you feel obligated to keep in your life because you have history even though you feel like you no longer have anything in common with...
That person who makes you feel like life isn’t fair. They’re better looking, more successful, infinitely cooler, and so nice you can't hate them...
That person who has a ‘perfect relationship’ and it reminds you of how imperfect everything is in your own existing relationship or that being single sucks...
That person who has really lived life on their own terms and has had the courage to make moves you never felt capable of making yourself...
The person whose love you feel like you don’t deserve and it makes you feel guilty...
The person who after decimating your heart into a million pieces moved on faster than you did...
The person who you gave your trust to and who violated it more than once...
That person who made you feel like your best wasn’t good enough…In work, in life, in love...
The person who never liked you and you never understood why. You were always nice, you were always open, you were always willing...
That person who you were a shitty friend to and who you desperately miss and wish you could show how much you’ve grown and changed...
The list goes on.
Like I said previously, if you’re the average person, chances are that many of 'these people' exist or have existed in your life. That means that A) you're probably one or more of 'those people' in somebody else's life and B) that 'those people' probably have these same people in their lives too. It helps to remember that.
It also helps to remember that these people are just people. People who are also trying to figure out this thing called life. People who are who they are and whose lives have no bearing on yours unless you allow them to. In fact, whatever meaning they bring to your experience is actually something that you gave them. What do I mean by that?
Well for starters, no, you actually don't hate (insert name here). You hate that when they're around or when you think of them you feel (insert negative emotion). People aren't emotions, they're people. We have a tendency of making them interchangeable and it causes us a lot of unecessary grief.
Please know that these people are in your life for a reason and that reason is to provide contrast and opportunities for growth. The people in your life who trigger negative emotions inside of you are actually just symbolic of something that is actually already happening inside of you. A reminder of an old wound that needs healing or of your over-active inner critic who is actually there to try to protect you.
So what to do? How to manage the presence of these unsavory characters in our life?
Well, if you don’t have to, don’t. Starting in social media land, the 'unfriend' and 'unfollow' features on Facebook come in handy for that. There’s no need to subject ourselves daily to negative triggers if we don’t have to… Especially from people who we don’t really spend time with in person anyway. It's time to give our inner masochistic-online-stalker-selves a rest. Poor things have been on overdrive for quite some time now.
However, seeing as that isn’t the only or even a sensible solution, particularly when some of the people in question are in our families, close groups of friends, etc., it serves us to realize that if we're going to give these folks energy, then that energy should at least be productive.
For example, if 'Mary', who makes you feel insecure makes an appearance in your mind, get curious as to why that is.
Observe your feelings, name them, and try to understand where they really stem from. What is it about this person that makes me feel this way? What do I feel like I’m lacking and how can I source it in my life so that I won’t continue to have this reaction? Is it security? Acceptance? Love? Dig my friend. Dig deep enough and I promise you will find!
If 'Joseph' (guess we're feeling biblical here) serves as a reminder of a part of your past or present that you wish you could re-do or change, then focus on what you can actually do to change it moving forward. Were you a shitty friend to this individual? Forgive yourself and look for the positive things that you learned from that experience/person. The relationship may be unsalvageable but that doesn't mean all is lost.
For example, in this particular case you’ll find that the experience actually taught you that being a good friend is important to you. It also helped you define what friendship really means because it is where you failed. Do you define friendship as words? Actions? Feelings? Knowing that is something that isn’t just useful, it’s something that you can infuse all of your current relationships with and doing so will make you a better human.
Life is too short to live in the past or to fall prey to comparison syndrome. Both will rob you of your happiness faster than you can imagine. Both also require energy which you could be using to build the life you actually want to live.
On that note, if you insist on focusing on others, then why not focus on the 'players' in your life who help you feel empowered, light, and happy, happy, happy? (The heroes or trusty sidekicks if you will)
You know, the person who always leaves you more energized after a conversation on the phone, a quick coffee, or a three hour crying session?
That person who you know will pick you up at the airport no matter what time it is or who will dog sit even though they’re allergic to pets?
That person who you can sit next to for hours and talk, do nothing, read, or just ‘be’ with with no pressure to ‘perform’?
The person who makes you feel like anything is possible. The one who allows you to dream out loud and who actually encourages to follow those dreams?
That person who makes you feel smart? Beautiful? Sexy? Wanted?
The person who asks real questions and who listens with real interest to what you have to say?
That person who inspires you to be a better version of yourself but who always makes you feel like you’re enough just the the way you are?
The person who personifies kindness and who brings it out in you when they’re around?
That person who makes you think a little bit deeper… About life, about work, about love?
That person who gives you a good dose of perspective wrapped in a sandwich of love and carefully crafted advice when you need it most without being righteous or preachy?
That person who will listen to you say things that are so horrible you’re afraid to voice them out loud but who you know won’t judge you for saying them?
The person who is familiar with your shadow side and doesn’t allow anybody, not even you to define yourself by it?
That person who looks at you like you’re magic? The one who at times knows you better than you know yourself and who loves you to the moon and back for it?
Again, the list goes on.
At the end of the day where you spend your energy is entirely up to you. However, I would be totally remiss if I didn't at least encourage you to consider spending your energy on the single most important person in your life. You know, the one you see in the mirror every day when you brush your teeth and get ready to 'adult'.
They’re the best and deserve a little recognition once in a while too.
Don't make me re-send that memo. ;)
(I picked 'La Yugular' by Alex Ferreira y El Frente Caribe as the song for this entry because it is what I'm sure many people wish they had the guts to say to a former lover who did them wrong. It is by all means a happy goodbye full of irony and colorful metaphors. The lyrics are hilarious and very very on point. I promise next post will feature a song in English for those who aren't Spanish speakers!)