I had a dream sometime the morning of January 1st that I was in the final stages of building a house so I went to the basement to check on progress. One side was finished out with new carpet, beautiful cabinets and a gorgeous granite-top bar area. The other side was filled with mounds of dirt piled high. It was dark and cold and a shocking contrast to the finished half.
There were several people in the basement, folks who were clearly planning to live with me because they were sharing how they were going to work around the dirt. “I’ll put my bed over here, next to this pile,” one said. “And there’s room for me over here,” another pointed. I stood there and wondered if it was really going to be like this…if I was going to permanently have these dirt piles (and people) in my life.
I’m fascinated by dreams. I don’t typically remember mine but every once in awhile I do and I knew that this one meant something. After much contemplation I realized that the new part of the house represented the new year and the piles of dirt represented existing relationships in my life.
And then it dawned on me…each year we have a chance to start with a fresh calendar but we step into the new year with the same connections we had the previous year. These relationships look the same as they did on December 31st and January is a great time to evaluate and decide what we would like them to look like in the new year.
I have family members who endured very challenging work interactions last year. They experienced deep betrayal and heartache from people whom they really trusted. In 2018 I had many friends who walked through the pain of divorce and others who experienced the loss of someone they desperately loved. The list goes on, and it’s interesting to note that most of our challenges in life truly are people-related.
I think back to my first year of therapy, sitting in my counselor’s office and asking her if she thought I would ever be whole again. She reassured me that I would. I couldn’t see it but I believed I was on a good path that would lead me to that place. Sometimes getting up and aligning our bodies in the right direction and then taking the first step is what I would call progress. After my long counseling sessions I would head to the bathroom and stare at the mirror and tell that person with bloodshot eyes that she was going to be okay. Often the “being okay” part isn’t about the fact that our situation has changed, it’s just believing that our hearts will find a place of calmness and we will experience peace in our lives. Sometimes being okay means we acknowledge that things are not okay and we accept that, knowing our scenery will change over time. This is a deeper understanding of life because it removes the circumstances from the equation and reveals that no matter what, we will trust God that there is something else on the other side of the valley.
My mom experienced this last week. She had an old relationship wound reopen because of something that was written in a Christmas card and it struck a nerve of emotional pain in her life. As she wrestled with feelings of inadequacy and shame, she was reminded that this particular relationship had been cut off by the other party due to decisions they had made. My mom discovered that there was nothing she could do about it because it wasn’t her decision in the first place. She made peace with her situation and experienced a new-found freedom she hasn’t felt in years. She faced that pile of dirt and shoveled it over to the side where it belonged. This person is a part of her story but not a part of her life so the dirt is there, it’s just in her peripheral.
I think I can speak for most women when I say we crave closure. I understand that friendships come and go in life but when one goes I would like the opportunity to understand why. Often it’s because that friendship was intended for a specific season or was based on proximity, interests or even similar experiences or pain. But sometimes the friendships just suddenly come to an end.
A few years ago I sat next to a gentleman on a flight and he and I got to talking about house flipping and he told me that his wife flipped houses and that I just had to meet her. He gave me her number and I reached out, mostly out of curiosity. She and I went to coffee and had a great time. We swapped house flipping war stories and laughed at how similar our personalities were. We hung out and kept in touch and then one day she fell off the map. I’m embarrassed to say that I chased her down and we went to coffee one last time but then she disappeared again. I realized later that she was having a really difficult time in her marriage and I had just gotten a divorce and honestly, I think my raw wounds were too much for her. She needed to be around friends whose marriages were thriving; she needed to know she could make it. So I let it go and accepted that I wouldn’t get closure. I put a tombstone on that pile of dirt and I moved on. Now, from a healthy perspective, I look back on my friendship with her and smile as I realize it was for a brief moment, but it was sweet and brought me joy at a time I needed it.
I’ve been thinking about the mounds of dirt that represent relationships that have been strained in the past but are worth pursuing and restoring. When I moved into my house eight years ago the trees in my yard had been stressed by the movement of dirt from large machinery. I reached out to a friend who knew a lot about pines and he brought over gallons and gallons of a nutrient-based mixture he had created and we doused the root systems. I am happy to say that all the trees were saved and are healthy and thriving today. Some fractured relationships are salvageable and worth saving, but it does take effort on our part to nurse them back to health. We have to identify them and make a plan to aggressively get them back on course.
I have several relationships I’d like to nurture and grow in 2019. There are people who are very dear to my heart that I struggle with being intentional about spending time with. We need to set aside time for fun and growth and really enjoy the relationships God has blessed us with; some are like pure gold and need to be treated as such. This makes me think of an elementary school project where everyone planted a bean seed in a styrofoam cup. I remember thinking it took FOREVER for that thing to grow but realized later that the treasure of the experience was learning to care for it every day and then be rewarded with the miracle of life.
And what about the naysayers, those who criticize who we are and what we stand for? We don’t have to accept the words of those who sit on the sidelines watching and hoping we fail. We can put those relationships in their place and take the manure they throw at us to use as fertilizer in our gardens. (This is a better option than throwing it back at them, by the way.) I picture hearty vegetables growing on those mounds of dirt…taking that negative energy and using it to make our hearts stronger and our skin thicker. We don’t have to be bitter and hurt but we also don’t have to give these people space in our lives.
I was just telling my boys the other day that our relationships make or break us. We have to carefully pick who has entry into our lives and we need to evaluate the energy we put into those relationships. There are people we need to distance ourselves from this year, but there are others who need to be pursued. Both provide an amazing platform for growth in our lives. May God give us the grace to discern between the two!
If you know someone who could benefit from this post, please share. God carved out a path of intense healing for me and I would like to share it with as many people who need or want to hear.