“Remember, we all stumble, every one of us. That’s why it’s a comfort to go hand in hand.” ~Emily Kimbrough
I just finished my second family visit for the year, and I have three more planned.
For years after I first moved away a decade ago, I only came home around the holidays.
I’d caused and dealt with so much drama that it felt easiest to hide with my pain and shame where I couldn’t hurt people or be hurt by them. I felt safest seeing my family in small doses, because there would be less time for me to mess things up—and fewer opportunities for them to reject me.
During one of my trips last year, I noticed that things felt different. Since I was visiting more frequently, it no longer felt like we were all on our best behavior for each other.
There was some friction, and minor annoyances, and even some major frustrations—all things I’d completely avoided for years.
At first I thought this was a sign I shouldn’t have been opening myself up. Everything felt predictably cordial when I visited infrequently, contained my true feelings, and engaged with people on a mostly superficial level.
Then I realized I was grateful for the change.
The intermittent tension, occasional irritations, and general sense of vulnerability were all signs that I was actually relating to people, not merely sharing space with them.
It may seem crazy to suggest conflict can be a good thing, but I’ve learned that even healthy, loving relationships inevitably involve a little friction.
If we’re showing our true selves, stumbling and learning a little every day, and spending time with other people who are doing the same, we will inevitably clash every now and then.
We will disagree. We will get irritated. We will feel disappointed. And we may do or say things we later come to regret. So long as we’re not in abusive relationships, none of these things have to indicate there’s something wrong.
Every time we don’t see eye to eye, we have a chance to practice expressing ourselves without judging each other. Every time we get on each other’s nerves, we have a chance to practice calming ourselves instead of blaming each other.
Real relationships are messy, and it can feel instinctive to resist that—but what a mistake that would be. It’s only when we stop learning together that we start to grow apart.
Photo by KittyKaht