I read this quote a week ago via a Higher Perspective post on Facebook, and it gave me pause. I sat and thought about it for a few minutes, and realized there is some very real truth to this statement. People can say they care all they like; but the truth lies in what they actually do, the interest they show, and how engaged they really are with you. A person with whom you have a relationship may even believe they care about you, with the best of intentions, but you invest time and energy into the things you truly care about, so when someone is not putting a lot of effort into their relationship with you, it is really telling.
It made me incredibly sad, but was also liberating. In the past I have tried to convince myself that people cared about me, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, and that can be exhausting after awhile. Yes, there are extenuating circumstances sometimes, but when patterns repeat for a long time it is harder to believe that there isn’t something else going on.
Over the past year I have let go of all non-reciprocal relationships and focused on the ones that truly are reciprocated on all levels, including a mutual investment of time, energy and engagement. I have less relationships in my life, but the ones I do have are rich and rewarding, an exchange of energy rather than a one way flow.
I have been reading several very inspirational books lately, Daring Greatly and The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown, as well as The Fear Cure by Dr. Lissa Rankin. These books opened my eyes to the fact that I have lived my life from a place of fear and shame, feeling as though I was inherently flawed and incapable of being “fixed.” I was afraid of being vulnerable, and built a wall around myself as a self protective mechanism. But over the past year I have begun to shed this skin, to embrace the possibly that I am enough, exactly as I am, and to finally express myself, openly and honestly.
I believe the work you do on yourself has a fallout effect. Embracing hope and possibility rather than fear and doubt opens up so much space for wonderful experiences to enter. I have had a beautiful opportunity to connect in an open and honest way with a couple of people with whom I have been distanced for several years this week. I realized through this process that yes, often when people act as though they don’t care it does genuinely mean that they don’t. But there are also exceptions to this rule. Often people are dealing with their own demons, facing struggles that you know nothing about. Sometimes a lack of interest or connection has nothing to do with you.
Being able to open up to the possibility of true, honest connection has given me hope; while I do believe that relationships should be reciprocal, I also believe that sometimes you need to cut people some slack. Perhaps it comes down to meeting people where they are at; accepting their limitations (as well as your own) and doing the best you can with what you have in front of you.
The picture on my homepage illustrates my personal signposts for conscious living. One of the things I am trying to do in all of my relationships is release expectations. I am trying to be present and in the moment in my interactions with people, to repeat the mantra to have fun and connect. Of course all relationships are informed by past experience, but I would love to think that at some point it is possible to let go of the baggage, to move forward from a place of love and understanding, and a genuine desire to connect with the people you are in a relationship with. I am not naive enough to think that rehabilitating some of the relationships in my life will be a walk in the park; there is a lot of healing that needs to happen. But I would like to believe that all things are possible if I can remember to always choose love.
I would love to know, what are your personal experiences with reciprocity and connection (or lack thereof) in relationships? What are your personal boundaries or guidelines for the relationships in your life?