Yesterday morning, when I went to church, the streets were slippery. I didn’t anticipate that. There was light rainfall coming down, but the road in front of my home looked fine. I didn’t realize that the streets were covered with ice until I was out driving and my brakes were “grabbing”. I drove very slowly and cautiously, and when I got to my destination, a friend walked with me through the parking lot so I didn’t fall.
When the roads are covered with a thin, clear sheet of ice, it’s often called “black ice” because you see the blacktop beneath the frozen surface (seafarers also use this term for ice that is heavy enough to overturn a boat). It’s deceiving because, since you don’t see it, you assume everything is fine. You don’t anticipate it, and before you know it, you’re sliding or falling, or worse yet, getting into a major accident or getting seriously hurt. The “black ice” catches you off guard.
Walking on eggshells is a lot like driving on an icy road. You’re cautious and careful but, in spite of that, you never know what’s coming. I know people who are regularly “walking on eggshells”. They have to be VERY careful; tip-toeing through their days or weeks (and sadly, sometimes years) because of the fear and fallout of someone else getting upset.
If you feel like you “walk on eggshells”, maybe it’s because someone you care about has a personality disorder. Perhaps you have a tyrannical boss. It could be that you spend a lot of time with someone who’s just miserable, and you’ve become the scapegoat for all that person’s negative feelings. It’s so much worse if that person is someone you share day-to-day life with, in your own home, in the place that is SUPPOSED to be full of peace.
Often, to the outside world, just like the ice on those blacktopped roads, everything looks just “fine”. When you live that way you’re careful about everything you do. You calculate whether or not a certain question will put that person over the edge. You’re afraid of saying the wrong thing, doing the wrong thing or even “looking” the wrong way. One “unacceptable” comment and there’s rage or demeaning language or stony silence. One misstep and the proverbial “rug’s pulled out from under you”. Sometimes we pretend that the outburst or silence doesn’t hurt us. Sometimes we fall apart.
Maybe at some point in your life you were abused so you think that it’s acceptable to be mistreated (it’s not). Maybe you decide that, “it’s really no big deal”, or that you “caused the problem by saying the wrong thing” (chances are good you didn’t). Maybe you’re afraid of a life without that person so you trade the “what if” for the sure thing (fear causes us to do funny things) . Maybe you just don’t like yourself so you figure “I’ve got it coming” (you don’t).
Sometimes it’s confusing because the person vacillates between one of two extremes. Either every thing is fine or everything is wrong. When everything’s “good” you may even allow yourself to finally breathe. You may even believe that “this time it WILL be different”. Then, heaven forbid, you become so comfortable and complacent that when the next disappointment occurs you’re even more devastated. You realize that you can NEVER let your guard down, never fully trust. You begin to doubt the value of yourself as a human being, as a child of God, as a beautiful spirit. Life becomes challenging, lonely, scary or daunting, as you realize that you’re in the eggshell walking process all over again.
Everything said or done takes deliberation. You’re always on the verge of tears but you know that crying won’t make anything better. If you talk too much or move around too much, then you’re annoying. If you keep to yourself too much, don’t communicate enough or don’t “laugh on demand” then you’re being sullen. You realize that you need to be able to adapt your moods totally to the whim of the other person. When he’s happy, then you’re supposed to be happy. When she wants space, you give her space. When he wants to spend time together you must be happy to be together. You’re like a faucet that’s turned on and off when necessary, delivering exactly the temperature the other person wants. Sometimes that person may “unload” on you and then, like a dump truck, is free to start filling up once more, knowing that when he’s overloaded again you’ll accept the next delivery of anger, bitterness, hatred, disappointment, and rage. YOU CEASE BEING RELEVANT. You are like an accessory in that person’s life….added when necessary. When you’re not needed, you’re superfluous, dismissed, diminished, invisible.
If you’ve been in this space often enough, you learn to put on layers to protect yourself. You learn to NOT feel. You learn to not value yourself. You rationalize that if you had value that other person would acknowledge that value, would care about YOU; would not use you as the dumping ground. I have been in that place and I had to DECIDE not to allow another person to be the barometer of my life.
Stop believing that YOUR needs are less important than another person’s. Know that this is NOT the same thing as being self-centered, selfish, or self-absorbed. It’s about realizing that you, too, are an important, valuable human being. Losing yourself in order to love someone, in the way he/she demands, is painful. YOU are special. YOU matter. If the people you’ve chosen as most significant don’t honor (or even believe that) then you have some hard thinking to do. When we allow someone else to be the barometer of our happiness, the barometer of the mood in our home, we give up self. We have to believe in ourselves enough to KNOW that we deserve to be happy. That begins with figuring out how to be joyful on the inside. If we can’t be secure in our love for ourselves enough to not allow someone else to take advantage of us, it’ll be really tough for us to ever be in a truly healthy relationship with anyone else. We have to respect and love ourselves enough to expect nothing less from those we choose to have in our lives.
Like those eggshells, we ARE fragile (even those of us who pretend to be so tough), but we don’t have to be broken.
©2015 Peace Full Home