(Episode is available on the podcast on 7/1/22)
The most valuable piece of advice I’ve ever got about who to go to when I’m feeling happy, accomplished, struggling, or downright miserable was given to me in the midst of trying to find myself in a toxic relationship. I was in AL-ANON at the time, and my sponsor said to me, * “Don’t go to the hardware store for bread.” Imagine fireworks coming out of my head. That’s how powerful this advice felt to me over a decade ago, and still feels just as powerful today.
To sum it up, we can’t have expectations of others to be anyone other than who they SHOW us they are. We each have our own private stores. Our stores are filled with what we have to offer—for better or for worse. I’m not a tech person, if someone came to me expecting to get good advice on a tech issue, they would probably end up leaving with more problems than they had when they came in.
If a person is constantly dismissing our feelings, they are not who we go to when we are processing our feelings. If a person is someone who is constantly playing it safe, we don’t go to them when we are excited about a new adventure. If a person hates themselves, we don’t go to them to celebrate our accomplishments. They can’t give us what they don’t have.
One of the reasons I’m not a fan of happily ever after thinking is because it blinds us to the person standing in front of us. Whether we are looking for that happily ever after family, romantic relationship, or friendship, we miss who is standing in front of us because the fairytale is weighted down with expectation after expectation of what happily ever after “SHOULD” look like. We are in a constant battle with reality. The worst part about it is that we don’t even get that we created the war, because we are projecting from the energy of lack. We are actually pushing what we REALLY want away from us when we expect one person to be more than who they are.
When we’re able to stay present with our relationships, we see who they are showing us they are in that moment. We KNOW what they are and are not capable of giving us right now. When we don’t have the expectation for them to be who they are not, we open ourselves up to listen with love. Sometimes that listening will give us clear signs that a relationship is or isn’t healthy for us.
We can’t change the other person, so the question becomes what are we willing to do differently to better the relationship or to let it go. We have to listen to our own needs in relationships. Do we want anything from this person’s store right now? Does something they carry add value to our lives?
When I expect my partner, kids, parents, sisters, friends, or anyone else to be more than they are, I suffer. Since I’m really not a fan of self-induced suffering, I much rather figure out who is capable of offering me what I’m looking for in this moment. I have some people I talk to about spiritual teachings, and others I talk to about family. I have some people I talk to about my feelings, and others I talk to about going on adventures. I have some friends who I’ll go to for laugher, and others I will go to for crying my eyes out. It all depends on what they carry in their stores at the time.
If a person can’t provide me with deep conversations, I don’t force them. I have other people who will go there with me. No one person can be all things. That’s too much pressure. We hurt our relationships when we expect people to be who they are not. We close our ears to listening with love when our expectations of them are screaming over everything they say and do.
We live in a time where the world is connected. No distance can get in the way of us having relationships with people who can provide us with a connection we need. I live in a quiet little town. I have a few local friends, but most of them are a far away. When my book came out in 2020, a new level of connections opened up to me. I started meeting people over Zoom and FaceTime. I still have weekly and bi-weekly FaceTime calls with a couple people who I connect with on very deep levels. I’ve also found groups on Facebook that I can meet with likeminded people. If I want to connect with someone on a specific topic, the only block I have is looking me in the mirror.
By not going to the hardware store when I KNOW what I want isn’t available, my relationships are so much healthier! If a friend calls me out of the blue, I trust they know what I have to give. I don’t resent them for not calling more often. If someone expects me to do and be certain things I’m not, that’s because they are going to the hardware store for bread. They can choose to accept me as I am, or walk away. That’s up to them.
The beauty is I don’t resent the people who walk away from me, because if I can’t give them something that adds value to their lives, they are doing what’s best for them. They are also not trying to make me something I’m not, and I’m grateful for that too.
We can’t listen with love if a relationship is full of resentment and disdain. We can’t change the other person. The other person has to decide for themselves if the relationship has value to them. If it does, they will rise up to meet us in a healthier place. If it doesn’t, they might try to drag us back down into an unhealthier place to keep us on the same level, but they can’t ever MAKE us stay in the store.
When we see what we want in our own stores and what adds value to our lives from other people’s stores, we stop shopping in places that don’t offer us valuable products or services. We simply peer in the storefront without walking through the door. We will find other stores to browse through and assess what they have to offer, but if we don’t feel right or safe in their store, we have the choice to walk out.
There will also be the stores that we only go to for one thing, and they might come to us for one thing, and that’s okay too. The point is we just allow each other to be who we are and offer what we each have to give. When we don’t have anymore to offer each other, it’s okay to set each other free. Setting a person free doesn’t mean they won’t come back or that we won’t go back to them. It’s just about trusting our journeys. We may have experiences that show us that something someone else has would be beneficial to get, and our new experiences might have put a new product or service in our stores that they find value in, I just know that when I work with the reality of what is, my life is so much better.
Our lives offer us experiences to add to and discontinue what we have to offer, and the same goes for everyone else. Our products and services will change over time. That is the journey of life. Just don’t fool yourself into expecting people to be able to be and do what they aren’t capable of being or doing right now. Maya Angelou said, “When people show you who they are, believe them.” And just remember, “Don’t go to the hardware store for bread.”
With Love and Gratitude,
©Rachael Wolff 2022
*In my search for who originally said this quote, Cathy Yardley is who pops up, but from what I found on-line, she said it in her book, Write Every Day published in 2013. I got this advice back in 2008, so I’m not exactly sure who is the originator. It was and is a very common saying in 12-step programs.