“We haven’t talked in a while.”
“Why am I always the one reaching out first?”
“This is just like the last time.”
“I guess I should prepare myself to be disappointed.”
“I’ve offered an invitation…there’s just never any follow through.”
I hate those voices that come unbidden in the quiet end of a long day, when I’m vulnerable and tired. They tell me I’m not doing enough in my relationships, I’m not wanted, or I’ve been foolish in lending trust.
When threat of betrayal latches onto a circumstantial trigger, the solitude I love can quickly become a torture chamber. Silence—a soothing space that makes room for thoughtfulness, courage and intentionality in my relationships—yields to clamoring.
If we give fear the power in our relationships, our spaces of self-care and differentiation transform into perceived isolation.
As an introvert, the shift for me is especially costly. Not only do I face discontent and distrust, but the thing that is most important to recharging and grounding me becomes the thing from which I flee. Quiet becomes my enemy.
Life becomes about noisemaking and comparison. I busy myself with TV and to-do lists to keep fear at bay. I succumb to social media stalking to validate my panic by highlighting all of the “other people” someone is enjoying apart from me. I attempt to write out my feelings and nearly all efforts yield polarized conclusions that assume the worst of the person I’m missing or the worst about me.
I still wonder what kindness to my fear looks like. I wonder how to be brave and how to build trust in a world where I’m broken, she’s broken, he’s broken; we’re all so broken.
During a season of counseling, I discovered that I can carry a lot of contempt for my strategies in managing pain and panic. I’m not a particularly soft person when I’m scared: I’m driven, perfectionistic, judging, micromanaging.
There is a lot to hate there, if I choose.
But the invitation I received in my counseling sessions, time and again, was to welcome and bless what I needed.
I came to discover that my management strategies, all about performance, are often an attempt to not need anything—to numb and accommodate my lack by seeking approval elsewhere or trying to fix my needs myself. But I came to see that as soon as I minimize my needs, I turn to the clamoring. I start depending on others to validate me or to tell me I am ok. And no one is ever going to be enough to make me ok.
Being myself, being grounded and kind and loving, is about accepting my needs. I can only love when I’m giving freely from within my limitations. Beyond the boundaries, I am “loving” out of fear—fear that if I’m honest about who I am, my own issues will be too much. All the while, I’m being pulled further and further away from my core.
That is an exhausting way to live, one I am still learning to walk away from.
But what if needing something didn’t mean I was too much? Too selfish? Unloving? Or unlovable?
Over the last year, I’ve found myself in the midst of a lot of quiet, and a lot of needs. I’ve grown familiar with the knowledge that sometimes what I need is disappointing to people. Sometimes doing “me” the best I can means acknowledging my lack and holding the weight that my best is going to leave someone else hurt.
I wish that was not the case.
Still, doing “me” is also the only way to give wholeheartedly to the people around me. My needs keep me connected to my heart, my priorities, and my own walk with God.
Quiet, when I’m not afraid to need things, creates breathing room: daily space to notice my feelings and what makes me anxious, to walk back inside my boundaries if the day got me a little off track, and to seek counsel regarding healthy risks that still honor my limits.
And I think accepting my needs helps lower my anxiety in the midst of a long day’s accusations regarding why someone may not have called. It helps me remember: we are all doing the best we can. There is grace and space for each of us. And it isn’t my job to hold it all or make everything alright. I get to stay myself, and to give love the very best I can.
Katy Johnson lives, dreams, writes, and edits in a messy, watercolored world. She’s a 27 year old, discovering her hope, her longings, and the wild spaces in her own heart. Her favorite creative project right now is called The Someday Writings, and someday, she may let those writings see the light of day. For now, she shares her thoughts here.