Do you know the feeling of running into an EX? The heart-racing, blushing cheek, shaky nervous hands feeling? Have you noticed that immediate reaction of RUN AND HIDE, the natural instinct of fight or flight? Fight or flight happens because it is our bodies' way of telling us there is potential danger. It is a natural instinct to protect ourselves. It pops up, usually, in unknown territory. Like Breakups. It's a feeling I know all too well and not because I have a lot of break-ups.
I have reoccurring interactions that cause these fight or flight feelings. There are these points in my relationships, jobs and life where I have to leave something or someone behind. I didn't realize it until now, these endings give me that fight or flight feeling. It's not that these endings come with ugly yelling or even a threat to my safety. They are just life changes, natural endings.
It's a little messy, this feeling, I haven't quite sorted it out into the proper labeled baskets yet and that is OK, it doesn't have to look pretty to share it with you. I want to share it with you because it's messy and maybe you've felt it too.
Natural endings are strange to navigate. They are like a death of what was once. Except instead of being gone, only to be remembered fondly, they continue to grow and change, just like me. They keep on living without me, just as I keep on living without them. So when I go to reflect on the fond memories, I feel happy/sad, proud/jealous. It is confusing! It's messy.
Here is an example: in the last 8 years, I have grown to love the town I grew up in. I chose to make the most of it, even if it was labeled the "fattest-dumbest city." It was my home and my community was there. Then I moved. Now when I go home, to a place I've known and loved for years, I feel like hiding. Like going to my family's and staying there until it is time to leave again. When happy things happen in my old home, I feel proud for the place it is becoming. I also feel jealous. It's ugly, I know. I think that is why I want to hide when I am there. I feel ugly for being jealous. I am watching my hometown move on without me and I am moving on with out it.
Natural endings are also unexpected. They sneak up on you. You think, 'when I move, I get a new home.' But in reality, a new home can sometimes mean a new roommate, new experiences, new friends, new stuff and inevitability it means more goodbyes.
Natural endings don't only happen when you move from one state to the next. They happen when you switch jobs. When your rhythm changes. You don't drive the same way to work, you don't stop at your normal coffee shop. You don't see the same people every day. No matter how much you loved that drive, that coffee shop or those people, you had an ending.
Here is where the feelings kick in. I think they stem from a place of insecurity.
When I visit home or places I've left, I feel anxious. Fearful of running into people. I don't know how I fit in anymore. I don't know how I fit with the people I've left. When I see these people I've left, part of me wants to hug them and tell them I miss them and (here is the ugly part) part of me wants to hide from them and pray they don't see me because if they do, those fight or flight feelings pop up again.
My insecurity, my uncertainty of how I fit makes me feel anxious. My insecurity makes me want to never go home and to never look back at those natural endings. But life doesn't listen to my insecurity, thankfully. And like I said, these natural endings weren't actual deaths. The things I've left behind: jobs, friends, homes, experiences, communities, favorite places, they aren't dead. They are THRIVING! So unlike death, this kind of ending is uncharted territory. It evokes serious "YOU ARE IN DANGER OF BEING HURT. RUN. HIDE" feelings.
In this recent noticing, I haven't spent much time sorting through how one SHOULD feel when they see long lost friends or visit their old work. Chances are these feelings will pop up again. When I walk past your house, when I see your car or when I stop by your shop, I will feel them and it is OK. The thing that isn't OK is how I react to them by hiding. So I guess there isn't much to sort out after all.
The choice is to recognize how I feel: I feel unsure. I feel insecure. I feel fearful. I long for what was. I wish you were a part of what is. I am jealous and frankly I want to hide from you because all these feelings are so blah that I don't want to deal with them and it seems easier to stay safely hidden.
The fact is, now I recognize these fight or flight feelings as caution tape. They are a way of warning me that I am entering something uncomfortable. I can choose to see the caution tape and to cut it down. To no longer hide behind it. I officially deem this uncharted territory as charted. Now I know that these feelings are the result of a natural ending. Natural, meaning it happens all the time, to everything and everyone. So what felt really messy is actually pretty simple. It is OK for me to feel emotions. It is not OK for me to hide from them. Hiding from them keeps me from connecting with you and we all know I am a big fan of connection.