“Love Many; trust few, and always paddle your own canoe.” ~ Unknown
The last year and a half has been; in a word, difficult. I’ve spent more time feeling down than feeling up. I’ve found myself in countless situations that I would have never imagined, on my worst day, that I put myself in.
I’ve invested in the wrong people, and invested little to none in myself. I’ve allowed people to take advantage of me; abuse me (literally and figuratively), and as a result of that, I’ve never felt more alone than I have over the past 18 months.
But that’s on me too. I feel alone, because I have been alone…by my own design. I pushed away those who I knew I could count on for support. Or quietly suffered; never telling them the truth about what was happening, because I didn’t want to admit I was allowing the wrong people in my life. I didn’t want to feel like I failed again.
But most of all, I didn’t want to hear, “What would your children think?”, as I had already many times before. It turns out, that’s exactly what I needed to hear.
I know I’ve pined before on social media about feeling like I’ve been letting my kids down. But, I truly feel that I let them down over this last year; or, at least I would have, if they where old enough to know what was happening. I can definitely say, I let myself down.
As parents, we spend so much time teaching our kids to stand up for themselves, and to not allow negative people in their lives. We teach them not to listen to people who say mean things; what to do if they encounter a bully, and most of all, one of the first things we teach our kids is, hands are not for hitting.
My children witnessed me, not only allow that kind of behavior towards me, but then put them at risk by allowing those who would do that, to still come around.
The biggest eye-opener for me happened one evening in April. My 7yo son and I were hanging out before bed, and he asked when the next time we would see this person who I brought into their lives. I answered that I didn’t know, but wanted to know if that was something he wanted. He sat there, quiet, for what felt like an eternity, and then answered…but not in a way I ever thought, or ever wanted, to hear:
Son: Yes…but only if they don’t say mean things to you anymore. Or hit you again.
Me: That’s not for you to worry about buddy. That’s my job. My job is to protect you and your sister.
Son: Yeah…but who’s protecting you dad? I feel like I need to.
Having my son; a 7yo child, telling me; his 41yo father, that he felt like he needed to protect me…because of what he witnessed the people I was surrounding myself with, do to me…probably, and hopefully, will go down as the worst thing I’ve ever heard in my life.
I hugged my son, and wept for what also felt like eternity.
I had done the exact opposite of every lesson I had taught him about kindness, love, friendship, and most of all valuing yourself, from the time he could understand.
I wish I could say everything changed from that day, but it didn’t. I still needed to work on myself; to find myself again. And there was no better place to start than with the people who know me the best; my friends from where I grew up.
These are the exact people I avoided, or kept in the dark during this time, because I knew what they were going to say…and they would have been, and were right. Sure, I took my lumps when I eventually opened up to them, but I also felt the love and support that I have always felt from them.
Last year I had the extreme pleasure of meeting Gold Medalist, two time FIFA Women’s World World Cup Champion, former Captain of the US Women’s National Soccer Team, Julie Foudy. She spoke on so many great topics, like leadership, drive, passion, investing in your child’s passion while not taking it on as yours, and so much more. But, the one topic that stood out (for me) among all the rest was the topic of her teammates, and how they were so much more than just teammates. They were friends. They were family. The ones that were there for each other; who kept each other accountable, and who supported each other through good and bad.
She said, “Who lifts you up? Who’s there for you when you fall? We fall a lot in soccer” (laughter from everyone) “my teammates were always there to lift me up. Who lifts you up?”
I may not tell them enough…in fact I know I don’t, but I love my friends; more than they’ll ever know. And I know they love me too. They are the ones that lift me up. They are the ones I tell my children about when I talk about what friendship means. And I always will.
The quote I started this post with, is one I’ve been thinking on for a while. I recently came across it, and it has truly resonated with me.
Love many; trust few, and always paddle your own canoe
Don’t be afraid to love people. Love so much that it hurts…in a good way. But remember, you don’t have to trust everyone. And I don’t mean keeping everyone at arms length, or not letting people in. No, I mean, remember that you are valuable. The real you. The authentic you that should be reserved for only the most special of people…the people who lift you up. Those are the people to trust. To trust with your whole heart. And of course; you’re only responsible for your own canoe. Don’t drown yourself by letting someone drag you down.
That’s what I will teach my children going forward.
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