The past month has been one of heavy reflection. I am not sure if it is because I am turning 40 the end of October (have I seriously been alive for 4 decades) or because I have had several friends and family impacted by illness, tragedy, or negative circumstances. Or possibly it is due to my boys growing up and getting to the stage where they no longer turn to me for everything. I am sure it is a combination of factors that have me thinking about my past, emotions, actions, and efforts to avoid hurt and struggles. Most of my early avoidance strategies involved just walking (or running) away from situations or relationships when things were not going the way I had hoped or in response to poor decisions/regrets. AS an adolescent, I would lose interest (or gain interest in someone else) and break it off as soon as I got the slightest inclination the other person was no longer focusing on me. I would just shut off my feelings and move on like it was no big deal. I know I unintentionally hurt others due to my lack of caring and my behaviors. When the movie “Runaway Bride” came out I remember identifying with Julia Roberts’ character. It was just so much easier to run off and start over than to do the dirty work and admit I had made a mistake, or was scared, felt rejected, used, or taken advantage of. I would just it suck it in, blame it on immaturity, or alcohol, or “just having fun.” Then I met my husband. And things were blissful. That is until my usual emotional impulsive behaviors began and I did things without thinking, which led to conflict and hurt. This was the first time I remember not running. Although the challenges, self-deprecating thoughts and feelings that came up were so extremely painful and hard, I did not think I could handle it anymore, something kept me from running or giving up. Deep inside I knew if there was actually a chance of working through it, the pay off would be well worth the pain. I am infamous for making the same mistakes multiple times before I learned and I have faced this struggle more times than I care to admit throughout my life. I can hear my husband’s voice in my head as I write this, saying, “How many times are you going to do something until you get it?” My answer is “3, plus or minus 1.” My avoidance reactions have changed over the years. The more recent ones involve using my “assertiveness skills” as justification for pointing out the perceived flaws or wrongs of others. I have gradually learned none of it works in the long run. What I say or explain does not have a profound impact and others do not change their views or actions. It does not make me feel better, more cared for, or important. In fact, it usually leads to strain and feeling disappointed or victimized. So why react defensively? Why justify why I am correct? What am I trying to protect myself from? Disappointment? Rejection? Being wrong about trusting or caring too much? Being hurt or hurting others? Being taken advantage of? BEEN THERE. DONE THAT. Bottom line: My fear of being wrong or taken advantage of led me to do things that are not in line with what I value as a wife, family member, or friend. I value openness, respect for others, appreciation of differences, humor, living in the moment, encouraging others. I have no reason to protect myself from rejection or disappointment. Because if someone cannot handle the good and bad that come with me, or chooses to reject or take advantage of what I have to offer for their personal gain, that is their problem and loss. I know what is possible and what I and life have to offer. I will embrace anyone who is willing to be with me on this journey, regardless of how long or how many steps we get to share together. The struggle is real, but so are the rewards. Who is coming with me?