Tough Love

“No! That’s so selfish. You need to stand up for yourself, this is getting ridiculous.”
“I don’t even think that you should say anything to that”
“At the end of the day, you just have to ask yourself whether that would improve your life or not. And you’re the only one who knows that.”

I’m generally not one for being coddled. As much as I like to hear that I’m always right and obviously perfect, if someone disagrees with me or needs to give me cold dose of reality, I’d prefer they do so, rather than sit on something about which they feel strongly, or stay quiet when they think I’m walking into fire. Be it my work performance, my wardrobe choices, or my indecision related to retrieving missing accessories, I’m usually okay with someone eschewing the “everything is going to be okay” or “you’re always right” in lieu of the truth.

My Nickname Posse, my people, are the best at handing out reality face-palms when I get that dreamy look in my eyes, playing Chicken with the “what ifs” and “why nots.” My lovely friend M in particular is described by mama B (and herself) as a hyper-protective mama bear, having watched me go through so much in the past few years. She let it fly at me earlier this week while I was entangled in a sticky situation, reminding me again and again that I need to look out for myself and I can’t backtrack when I’ve come such a long distance in such a short period of time. To be honest, her words stung for a minute, so I ran to my partner-in-crime R and my fashionista C for different advice, hoping they would tell me that I was right and everything was okay. Instead, they echoed M almost exactly, giving me reality instead of fantasy when it comes to handling my own health and sanity. Stung slightly, my first instinct was to pull away from them, stop sharing my over-analytical thoughts as they unfold in the next few weeks, but the more I tried to convince myself that I know best, the more I realized I don’t.

Exactly a year ago at this moment, I was in the middle of the first break-up with my then-boyfriend, a decision that felt so impossible at the time, pushing me out of a comfort zone into unfamiliar territory of unplanned weekends and nights alone. I remember the first week felt like an eternity; I spent most of those nights buoyed by one of my friends and a lot of alcohol, sometimes crying, mostly trying to figure out what was going to happen, if we would be okay or if this was the forever end. I’ll never forget a night where M came over after a late work shift, nearly 11 p.m. on a weeknight, and held me as I rocked back and forth, wrapped in his tattered grey sweatshirt, sobbing that I didn’t know what to do, I didn’t know what to do, I just didn’t know what to do. She let me cry until I couldn’t, listened to my “What Ifs” and “But Maybes” patiently, and when I finally lifted my head, she looked me square in the eye and said “You know I love you and will support any decision you make. But you were doing this when you guys were together, too. Shouldn’t that tell you what you need to do?”

Sometimes I wish I’d listened to her then, instead of spending the next three months trying to salvage something that was broken beyond repair. But I wasn’t ready for tough love at that point, at least not from her. I was holding on to the life I’d spent three years building in the city instead of looking forward to possibilities. And looking back, it’s okay that I wasn’t ready to give up that life when given that opportunity, but sometimes I look back again and I wish, I wish, I wish I had. So it’s strange now, a year later, to be in a very different place receiving very similar advice. I’m dancing around the same edge, holding on to the same idea that there’s something I can fix on my own, without taking the other parts of the equation into consideration; namely: I can’t daydream my way into a happy ending.

Tough love stings, it burns, and it wants you to pull away furiously from the person holding your hand, gently trying to lead you into an obvious realization that you can choose to be happy above all things. Tough love is like ripping a bandaid off what used to be a bad wound, so nervous that it’s too soon and then so relieved when it’s over.  I’m not saying I agree with the Nickname Posse all the time, or that they will always understand every aspect of the decisions that I make – after all, they may see me in the bad times, hysterically sobbing on my couch, but they don’t see me in the best times, enjoying sushi after a major score on $1 records, nestled in strong arms on my couch at 2 a.m. after the first I-maybe-love-you. In the end, decisions about my life will always be mine. But it will always be nice to know that the people that love me, love me enough to tell me “no” when I don’t want to hear it, tell me to “snap out of it” when I start to daydream about perfect, and tell me “I’ll always be there for you” when I need to hear it the most.

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