I've been thinking a lot lately about relationships. They seem to be both our greatest place of potential joy and our greatest challenge.
This is especially true when we are facing the hard times in life when we feel broken. Our relationships have the potential to either be our greatest source of comfort and support or our greatest source of undermining and oppression. (And sometimes they are a bit of both!)
As I've been pondering this, I came across the following quote and was struck by the power of the truth it communicates.
“Generally, between two people, there is very little real meeting.
There is only the coming together of two patterns.
Live in your surroundings as if for the first time. Be without qualifications.
In this nakedness you are beautiful and every moment is full of life.”
Think about that. In even the most precious and vulnerable of our relationships, how often do we really meet the other person as they really are and as we really are?
We are so much more likely to show up unconsciously in our default roles and patterns without truly seeing the other person or allowing our true self to come to the surface.
What are the patterns you generally show up as? Are you the calm one? the emotional one? the funny one? the serious one? the efficient one? the laid-back one? the generous one? the demanding one? the angry one? the martyr? the peacemaker? the problem solver? the complainer? the perfectionist? the fun lover? the neat one? the messy one? the co-dependent? the narcissist? the caregiver? the dependent one?
Which relationships trigger which of these patterns in you?
Which patterns do you see in the people you are in relationships with?
(And if you don't believe that these patterns exist, pay attention at the next big family gathering with your family of origin and watch how quickly you, your parents, and your siblings revert to your childhood roles and patterns, even if you've outgrown those roles and patterns everywhere else!)
What would it mean for you to set aside your typical roles and patterns in your next interaction and just show up to meet that which is in front of you without the mask?
What would it mean for you to set aside your expectations of the other person as an embodiment of their usual patterns and wait to see how they actually show up?
This is not an easy thing to do. Our patterns are so deeply ingrained in us that we often can't even see them. They feel like they are just "who we are."
This makes it feel like we have no choice in how we act and respond, but the truth is that we always have choices that we just can't see or recognize because our patterns blind us to the many other possibilities available.
Part of my own healing journey over the past several years has been an intense scrutiny of my default reactions to people and situations to discover my own patterns. This came out of the realization that so many of the challenges I face in life are (at least partially) self-inflicted by reactive patterns that are no longer serving me.
These patterns have often taken difficult situations and made them even more painful, challenging, and damaging than was necessary due to my unhelpful and unskillful ways of reacting (both internal emotional reactions and external words and actions).
I've been slowly excavating these patterns so that I can at least now see them as they play out. As I learn to recognize them, I have a better ability to choose other options instead of my usual patterns. (And sometimes it's just a matter of recognizing partway into a reactive pattern that it has taken over and finding a way to detour to a more helpful response midway through.)
Stripping away these patterns often feels emotionally like nakedness. It's a vulnerable space to inhabit without my usual patterns as my armor to dictate my responses.
Choosing fresh ways of responding that are different from my usual patterns often feels awkward and uncomfortable, like trying to learn the steps to a new dance in the middle of a crowded dance floor.
And yet, for all of the discomfort, there's also a freedom and a freshness and a new intimacy that comes in those moments when I am able to allow the patterns to fall away and meet life and the people in my life as they are with my naked self.
It can be especially hard to do this in times of brokenness and pain when we already feel so very vulnerable, but those times can also offer great opportunity to allow our patterns to become part of the rubble left behind. The very shaking of our lives that has left us feeling so broken and unsettled can bring the space for change and transformation, if we let it.
Part of kintsugi living is choosing these ways of discomfort and challenge even (or perhaps especially) in life's hard times because our commitment to growth and healing is greater than our desire for the comfortable status quo.
What would it take to shed your usual patterns, even for a moment, and meet this moment just as it is with your unguarded self?
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