You reach a point in life, I have, where you just say straight out what it is you have to say, response be damned. I do know what I want to say here, I only hope I am able to say it. Let me start with this. When life inflicts pain on me to the point it buckles my emotional-knees and takes air from the room it is not lost on me that I have the power to leave this life if and when I choose. It is not a top-of-the-list choice for me, but it’s one I’m acutely aware of and, at times hold fast to. Sometimes enough is really enough.
Some years ago a close friend of mine, a woman who faced a challenge with weight, told me some of those who put on too much weight do so to protect themselves, to keep others at a distance. Over the years I’ve recognized a plethora of habits and behavioral idiosyncrasies in people, behaviors, that do exactly that. I call them distance makers.
It is unlikely I am saying something you don’t already know when I say intimacy can be scary. It can feel, for very real reasons were one privy to the details of someone’s history, life threatening. So, believe me, it is not as if I don’t understand the existence and need for distance makers. I have enormous compassion for those whose distance makers protect them (or so they believe) on the one hand, yet rob them of much of the life experience they deserve to have on the other. A closer examination reveals yet another prevalent pattern when it comes to distance makers. The distance makers that applied yesterday may not apply today. In fact, what once protected you in life may now pulverize your life and, not at all incidentally, pulverize the lives of others. In one of his letters John Steinbeck wrote, “We’re creatures of habit, a very senseless species.” He was right.
Distance makers are like anything else, there are healthy and unhealthy ones. Principles come to mind. People espousing racism and other forms of bigotry are not going to be found in my personal life. Nor are those who are active alcoholics, addicts, people who are violent (emotionally or physically), and so forth. But then there are the unhealthy distance makers rooted so deep in the fear of loss or fear of being hurt – physically abused, raped, shot, stabbed, assaulted – again! that we miss the mark and drive off the very people who love us the most.
I’ve seen friendships, relationships, and marriages shattered to pieces by distance makers. Like anyone my age, I’m 60, I’ve experienced my fair share of loss. Losing someone I love from my life immobilizes me more than anything else I think. Takes the air out of the day. When someone I love dies, I swear to God there is less sun in the sky for a time. Sometimes I think the sun itself is mourning. Losing someone I love as a result of unhealthy distance makers is brutal; the word pain doesn’t come close to covering it.
Beware the distance makers, they may rob you of the life you want and deserve to have. Getting back up gets harder not easier over time, at least it gets harder for me.