Letting People Off the Bus

Trying to go forward while dragging around people who don't want to grow, is like plowing forward with a bag full of bricks in a pit of quicksand.

Shortly after our D-Day, Gary and Debbie, another couple who were decades into their recovery told us, "You are going to start to see things that other people don't see. You are going to start living at a new level and notice things in other people around you that you never saw before." I remember thinking, "Hmm... I wonder what they mean by that?" I would soon find out.

I would discover that very few people would be willing to walk alongside us on that long treacherous path required towards healing. Recovery is messy. I would find that most people prefer to cling to their pretend images, pride, and comfort zones, running for cover every time a storm comes. Indeed, D-Day was just the volcano erupting, setting things in motion. It was the hurricane sweeping through, removing everything and everyone except those fiercely committed to love and transformation.

During our darkest days, many of those who we thought of as strong and wise spiritual leaders showed themselves to be nothing more than resounding gongs and clanging cymbals. I'll never forget my in-laws' words: "This is too much. We can't be there for you. You're on your own. Goodbye." The hurricane was sweeping through and they were running for cover because it was too much. These were the parents we had thought were so spiritual and who we had always looked to for guidance.

In denial, my husband and I thought, "We'll just attempt to please everyone and keep a nice fake little relationship with them." The problem was, as Gary and Debbie had told us, we couldn't live in that fake world anymore. We couldn't "unsee" truths. The more we tried to cling to old semblances of relationships, the more toxic it became to our marriage. We couldn't drag people down the recovery path with us who didn't want to go. I wish that I could say we learned this lesson quickly, but we kept trying to take them along with us.

After struggling for a long time, I finally realized that letting go of toxicity is one of the most important things I will ever do. There was something in me whispering, "Trying to go forward while dragging around people who don't want to grow, is like plowing forward with a bag full of bricks in a pit of quicksand." As I began to observe those around me, I felt so strongly in my heart that so many people in their recovery were hurting themselves because they didn't know how to walk away, how to let go, or how to say "no."

Life is a journey. We're constantly making changes, and everything is beautiful in its time. But when it is not in its time anymore, it starts to get ugly. The further forward my husband and I moved in our recovery journey, the more we learned to say "no" and the more we had to face the overwhelming fear of disappointing people who really did not have our backs anyway. It didn't matter what title or position these people had. We walked away from relationships that poisoned our marriage and our souls.

One day, I saw a metaphor for what it looked like to travel this hard, narrow path. I saw a city bus continually picking people up and dropping people off. When you are on the bus of life, every place the bus stops, somebody has to get off. Where you are going they are not equipped to go, nor do they want to go. My husband tends to have an easier time letting people off of the bus than I do. I tend to want to keep everyone on the bus, even to my detriment. I've recognized that you can 100% forgive people and still let go. You can forgive and also recognize when someone has made the choice over and over again about the kind of person they will be. You can forgive and stop playing games with those who use "forgiveness" and "compassion" as excuses not to own up to their ongoing toxic behavior. As heartbreaking and awful as it was, we let them go.

I think the most important thing I learned from this is that when you are committed to living a life of authenticity and vulnerability, there may be relationships that can't go with you. Letting go is not a weakness, but rather a strength. Letting people off at the next bus stop may ultimately be the blessing in disguise that moves you to embrace freedom and become your truly brave and authentic self.

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Michaela, thank you so much for these words of wisdom and clarity. I have been on the bus for a long time now. As I read about the bricks in the quicksand I thought of my spouse at times. I am still married and those times when I ask him to be authentic and vulnerable or get off the bus are sometimes the most helpful. I wish this bus ride weren’t so long and rocky. I appreciate you reminding me I am not alone. Take care

Thank you for your comment

Thank you for your comment and for taking the time to share your heart. I relate so much to feeling like the bus ride is long and rocky. It's amazing the lift that is taken off of our shoulders when we are able to set boundaries and let people off the bus. It has taken me a long time to get to this place for sure. I am so glad that this piece was helpful to you in your journey and truly reminds you that you are not alone! Love and blessings to you!


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