I don't regret giving. I regret giving so much.
Around this same time three years ago, my best friend dumped me, for lack of a better term. And really, there is no better term. Out of nowhere, after a brief period of mostly unanswered texts and emails, she cut off all contact. It was disastrous to my self esteem, a solid 6.9 on the Richter scale of emotional earthquakes.
At that point, my life was a pretty solid structure but most days my heart still felt like a slapped-together shack built on the banks of a river during flood season. Being ghosted by someone so important to me brought on a great deal of violent shaking and damage to my own inner epicenter.
For weeks I walked around turned inside out, ribs like exposed beams, sorrow like insulation trailing after me wherever I went. Each step felt like broken bricks under my feet, every successive day of silence rumbled through me like an aftershock.
At the core of it, the question creeping over and in between all those slowly moving tectonic plates was: Why?
Never getting an answer to a question like tha forces self-reflection. If someone else isn't going to tell you why, it's up to you to figure out what went wrong. After the worst of the friendship break-up wore off, I began to rebuild myself, inspecting every piece of me in the process.
There was a lot of wreckage to sift through and there were days I had to simply shield my eyes and walk away from all that ugly hurt, but it was necessary work. And then finally, with the very last parts in place, looking over the salvaged shelter of myself, I found the "why": my lifelong pattern of giving all my power away.
Not only that, but my lifelong pattern of giving all my power away to people who hadn't even asked for it, who didn't even want it. And who would? There are very few people in this world who would willingly take on the full weight of another person's everything.
It wasn't just this best friend. It was Sabrina, in seventh grade, the open notebook on her desk chronicling to a mutual friend all my shortcomings, all my ugly humanity spelled out on college ruled paper.
It was a boy whose name I can barely remember, but can still recall every cutting word of his goodbye.
All along, what I had believed to be a gift was actually a burden — and that was a bitter pill to swallow. I didn't know I couldn't spill my whole self into someone else's hands (all of me is much too heavy and no one needs the deadweight of my entirety) but once I saw it, it made so much sense.
All my life, all the searching, all the seeking, all of my desperate need to feel whole, everything came down to taking all that I was and forcing it into someone's closed hands and onto someone's shrugged shoulders.
Once I started stripping down to my bare soul, there was nothing left for me to cover up with or hold on to. I wrapped all that I was around the legs of those I loved, so how could I be surprised when they shook me off?
So I took myself back. All of me. And now I know not to go too deep in revealing myself. Now I know to keep enough of my heart to keep me whole. Now I know I need a sufficient number of nails to keep this shack built up strong, and I know to build it high up on a hill, away from the water and the mud.
I know to let the sting of abandonment go, and learn from the absence of those who leave me. And when another earthquake comes, I know I'm built to sustain only slight to moderate damage. Now that my everything is my own again, I'll never give it away — even if someone begged me for it.