When to walk away
You can read the updated (and way longer, and way more relevant for struggling stepparents) version of this post here: When should you walk away from your blended family?
It’s been one of those months. A month when all the paintbrushes I broke out for my best intentions sat unused in water so long they dried up. A month when everyone at work found ourselves overwhelmed; I literally doubled my hours. A month where I had to walk away from some things that matter to me, and walking away sucked. Hard.
Yoga classes got left behind this month. So did #the100dayproject. I added more water to my paintbrushes; they dried out again. Last week’s blog post got left in the lurch, along with family dinners and long dog walks.
I count all of this as a success.
This month, I knew when to walk away. I acknowledged that some things had to fall by the wayside, and I let them fall. They’ll be there when I wander back that way later. The whole not-beating-my-head-against-a-brick-wall thing is pretty new to me still, and I’m proud that I might’ve actually nailed it this time.
I’m a scrapper. Always have been. Show me unbeatable odds, and I try that much harder. Tell me no, and I want to prove it’s a yes. And my determination has never been put more to the test than when I met Dan, and we tried cramming our two mismatched families together into one. Oh, there’s resistance? I’ll push my end harder. More resistance? HARDER.
I checked out every single book (there weren’t many) on blended families from my local library looking for better ways to fight. Know what every single one said? Walk away. Take a step back. Let things happen naturally. Don’t take it all so personally.
Walk away from this chance at a real family, the only thing I’d ever known for sure I wanted? NOT give this every ounce of energy and sanity when these relationships are all that matter to me?
I returned the books immediately, and pulled myself back into the ring.
Only after being beaten bloody by several more rounds of court battles and years of constant reminders that the family I imagined would never, never, never become reality did I finally raise an exhausted white flag.
And only afterwards did I realize that walking away is not the same thing as giving up. Knowing when to walk away doesn’t mean I don’t care, or that I agree with whatever stupid unfair circumstances are so hard for me to not keep railing against.
Knowing when to walk away is an acknowledgement that there are some things I cannot change no matter how furiously I hurl myself against them. Knowing when to walk away means being a honey badger: moving on instead of letting myself get sucked into battles I cannot win.
Every day last week, I woke up already hopped up with adrenalin, prepared to bend the time-space continuum sideways to fit everything in. Because I couldn’t give up work deadlines or a trip to the vet or my mandatory “volunteer” hours at Miss G’s school, and I’d be damned if I was going to give up fun things like yoga or painting or long dog walks, by god.
About halfway through the day (every day), I had to admit that I was almost for sure gonna fail at extending that particular 24-hour day into more hours, and some things weren’t going to get done as a result. And, because being a grownup is stupid a staggering amount of the time, those things had to be the ones I least wanted to sacrifice.
Taking time to cook a decent meal and sit down with my family, painting in a stolen minute between writing and editing, leaving the rest of the world behind and remembering how to breathe as I enter a yoga studio– these things nourish my soul.
But if they come at the cost of my sanity, all benefits are negated.
If I’m stressed over deadlines, can I relax into a yoga pose? If I’ve got one eye on the clock, can I fully engage my creativity? If I’m cranky and short-tempered from trying to do too many things in too few hours, do we as a family really benefit from me taking extra time to cook on a night when Freezer Delight could have fed us just as well with less angst?
So it’s okay that this month I ruined several paintbrushes. That’s why I buy the cheap ones anyway. And it’s okay that our new family pass to the rec center was pretty much a wash this month; next month, we’ll try again. Just like that one time (or those several times) some intended Blended Family Bonding Experience instead ended up a miserable disaster for everyone has become okay.
If I had to name a time that me pounding a point into the ground actually brought someone else around to my point of view– well, I couldn’t. And if I had to name a time that knowing when to walk away brought clear benefits to my life– I can list a jillion, starting with the fact that our family no longer feels like a daily battlefield.
Knowing when to hold your ground, when to stand up for what matters most, and being willing to fight for those truths– these things are important. But knowing when to walk away is just as important, and some days more so. Or some months. Or some years.
When’s a time that you won by knowing when to walk away?