I once dated a guy who was a pretty severe alcoholic. Sure, we were young-ish, but he was the kind of guy who would get blackout drunk every single weekend, without fail. It was a lot.
I remember one time I finally got him to leave a party, drove home, tried to get him to come inside the house, and he was so belligerent he refused. Like, who does that?! You’re going to sleep in your car all night because I’m the mean/crazy/irrational one? OKAY. That makes all the sense in the world. Then, next morning, he wanders into the house all, “why was I sleeping in my car all night?”
And I dated this dude for probably two years. Because he was great! Most of the time. He was sweet, thoughtful, caring. Not shady. Always stayed in touch. As with so many humans in so many relationships, I focused on the good and did my best to block out the bad. Like the endless video games, even when we had limited time together. The friends who didn’t like me. The constant fretting over who was paying for what. The drinking. I told myself it didn’t matter.
Until it did.
Because in the end, it matters. It always, always matters. There is no amount of excuse-making I can do to justify this behavior. To defend that this is appropriate in any way. Maybe for a little while, but ultimately, we all have limits. We know what we deserve. I finally understood I deserved better.
Do you have a familiar story? Maybe we can commiserate about crappy boyfriends. Or maybe it’s something else entirely, because this applies to a lot of stuff.
I’ve also had horrible jobs I made a lot of excuses for. Oh, it’s fine! It doesn’t matter that this is sucking my soul away! Until it does matter.
I’ve been the one who was behaving in totally idiotic or jerky ways, to myself, or to other people, telling myself it didn’t matter. But oooooohhhh, mama, it matters. It definitely matters.
Family is another great example. How many of us have put up with abuse from “blood”? Lots, right? Maybe even in-laws. We willingly put ourselves in these horrible situations or uncomfortable positions at least a few times a year to sit there and feel terrible about ourselves, or angry as hell, or unsafe, because it doesn’t matter – it’s family, and this is what you do. But no, it does matter. I think we can all agree this matters.
At a certain point, we start to understand exactly what it is that matters, and why. A lot of times, it’s a certain base level of respectful treatment between human beings. Or our values might become a lot clearer. Or over time, we may just start to gain a better, deeper understanding of the things that really matters to us in relationships, career, or daily life.
And we start to understand exactly what we will or will not tolerate in regard to those standards.
I have a friend who has spent all of 2018 sober from alcohol. After a lifetime of social drinking and, let’s be honest, kind of acting a fool, waking up feeling like poop and questioning what happened the night before, always telling herself it didn’t matter – this is what my people do – she decided it did matter. She quit drinking. And while it hasn’t always been easy, it has remained something that matters to her. She started to understand more about why it all mattered to her, and what she was going to tolerate in herself. She made the decision, and it has made a huge impact on her life.
It doesn’t matter, until it does.
Interestingly, and I believe, appropriately, we’re seeing this take shape in a lot of our behaviors these days related to social and political activism as well. I know for me, the clearer I get about what I believe in and what I stand for, the more that ties to my actions in who I interact with and support, and where I spend my money.
For instance, I believe strongly in doing my admittedly small part in taking care of our environment. Sustainability practices matter very much to me. So, I purchase clothing, and as many goods as I can, from companies I know have ethical and sustainable practices, like Patagonia. I try to turn the water off sooner. I am a stickler about recycling. I don’t buy bottled water.
Supporting women matters to me, so I try to buy from women owned business as much as I can. Local is also great. Women of color is even better.
And it goes the other way too – much to my husband’s dismay, I’ll never watch another NFL football game. For so long, I was fine making excuses and sweeping their disgusting behavior under the rug. It didn’t matter, because entertainment. Until, it did matter. I can no longer participate in that spectacle of discrimination, racism, misogyny, abuse, consumerism, and disregard, so I’m choosing not to watch.
And even my once beloved alma mater, Michigan State – I am continually disgusted by what I see come out of that institution, and so I won’t continue to support it either. It was all fun and games, it didn’t matter – until it did.
Sometimes, it takes time to get there. Not everyone comes out of the gate with a full and strong set of unwavering standards and values. For a lot of us, it takes a lifetime to learn through our experiences, and it’s ever-changing. But the point is, we get to decide what matters to us. And we can draw lines at any time, no matter what lines we have, or have not, drawn in the past. This is how we grow, how we come into our own.
You can only tell yourself for so long that it doesn’t matter. Please know – if it matters to you, it matters, period. And if it matters to you, it’s within your power to choose for yourself.
So, what matters to you?
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