I bet you thought there might be only a few ways to climb a ladder. . . you climb up the rungs (steps) to where you need to be, do whatever you need to do and then climb down. Is that what you were thinking? There might be a little struggle, because you’re trying to carry some things up with you or you have your tool belt on, but overall ladders are pretty straight forward.
Well, I choose to climb ladders much differently. First off, I have an immense fear of heights. I really don’t even like climbing on a chair to do something, let alone a ladder. And then there’s the part where the rungs hurt your feet if you have sensitive feet. The other part that needs to be considered is how wobbly the ladder is. Is it going to slide? Is it solid and set? Is there someone to hold the ladder in place? And then you throw in climbing down backwards - that’s scary!
Now, let’s throw in relationship scenarios in relation to a ladder. That’s worse for me! At a very young age I struggled with close relationships. There are many factors that play into this, but I have some great, deep fears.
First, I’m not enough.
Second, I need to be perfect and can’t make mistakes or I’m not loveable.
Third, I’m at the bottom of everyone’s list so if they get busy with other things or things in their life changes I’m automatically dropped off and forgotten.
Fourth, going along with making mistakes, I’m so scared of saying the wrong thing or going into people’s space too far.
Fifth, everyone will get tired of me eventually so I help myself to the door when I’ve determined that I’m too much so they don’t have to show me to the door. That will hurt worse.
Sixth, due to my fears I’ve built many walls around my heart and until about 15 months ago not one person had been able to really get to my heart where I actually felt something. I have many friendships, dear friends who I care about, but there were locks around the deeper part of me for fear if people learned about who I really was and what I had been through they wouldn’t like me, judge me and I would be shamed.
So, now let’s pull out the ladder and I’m going to get ready to climb it in relation to a relationships:
Friendships / loved ones and I start to climb the ladder. I take each step very cautiously. I weigh out all of my fears as I take steps up the ladder. I’m pausing many times and looking down at the ground wondering if I’m safe. I’m terrified of heights and with friends and loved ones I’m climbing up the ladder.
Then they get a job, start school, the project we are working on together is over and I immediately start climbing down the ladder. Or maybe I make a mistake or don’t come through with a commitment I made. That’s grounds for the rungs to be cut off and I fall to the ground. What if we’re chatting and things are going well and then I ask a question and the answers switch to yes or no or no response. In my mind it could be that I asked the wrong questions - I crossed into their personal space or they’ve decided that was a long enough conversation and they are ready to move onto others that are more capable. The bottom line is “I KNOW THEY ARE GOING TO LEAVE MY LIFE” based on my belief system.
"I let my guard down, I challenged my belief system and boy, did that hurt to where at times I thought I could die"
Rick and I were having this conversation this morning and I was telling him I climb down the ladder when things like this happen and he said why don’t you think to yourself your friends and loved ones will want you more in their life and think positive and continue to climb up the ladder instead of going back down? Well, if I continue to climb the ladder, assume good, then when the inevitable happens it’s a much further fall to the ground and it could hurt so much worse. So, I climb down the ladder to create space, make things safer, I’m closer to the ground and honestly if things go long enough I’m back on the ground. Yes, I’m sad and I might have lost a good friendship or a relationship that could have been so much closer, but with each step I built additional walls around my heart so that when things do crash I’m prepared and not gotten my hopes up too high.
As Rick and I visited this morning about this he said why wouldn’t you want to get to the top and celebrate the success of having close relationships, feeling love in your life and proving my belief system wrong. We’ve done a lot of school things so we were envisioning times when the principal and others have gone up on the school roof and thrown treats to the kids or unveiled a banner or something really fun. Something to celebrate!!!
Well, there have been times in my life that I’ve started to let my guard down and as I’ve gotten higher on the ladder I’ve gotten excited and the roof was closer than the ground and I’ve forgotten to look back at the ground and work at steadying my footing and making sure the ladder is secure and I’ve gotten hurt so much worse!!! I let my guard down, I challenged my belief system and boy, did that hurt to where at times I thought I could die. The abuse was worse, the roller coaster was soooo painful and honestly I was brainwashed - I believed something that wasn’t true at all - that I was loved by these mean, awful people.
So, as we were about home Rick said to me, “Have you ever made it to the roof with someone?” I said to him there were times as a child and other times that I had people in my life that I thought I could trust or that I wanted to love me so badly that I was willing to face my fears and climb to the roof. Then we got to the roof and they were embarrassed or ashamed of me and pushed me back and they were the center of attention or honestly the feelings I had when I got to the roof were that I was the one thrown off the roof. There was no celebrating together. I wasn’t seen. My efforts and desires to really be loved weren’t real. Most of the time I was just used for what they wanted and then when they found someone better I was discarded.
We had this conversation this morning on our way home from counseling and I’ve been pondering where I’m at now with over a year of counseling and really working through fears, insecurities and the above list. My counselor always asks me, “What am I willing to be wrong about?”
So, over the last 15 months I’ve worked hard to challenge these things. To cautiously and very carefully climb the rungs of the ladder. I’m definitely making it up much further on the ladder and honestly the ladder is very secure. I know I’m in very safe hands. I’ve come to understand as I learn to love myself and see my value and feel more confident in myself and keep the walls down around my heart that I can feel greater love from others. I’ve also learned what things to look for and what things create an unsturdy step or someone who doesn’t have my best interest and might shake the ladder for fun to scare me and see if I fall. I’ve really started to get in a much better place, but it doesn’t mean I don’t get scared and these lifelong fears and beliefs don’t creep in and shake me up at times. It’s not easy to change over 40 years of beliefs about yourself.
Just this weekend I had a situation where someone I love dearly and I’ve let in very close to my heart and trusted with a lot. It was that they were very busy and couldn’t reply to some things I had sent. I got scared so I tried to fix things, I tried to apologize and promise to work on things just in case I had messed up. I was telling Rick that I definitely started to climb down the ladder. I was trying to figure out what to do where it wasn’t just get on solid ground and I would be alright, because I care too deeply for this friend. Instead I decided to be open and honest - make the indirect - direct - and share with them that I was feeling scared and feeling insecure and just wanted to make sure things were good. I got a very kind response telling me that everything was good, they were just very busy.
What I was very grateful for is deep down I knew that’s what it was. Our journey together has proven nothing different to me, but that there is a love and friendship there and there’s no need to climb down the ladder.
This is something I wrestle with daily, but I’m so excited about the confidence and happiness and peace that I’m feeling. It’s been a very difficult journey and I’ve had to fight false beliefs, but gratefully I have a strong foundation of people in my life that are on a sturdy ladder with me and we are close to the rooftop where we will celebrate together!
A wife and mother of 4 boys and 2 daughter-in-law, I have spent my entire adult life devoted to my family. I have been busy in their schools, supporting them in all of their school work, sporting events, activities, etc. I spent years heavily involved in the PTA, church callings, etc Life for me has always been overwhelmingly busy. While I thought this was my sanity, the truth is it masked issues - real issues - that I needed to work on to gain true sanity. I am sharing my story in this blog. I do this so that I might be able to help other women find their true sanity