Be the Bridge

Do you ever look at your relationships, whether personal or professional, and see yourself as a gateway the other person or group was passing through? Emily and I were talking the other day about what it means to be a gateway person. I often find that teachers are gateway humans because that is our gift. The thing we are best at is elevating people to the next level, giving others the space to expand and evolve and change and grow. More recently, I’ve noticed and intimately felt this experience of being a bridge. There is some sort of deep knowing in people who are bridges that the role they play in other people’s lives will always be temporary, perhaps explosive and impactful, but not permanent. 

Picture this: You somehow fall into an extramarital affair with a person who then realizes because of your relationship that they aren’t happy in their marriage anymore. This person leaves their partner but you know that it wasn’t meant to be for the two of you and shortly after, the connection you have fades into the fog of memory. Or perhaps, you connect so instantly with someone that it feels like neither one of you have ever been seen this clearly before. That clarity allows the other person to realize the way that they want to be seen, the way the want to feel, the way they want friendship to inhabit their lives. That realization comes and then there is a slow, almost imperceptible fade. Sometimes, it’s a little more explosive. The ending isn’t a nice one, but it is the catalyst for the other person to finally settle into their next beautiful experience.

Have you ever had that feeling? Knowing that it wouldn’t last forever, but the passion and excitement and fury was so overwhelming that you couldn’t do anything expect fall into it?

It happens. 

Recently, that’s where I’ve been getting stuck: looking out over the water, wanting things to be like the were at the beginning, and halting a transformative journey because the other side means things will change. Those bridge experiences are filled with heighten feelings and urgency and importance; it can be hard to see how our role as the bridge, the gateway, the catalyst to move from one thing to the next in the midst of the feelings bubbling up. Being a gateway is an important and powerful experience. These three simple strategies will help quell the unrest and allow you to step into your power as the connector.

  1. Fully invest yourself in the now: Sometimes, I write the things that I need to hear the most. Scratch that. It’s most of the time. Writing is one of the best tools for unpacking, reframing, digesting, understanding what’s happening in your mind moment to moment. Many of the moments or experiences or people or ideas that are hard for us to release come from our inability in the moment to realize that we are the bridge. Our role in that situation was to build the connection from one way of being to the next. But we get stuck in the beauty of the way things were. We get stuck inside of the explosive, seemingly fated, beginnings. We convince ourselves that what happen then should be the playing out in the now. When it doesn’t, when our expectations are met or realized, we get hurt. Think of any moment when you were upset; most likely it was because what you expected to happen was not what actually occurred. When you find yourself in a place of upset, hurt, confused, grasping for answers, pause the thinking mind that likes to get carried away with hypotheticals. Put a hand on your heartbeat and a hand on your breath beat. Feel your feet on the ground. Take in the way that this new dynamic works. Honor the new parameters in which you will be working. Write them down. Speak them out loud. Create the new norm, the new set of exceptions, by living them.

  2. Gracefully let go of the idea that people don’t change. Going back to school is one of the best things that has ever happened to me. I forgot how I thrive in a space of learning and grappling with challenging concepts. One of the most interesting self-theories, or how people perceive and interact with themselves, is entity and incremental theorists. This mainly has to do with people’s perception of their own intelligence and ability to learn. Entity theorist believe the ability is fixed and unchanging while incremental theorist believe that a person can change with enough consistency and effort. Expand that idea to people in a greater context. People change. It is a fallacy to believe that people stay the same. We are constantly changing based on environment, experiences, knowledge. That is such a beautiful and human quality. When we place too much pressure on other people or ourselves to stay the same, we get hurt because the expectation is not reality. 

  3. Thank yourself and the other person for the lessons you’ve learned, even and especially if they were hard ones. Gratitude is one of the best ways to reframe struggles. It will happen. Life is complicated and your are going to feel many complicated feelings. Not all of them will be great. When you notice yourself living in the way things were, grasping onto an old idea, and spiraling because that is not the present reality, use the lens of gratitude to turn the negative into the useful. Ask yourself to use the worry energy to instead find the ways in which you helped to bridge a gap. What ways did you both guide each other to the next place you are going? Can you release expectations that stem from the past by investing in the new way your dynamic works now? For example, I’m grateful that I now understand my worth and my value. I’m grateful that this conflict allowed both myself and this entity to realize what it means to treat another person with respect. I’m grateful that from this place turmoil, we all were able to move forward in the direction of our truest selves.

It has taken me quite some time to come to terms with the fact that this is how most of the relationships in my life will play out. With the realization came such peace. To some extent, we are all that to each other, we all help each other get to the next place. This idea of impermanence can be a source of freedom and celebration if we let it. Instead of holding on and gripping so tightly to the way things were, even five breaths ago, we have the opportunity to move forward. Welcome the opportunity to grow and evolve side by side. Sometimes, paths split. You turn left and they turn right. Let it happen. You made it to the other side.