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  • Writer's pictureJulie Granger

My Year of the Dragon Part 2: My hands shake, I'm not usually this way

Updated: 4 days ago

🐉 The title of this blog series is inspired by a lyric from a well loved Taylor Swift song. I shared about that in Part 1-- which I recommend you read FIRST before you dig in to the rest of this post, Part 2.

The lyric is from the song "Long Live" and it has to do with fighting dragons.

But wait, it gets better.

After I shared Part 1 about a week ago, I learned that it is currently ACTUALLY the Year of the Dragon,

...and that I'd shared Part 1 right at Chinese New Year.

🤯Whoa. Talk about serendipity.

In case you are doubling down and not reading Part 1, or if you just need a little refresher -- here is the cliff notes version of Part 1 --

2023 was Year 8 in my business -- and while it was an AMAZING year, I'm celebrating in a bit of an unconventional way.

No balloons, no smash cake, no instagram posts. No funny and inspirational Reels.

Instead, I'm sharing some vulnerable truths about things that happened last year that I have not yet shared outside of my own microscopic inner circle.

Even though I tend to be pretty transparent in my writing -- I didn't share anything because the nature of the events and situations had me feeling ashamed and silenced.

I hid in plain sight with a smile on my face.

So by this point you’re probably wondering … what was this thing?

Well I won’t dance around preambling any longer – let's just cut right to the chase.

Here in Part 2, the song at the top in the Spotify player -- Foolish One -- is a perfect depiction of how I felt about this situation for so long, and why I had myself silenced and ashamed -- too scared to say anything. Because as you'll see throughout this post -- I felt foolish.

PS If you're a Swiftie -- there are embedded lyrics throughout this entire blog series. If you can send me a playlist of all the songs I listed in each post the end of this series, I will send you a very cool prize!

Revealing the Symptoms

Early in 2023, I chose to gently and quietly extricate myself from a meaningful relationship that had become extremely detrimental to my mental, emotional, and physical health.

As it turns out, this relationship–a friendship–had spilled over in to my business in some very interesting ways, which is what I'll discuss here in Part 2, and why it's a part of my Year of the Dragon "celebration."

A friendship may seem like a personal story that doesn't have a place in a "business" discussion.

But you and I both know we don't have "separate" selves -- no matter how much we try and shapeshift and convince ourselves that we have our "work" selves, "home" selves, "mom" selves, "wife" selves, etc.

You are ONE soul and ONE self -- so if it shows up in one part of your life, you carry those parts of you into the other parts too. You may not carry them into EVERY part -- as there may be parts where you shine brighter than others. But the truth is it's still there. All of your beautiful and broken parts.

So I share this part of the story because I've heard from countless clients, friends, colleagues over the years that this dynamic is not just a private, personal, family/romantic relationship problem.

The dynamic I describe can also show up in your business or job - it may happen between

🔗 You and your clients or patients

🔗 You and a student or mentee

🔗 You and your medical providers

🔗 You and your boss

🔗 You and a coach or mentor

🔗 You and an employee

🔗 You and a teacher or professor

🔗 You and your coworkers

🔗 You and the hospital system you work in

🔗 You and your Pilates instructor

🔗 You and random people on the internet you've never met (I said what I said.)

Needless to say -- by definition, it certainly takes two to tango. And that means there were lots of ways I was treated like garbage

I'm a crumbled up piece of paper lying here

And I remember it all, all, all too well

But also I'll come right out of the gate and acknowledge I certainly contributed plenty of my own “junk” to it.

And I'll illuminate a lot of that here.

In this particularly friendship for the longest time, I took responsibility for my "junk."

That was not the problem, at least on my half of it.

My problem was that I took TOO much responsibility for it -- so much so that when my friend's junk entered the dynamic, I blamed myself for her stuff, too. And I tried to fix it by fixing parts of me that didn't need to be fixed.

I mean, I don't know about you, but I was taught that blaming others is wrong. And I sure as hell didn't want to do that.

It took me eleventy million years to realize that not only was I taking on way too much of the weight of the relationship myself --

But I was also on the receiving end of covertly manipulative behaviors and what felt like gaslighting to me -- all masquerading as "love."

And I had NO idea at the time. Of course I didn't.

It was so covert, sugar-coated, and virtue-signaled that most people around me didn't see it either.

On my end– I’d slipped into some very old wounds -- I'd been shapeshifting and fawning to the needs, emotions, and desires of my friend

… while liberally abandoning my own needs, emotions, and desires – all in the name of friendship

And at some point I got the intuitive nudge that how we were operating was not healthy —  but I truly did not believe it or trust that intuition for entirely too long. 

I had what felt like a million seemingly "good" reasons to ignore the intuitive cues that were trying desperately to get my attention and point out the symptoms of a bigger, neoplastic problem:

🦠⚠️🦠 Symptom 1: I was treated like the "chosen one"

Unlike many of my other friendships (friendships I now can see are perfectly healthy) –  I was often flooded with hyperbolic compliments which had me feeling like the chosen one, the lucky one, the exception. If you've seen Ted Lasso, you may be familiar with the episode on “Love bombing” with Keeley. Picture that. (And if you haven't seen it -- run, don't walk, to an Apple TV channel near you!)

Deep down, this love bombing felt good at first, but something also felt “off” about it that I couldn’t put my finger on. I'd respond in ways that felt very unlike myself — but I’d never had a friend treat me like this, and I remember honestly thinking maybe THIS was how friendship was supposed to be, and I’d just missed out until this point.

And when I felt like I was an old cardigan under someone’s bed you put me on and said I was your favorite

🦠⚠️🦠 Symptom 2: I had to "work" for attention and attunement

When my friend had an issue or problem and needed a friend, I'd drop everything I was doing. I certainly expected some degree of reciprocation (because…duh). But when it was time for me to ask for support, I found myself walking on eggshells. For example: I’d write and rewrite messages asking for help — I'd text-erase-text-erase-- trying to advocate for my needs with just the right words.

But it would seem to me that my friend was not available, even though I'd see her freely and openly supporting other people with enthusiasm. I felt a tremendous amount of shame for that –  as if there was something wrong with me.

All this time I was wasting hoping you would come around I’ve been giving out chances and all you do is let me down

🦠⚠️🦠 Symptom 3: I would get "saved" during really tough times ... but then I was "on the hook"

Of course, it seemed to me that if things got bad enough on my end, my friend would swoop in. This would feel good when I was really distressed and in a really vulnerable place of course, but it wasn’t long into our friendship that I noticed the trend–my friend would seemingly disappear when the chaos would die down.

I remember wondering why it was that she only showed up strongly when I was in a perceivable position "below" her, and why she would seemingly only praise my efforts when she had played a supporting role

You give me just enough attention to keep my hopes too high.

Wishful thoughts forget to mention when something’s really not right

🦠⚠️🦠 Symptom 4: Thoughtfulness and generosity were lopsided

I could clearly tell that I fed and poured way more thoughtfulness, patience, generosity, and kindness into the friendship. For someone with a longstanding history of recovering from the “never enough” wound – this played right into that wound. And look-- I fully believe relationships are never about keeping score or tit-for-tat and things don't have to be exactly "even" since each person has different strengths and weaknesses. That's what makes relationships so wonderful!

But in this one, I couldn't help but notice eventually that the generosity, favors, and thoughtfulness were not reciprocated anywhere near the same level.

Foolish one, stop checking your mailbox for confessions of love that are never gonna come

Ok, so if you've made it this far in the story, I'm guessing your wheels might be starting to turn. Perhaps you've got some hypotheses about how I got myself into this.

Since this isn't a therapy session for me, I'll save you the guessing :)

At the root and foundation of this friendship was what I can now see was an irrefutable power differential.

I had put my friend on a pedestal, and I was the wonderstruck stargazer looking up from below.

I'm wonderstruck blushing all the way home

I was convinced that it was my responsibility to step up or “get” to her mythical level

And it felt like this would be reinforced by the things she would say.

She'd tell me that she was at this elevated level and use it to justify why she would self isolate from so many other people -- telling me she was more evolved, people should really want to learn from her, and it was too exhausting for her to be around other people who were "less evolved"

As someone who was super invested in the seemingly bottomless pit of self improvement, a particularly naive part of me drank that kool aid with enthusiasm.

In her eyes, was better than "them," I must really be special and doing something right!

Don’t you think I was too young to be messed with? The girl in the dress cried the whole way home

And that meant I also started to isolate myself from other people, too. I mean, the narrative was that NOBODY else out there was as amazing as my friend, so why waste my time?

I pledged allegiance and did everything I could think of to gain and earn her approval, attention, attunement, and acceptance. Anything to "rise" to the level of the pedestal.

But as it goes – my body kept the score. 

Throughout our friendship, especially in “peak” times when we were interacting often – I would wake up nearly every morning with a nervous stomach and nausea.

For months and maybe even years, eating breakfast was like pulling teeth.

And knowing what I know – I did all kinds of gymnastics to remedy this. Cue lots of money spent on functional medicine and supplements.

But those remedies were simply a reminder that bandaids don’t fix bullet holes

Like a vent on an active volcano, the truth would always find a way out - and Intuition would start to whisper that something was "off"

But even for someone who tends to listen to Intuition over ANYTHING else – I would tell myself I was just making it up, being paranoid, or being dramatic … especially in times like these – 

🦠⚠️🦠 Symptom 5: I overlooked a lot of red flags

My friend would do things I’d otherwise not tolerate in any friendship — like ghost me for dates we'd planned and then feign "forgetfulness", covertly shame me by commenting on my appearance or accomplishments with backhanded compliments and insults, put my husband down repeatedly, and talk shit or share sacred information about her friends & family members– people who undoubtedly never consented to her sharing their secrets with me.

I’d then witness her being kind, doting, and loving to these same people to their faces

Players gonna play play play play play

I remember wondering intuitively  “Does she tell THOSE people MY secrets? Does she talk shit about me with THEM?” This thought would make me sick to my stomach (gee, I wonder why I always felt so sick?) -- and instead of acknowledging that intuitive nudge, I told myself that for SURE I must be the exception.

And I will block out these voices of reason in my head. And the voices say "You are not the exception. You will never learn your lesson."

🦠⚠️🦠 Symptom 6: Pointing out everyone else's flaws and baggage

Not only was there plenty of shit talking, gossiping, and secret sharing – but my friend seemed to always analyze and comment on other people’s behavior, emotions, or conditioned patterns.

Whenever we would hang out or chat, the discussion would be dominated by analyzing and making assumptions about other people's "junk"

All of these things would happen in the name of "Just sharing the facts."

So casually cruel in the name of being honest

🦠⚠️🦠 Symptom 7: On again / Off again Emotional Availability

We’d go through periods of talking and checking in frequently with each other in calls and texts.  And then suddenly she would not respond to my texts for days or weeks. And look, I have plenty of friends I don't text with or talk to very often, or we'll have on-again / off-again conversations. That's not the issue. The issue was when I'd see her texting people all the time while telling me she doesn't use text messages. I was confused, but never wanted to accuse her of lying. So I would play it cool and act aloof like I didn't really care.

You know how to keep me waiting. I know how to act like I'm fine.

For the better part of 2023 -- my journey was in BELIEVING that these intuitive nudges, these symptoms -- were both REAL and signs of a bigger problem.

I know I'm not the only person on the planet who literally helps people with this kind of stuff for a living and yet misses it in her own life.

But a point of deep compassion, is to see that I was truly doing the best I could.

I can only move as fast as my slowest parts.

And even though prior to this friendship I had healed a lot of these wounds, that didn't mean that the deep tentacles of them didn't find a way to grab hold yet again.

It's true -- whenever you think you've fully healed something and you'll never have to deal with it again, it's that very thought that is an invitation to say "huh, I wonder how that's showing up now?"

And healing this is what helps me help others with the same thing.

We don't have to fully have healed something to be able to help them. Sometimes we walk together.

And it's a whole heckuva lot easier to walk together when you have the firsthand experience of giving yourself the compassion, too.

As I figured out which way was up and realized that perhaps I wasn't seeing reality and the Truth clearly for what it was, I realized it was like I was constantly walking into a funhouse with all the funky mirrors, thinking it's real, and forgetting that the beautiful daylight is shining just outside.

And I have great compassion for the parts of me that led me to get stuck in that funhouse -- which I soon would learn was anything but fun.

Illuminating the Truth

All those times in the fun house where I'd continue to press forward in the name of "loyalty" did not earn me a higher place on the pedestal.

They earned me more distress in the friendship that took me further and further from myself, from Intuition, and from Source.

Wishful thoughts forget to mention when something's really not right

For years I had done everything I could to try and shapeshift myself to get myself UP onto that pedestal.

Eventually, I began to see that perhaps there was no "up." Perhaps it was all an illusion.

Namely, because I began to see glimpses of how the way I was being treated was simply not ok. I’d find my voice and power and say something.

I’d get brave and try and call out my friend when she’d crossed a line.

But the problem was, the narrative would quickly get turned around on me.

I was often told it was my own baggage coming up as a projection, which made it my responsibility, not hers.

This created a perfect storm for me – someone who is highly invested in self improvement.

Occasionally I'd receive an apology, but to me, it always felt halfhearted.

You say sorry just for show. If you live like that, you live with ghosts

Grasping for something I felt like I could control, I usually ended up turning the problem inward on myself every time something was “wrong.”  I'd then be praised for working on myself. And I'd think I was doing the right thing.

If I looked hard enough inside of me, I’d find something to blame.

Even if I was completely innocent, it felt safer to dig into the bottomless pit of "ways I am fucked up" than to actually face the truth. Because don't forget, good people never blame others.

I'd be smart to walk away

But you're quicksand

This slope is treacherous

This path is reckless This slope is treacherous

And I, I, I like it

That <friend>ship began to sink faster. And I'd furiously do whatever it took to fruitlessly bail it out.

And I keep my side of the street clean. You wouldn’t know what I mean

I eventually realized that I was turning on myself unconsciously – all in the name of “self improvement” and “spiritual growth” and “being a good and loyal friend”

And therefore it was easy to create and believe the narrative that I was inflicting my own pain and it was all my own baggage to blame and take even more responsibility for.

Long were the nights where my life once revolved around you. Counting the footsteps praying the floor won’t fall through again

Finally seeing the light

Eventually, all the hidden dopamine hits and payoffs I was getting for being a “good and loyal friend” began to fade

The volcano was ready to blow and was sending all kinds of seismic signals

Steam was rising from the vents. I could see it, feel it ...

I remember the exact day that it became radically clear that there was a huge rift between the rose-colored illusion I was seeing as friendship ... and the treacherous and seismic reality it actually WAS

And this is the part where my business comes in --

I’d noticed for several years that when it came to my work — my friend would support and cheer me on until my success seemed to “outweigh” hers.

I'd share with her, and she'd tell me she didn’t know what was happening.

Or she’d disappear.

Or give me halfhearted praise, or worse — insult me or point out all the things I did wrong.

Knowing that sometimes people don't give you what you don't ask for -- I’d ask for positive feedback, validation, affirmation, or celebration, especially when I did something in my business that felt particularly challenging or vulnerable.

Her response?

"You don’t need external validation. You're beyond that. You’re evolved enough as you are."

This is all while I'd witness her praising, supporting, and celebrating the wins of several other mutual friends and connections of ours.

Side note: I do want to acknowledge that there is a very unhealthy trend in the personal development world that teaches you to never seek external validation. This is well meaning advice that has been taken too far. We are a communal species and are literally wired to receive care, attention, attunement, celebration, and validation from each other. You NEVER outgrow this need. At the same time, seeking it all the time as your ONLY means of validation and worthiness will only get you so far. There's a necessary harmony between internal and external validation. But make no mistake -- it was clear to both me and my friend that I was generally great at internal validation -- and her refusal to provide me any encouragement or praise had nothing to do with "facilitating my personal growth." At one point, she told me she was aware she had a problem of getting really triggered when someone else succeeds or is in the spotlight. But just as I mentioned above -- calling it out doesn't mean it is healed. She'd then say she completely healed it and it was no longer a problem. From there, any other time she would demonstrate these behaviors, she'd turn it around on me and say it must be my own baggage, not hers.

Ok, so those situations definitely raised very red flags in my head.

But if that wasn't enough, then there was the time I was accused of a sort of wrongdoing that I knew I did not do.

But I was so entranced by trying to please her, I didn’t have it in me to even refute it. I was terrified about what would happen if I did.

Instead, I completely folded. 

I remember crumbling and sobbing on my office floor.

In that moment – I convinced myself that somehow it was my fault (even though it wasn't) and therefore somehow I’d gone and fucked things up.

I took it all on as mine to fix.

For years later, the truth would slowly but surely creep back into my consciousness and into my body. I couldn’t shake it. 

It felt like I was living in a nightmare hidden under a huge smile.

Darling I’m a nightmare dressed like a daydream

For better or worse, it wasn't long until another nail drove itself into the coffin. Now I can look back and say it was the final nail.

There was a season where my business had taken off and was well on the way to reach the 7 figure level. 

I’d excitedly shared my business plans and visions with my friend, once again both optimistically expecting and asking for support and encouragement.

I was met with anything BUT support and encouragement.

My friend yelled at and told meI was not allowed to make plans and goals (...for my own business….?? 🤔) without her approval and input

Then she told me she wished she’d never included me in her life

I remember standing there next to my dog, Aspen – completely frozen. Stunned.

Even Aspen could feel it. Picture a labrador retriever with the characteristic curious head tilt.

It made absolutely no sense, even to a dog. 

To me, in that moment, I thought I may as well have just said that I was going to the Olympics and likely was going to win a gold medal – and somehow I was portrayed as a horrible friend and person because of it. 

I remember just continuing to kick Aspen’s soccer ball with her, going through the motions trying to be cheerful, but feeling completely out of my body.

It was that day that the facade and rose colored glasses had broken. 

The dragons had risen from the fire of the volcano.

And it was even more problematic when — the very next day — my friend came to me, pretending like nothing ever happened. 

If it’s all in my head tell me now

Tell me I’ve got it wrong somehow 

I know my love should be celebrated, but you tolerate it 

I wish I could tell you that things turned around right there –  as soon as the dragons and lava started to flow.

Instead, I did what any rational, well evolved, kind and self honoring adult would do…

...I blamed myself and took responsibility for fixing it 🙃

Thankfully this time, I had healing support from someone who was on the outside, not entrenched in the narrative at all.

Turns out, we all need that person. We all need that external validation and support.

First, I gave it a good go at finding my power inside the friendship.

I slowly and steadily started setting boundaries, communicating my needs clearly, and gaining courage bit by bit  

But I got smarter, I got harder in the nick of time

Honey, I rose up from the dead, I do it all the time

I got a list of names, and yours is in red, underlined

I check it once, then I check it twice, oh!

Ooh, look what you made me do

But as I got stronger, wiser, and started to reclaim my power – the patterns and symptoms just got worse – to the point that other people who were close enough to us started to notice that our dynamic -- AND the way I was tolerating it -- was simply not ok

All this time

I never learned to read your mind

I couldn’t turn things around

The writing was irrefutably on the wall – and no amount of personal self improvement or nurturing of the relationship on my part was going to fix it

I went from having that anxious stomach every morning to beginning to feel unshakably panicked every time we would interact

I knew you were trouble when you walked in

I could no longer ignore the Truth as it was illuminated.

And it’s strange how your face doesn’t look so innocent

Your secret has its consequence and that’s on you, Babe

I break down every time you call

We’re the wreck, you’re the wrecking ball

I stumbled along for a few more months of trying to mend things on my end

But things just got worse and worse.

The neoplasm had taken over. We were smiling on the surface, and dying on the inside.

I could no longer turn it on myself. The ship needed to just sink.

I pay the price of what I lost and what it cost

I had only one heartbreaking card left to play -- one that would pull back the curtain on the truth completely

My cards are on the table, yours are in your hand

Chances are, tonight, you've already got plans

And chances are I will talk myself to sleep again

I had to fully remove my friend from the pedestal -- or rather -- see that there was no pedestal in the first place

It was time reclaim my power completely

I needed to stop taking responsibility for the parts of the dynamic that weren't mine to hold

I learned a hard, first hand lesson -- the difference between accountability and blame. Sure -- we don't blame others.

But accountability is an incredibly important tool in any friendship or relationship, especially when unhealthy dynamics are present.

And that accountability may look like the other person feeling pain. But holding their pain or trying to insulate them from it is not loving. It just continues to hurt you.

So I needed to stop taking on the pain and responsibility for healing stuff that was not mine.

Instead I needed to tend to the ready-to-heal parts of me that contributed to the dynamic

And in doing that, it was time to fight the dragons -- to illuminate my own happiness and freedom

You’re on your own, kid

Yeah, you can face this

You’re on your own, kid

You always have been

I had a feeling that removing the image of the pedestal was going to be a bumpy and long fall for me, even though she was the one on the pedestal.

And even though I was exhausted, I was up for the task.

And I know it's long gone

And there's nothing else I could do

I forget about you long enough to forget why I needed to

In the next post, I'll reveal what that bumpy and long fall looked like. Turns out, it was pretty damn bumpy.

But it was also full of beautiful, miracle, elevating moments too.

And to you, Dear Reader -- Thanks for being here for this share!

PS Swifties -- did you find all the easter eggs? how's your song list going?

PPS As I mentioned in Part 1 (tap here to read if somehow you've made it all the way to the end of Part 2 and skipped the line) -- make sure you're on my email list and actually opening my emails if you want notifications right to your inbox for when I send out Part 3!

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