Growing up, i learned not to complain about anything. There was no point, unless i was looking for a beating. A lot of my circumstances i didn’t even recognise as abusive or neglectful, and any time i did, i was adept at putting it away somewhere inside myself and never thinking about it again.
When i got away and out on my own, that changed a little. I became hypersensitive to some low-level wrongs (the value i’m placing on these may not be anyone else’s), like being misunderstood, spoken to harshly, feeling excluded or ignored. I had no idea how to address these issues, but i had a great deal of experience with passive-aggressive behaviours, and that became my routine method of handling them. I was the stereotypical wife who slammed kitchen cupboards and furiously cleaned the house. When my husband would ask me what was wrong, i’d snap Nothing, stonefaced.
My second way to express it, was to GTFO; i’d leave the situation immediately, sometimes even end the relationship (if there was one) entirely. My past is probably littered with dead relationships with people who have no idea why i left. I’m a pro at ghosting. When the person who gave you life treats you the way my mother treated me, i think it can create a hard, twisted, dead part inside you.* I have the ability to cut off contact, completely, utterly, and immediately, with a loved one. I close a door between us and it is done. It’s only been in the last couple of years that i’ve been addressing this practise of mine, and it’s been quite the sticky wicket.
More than a few times i’ve heard from friends that there is an uncrossable line inside me, a place where none can come. That one can only know me so well, before approaching the locked door. Implacable me. The big fat NOPE. Reading my blog, you might find that strange, but let me assure you that the observation is correct and well-earned. I was raised in hiddenness, taught that i was bad and dirty, drank down a steady draught of shame until it spilled out of my body and filled the space around me and i had to grow gills to breathe in it. Until only a few short years ago, i believed that if you really knew me, you’d leave me. Immediately, and in disgust. And so i learned tricks to manipulate people into sticking with me. I didn’t think it out as consciously as i share this. Heh. No, i knew i was a sneak and a fake –my mother had told me these things since i can remember– but i didn’t think clearly that i must control the flow of information about me in order to have relationships with anyone. It was the subconscious impetus that guided all my interactions with other humans that i desired to have in my life. I was the Beast who’d give access to anywhere in the castle, save the wing that houses his dying rose. And if i caught you sniffing around, you’d likely get a similar reaction to his; a lot of roaring and throwing things.
If you really knew me, you would leave me.
I have a speckled, rocky, treacherous, traitorous history with friendship. I’ve spent decades now trying to unravel and decipher what i did, what they did, where my culpability lies and where it actuallyseriouslynoreally wasn’t me, it was them. I want to know the truth. One thing i’m not afraid of is truth. Okay, that’s not entirely true, as it is also not totally true that lies are pain. But the lie i was forced to live as truth caused me nothing but pain and suffering and separated me from life and those around me who were truly living it. So, in this particular instance i am not at all afraid (anymore, cuz laws yes, was i ever!) to know what i did wrong and where and to whom.
This need to control every aspect of how i present myself to various loved ones and sundry, has bled into every interaction i have. Just day-to-days, it’s not necessarily a high price to pay, or even wrong. I’m of the opinion that when the cashier asks me how i am today, it’s okay for me to respond Fine, even if i’m far from it, for various reasons. they’re just doing they’re job, i don’t feel like mentioning how much my day sucks, there’s a bunch of people in line behind me and they ain’t here for that, etc. There are times though, when my fear and shame-based tightlipped interactions and forced joviality have cost me too much. I’ve come away hurt and diminished.
All this to relate something that happened to me yesterday.
I went to see a movie with my husband. The last time we went to a theatre we were with one of our sons, and the person sitting behind him kept kicking his seat. He wanted to handle it on his own, and so i had to sit back and watch him do it in a way that i wouldn’t have. Grrr, but he’s grown and he gets to, and that’s good for both of us. I’m excellent at standing up for other people, known and loved or not. But last night my son wasn’t there and the seat-kicking was happening to me, and it wasn’t just 1 person, it was half the row, and it wasn’t just any group, it was a group of teenagers. Ugh.
Teenagers are a tough group for me. Not because i don’t like them – i like them very much. I have a patience, understanding, and tolerance for them that i don’t see often enough. It’s a good quality, but it comes from a bad place, and has required some understanding and some tempering to know when to use it and to what degree. My teen years were hell, and a lot of my peers were awful to me, and if they weren’t awful, they stood by and watched or ignored while i was teased and bullied every single day. So i carried unresolved pain and anger into my adulthood, and when you add in some of my teenage parts, this created an unhealthy need in me for teenager’s approval. I wanted them to like me and think i’m cool. I used them as bandages for old wounds. When mania had hold of me, i’d gravitate towards younger people. I was trying to relive those years; to fix the loneliness, the exclusion, the mean girls who made sport of me, the cute boys who didn’t want me, the parties and crazy adventures to which i was never invited. The fat, dirty, dishevelled, poor, weird girl.
These kids were just being kids, sure, but we were watching a horror movie. I love horror movies, i love being startled, freaked out, and have the everloving crap scared outta me (in a movie – IRL i hate these things because i often lose control of the face). I couldn’t get any buildup of suspense because my chair was being jiggled by giggly teenagers every 30 seconds or less. I consciously decided to handle it. I thought about it and figured they might not respond like i’d want, and briefly went over in my mind what i was willing to do about it. I asked myself how far i’d go, and quickly ran over a few likely scenarios, but not too deeply, because movie.
I started with a polite request for them to stop kicking my seat. It resumed after mere minutes, at which time i looked pointedly back at them, raised 2 of my fingers and said, That’s twice. It only stopped for a few minutes, but i gave them a break while they went and got more snacks and used the washroom. After a couple of minutes of settle-back-in-your-seats time, i looked back at them and said, loudly enough for the entire theatre to hear, Yo, knock it off! When i received more chair jiggling less than 2mins later, i got up and complained to management, who followed me back to my seat, taking note while i pointed out the 6 or so teens that were causing my problem.
I sat back down and was hit with intense body reaction. I was shaking and had to bring my breathing under control… But it wasn’t hard, and i settled quickly. I decided that if it didn’t stop at that point, i was prepared to go and ask for a refund and try again tonight. There were a couple of minor jiggles in the first 2 or 3mins after they were warned, but nothing after that. When the movie was nearly over and it was mushy, tying-up-loose-ends stuff, i asked myself what i’d do if they came for me in any way as we were leaving. I decided i didn’t need to even look at them. If they had words for me, i might ignore or i might engage, depending on what they said, but i found i wasn’t angry at them. I bore no ill will at all. They were just kids being kids, but i had the right to enjoy my movie undisturbed, and part of growing up is realising it’s not just about you.
I didn’t even need to process it with my husband on the way home, which is a wow kinda thing. I’m very introspective (hahaha, no kidding, H) and will often go over human interactions somewhat *ah* obsessively. This happened, i handled it, and it was no big deal. They may understand or not – it doesn’t matter. They may talk about me and what a bitch i was – not my business. I have a circle of friends who know me and care about me and they are more than enough. I don’t need everyone to like me. It’s an unhealthy and impossible goal, and it doesn’t shield me from pain and abandonment anyway. Plus, i’m not a teenager anymore and they are not my peers.
It’s not a big deal, but it is. To hide who i am and to take the shit some people will heap on me was what i was born to do. Standing up for myself, even in small ways like this one, saying No, or Stop! don’t come naturally to me. In fact, it goes against my entire upbringing. That is to say, it’s a helluva thing for me to do, and i’m a bit pleased with myself right now.
Thought i’d share.
Therapy tomorrow. Yeehaw.
I’ll post again soon.
Love and Peace,
*”Can”, not “will” or “must”.