Yo, Knock It Off!

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,
~H~

*”Can”, not “will” or “must”.

Eggshells and Soliloquys

They had developed a new dimension to conversation. They ended every speech with the word hiro, which means: like i said. Thus each man took full responsibility for intruding into the inarticulate murmur of the spheres. To hiro they added the word koué, a cry of joy or distress, according to whether it was sung or howled. Thus they essayed to pierce the mysterious curtain which hangs between all talking men: at the end of every utterance a man stepped back, so to speak, and attempted to interpret his words to the listener, attempted to subvert the beguiling intellect with the noise of true emotion.
~ Leonard Cohen, Beautiful Losers (1966)

This is stream-of-consciousness. A bit of what it can be like inside my brain. I was thinking about how unconscious of my obsessive overthinking i used to be; how ever present my hypervigilance, how ingrained my desire to please.
I was also thinking that, with awareness i’m now able to change these things, or at least, i’ve been able to slow them down and lessen their intensity.

Baby steps.

**********

I scan your face, looking for signs. Fluidity of motion in the facial muscles, or is your face tense, set. Do you smile, and if so, does it reach your eyes. Do you smile too much – could it be forced. Do you scowl, frown, do the lines on your skin give any indication what you do more frequently. Do the corners of your mouth slant up or down. Hard elevens between your brows, deep parentheses around your mouth, arrowheads around your eyes. Are you animated or stoic.

I listen intently to your voice. Not so much your words, but your tone. What are we talking about and are you invested. Inflection, pitch, volume. A nervous swoop up. An imperious monotone. A frustrated dip.

I watch how you perform an activity or duty. Are your movements confident or tentative, careful, incautious, cocksure. Swift, slow, do you want me to go, or to stay and compliment.

I check out what you’re wearing and how you’re wearing it.
What style, if any. Are your clothes clean, should they be clean, do they fit properly, have you arranged them appropriately across your limbs and curves. Are things riding low or hitching up anywhere, and do you notice or care. Do you pick at your clothes, constantly smoothing and rearranging. Are you bothered by exposed flesh.
Do you look like you fit inside your skin.

Do you look at me when you’re talking, and if you do, what part of me are you looking at: do you stare directly into my eyes, do you stare at my mouth when i respond, do you scan my face as you speak and listen. Do your eyes dart about. Are you aware of what’s going on around us or are you focused on me. Is it an appropriate amount of focus, or too much. Are you distracted, are you just paying lip service? An arched brow. Pursed lips.

Add it all up. Does it match, make sense, or is it incongruous. What might that mean. Are you having a bad day, bad year, bad life. Maybe some recent, awful event. Some wonderful thing so you’ll be nice to me today. Do you want to talk to me or just anyone. Should i banter or nod silently.

Do we have friends in common, what do they think about you, and what do they think about me. Do you have family/friends accompanying you. Are they inching away. Are there children hanging off of you or around you. Are they of a certain age that will trigger a cacophony of voices. Will you notice my wince, my pained expression.

Did you get enough sleep. Are you rested.
Do you want something from me.
Do you like me.
Will you hurt me.
How long will this interchange last. How long should it last.

Lather, rinse.
Repeat on self this time.
Add in:

Do i look clean/nice today.
Am i making appropriate faces, do i look weird or appear awkward.
Am i too loud, talking too much, saying boring things, making bad jokes, being odd.
Trying too hard.
Am i making them uncomfortable; should i excuse myself.
OMG can i please excuse myself? Would that be rude, am i being rude.
Am i sweating, did i stutter, am i making sense, am i repeating myself, have i told them that before, should be saying this, am i talking too much. I should shut up now, right. Was i too personal, too detached, how does my smile look, am i smiling too much, do i look crazy.

Do they expect a hug, how long do we hug for, when can i break away, am i being standoffish, am i hurting their feelings, am i making them uncomfortable.

Lather, rinse.
Repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, with added commentary from the Peanut Gallery.

She doesn’t really like you, remember at that thing when you did the thing.
She just frowned, she doesn’t like you.
Her eyes are darting around, she wants to get away, tell her you’ve somewhere you have to go.
She doesn’t like you, she’ll just be being polite, turn down that aisle and pretend you don’t see her.
She hugs, and we cannot be touched today, change direction now, get away.
Omg you look like shit today, you can’t go in there, you’ll see someone you know.
We can’t remember her name, how ignorant. You can’t talk to her, what if we have to use her name – we don’t know it and you’ll look ridiculous.

Text the man. Ask him to do the thing. We can’t go out. You can’t go out. Everyone will see how wrong/weird/bad/crazy you are. Let’s stay home. The man will do the thing, he’ll get the thing, he’ll fix the thing. Let’s stay home. Oh, i’m so tired, we’re all so tired, aren’t you tired? You’re tired. Let’s go lie down. Put on the telly. Lie on the couch. Text the man. Omg, don’t answer the phone. Close your eyes, we’re tired…

Remember that time when you did that dumb, embarrassing thing?
Wow, you should have gone out and got that stuff done today. Why do you have to be so screwed up. You should be over all this now. No one cares. The man and the kids have been through enough. You should be doing more stuff. What about that room downstairs and getting the cupboard doors back on and the painting and the quonset and the garage, and your skin is really starting to sag, and your thighs look like bellows but you’ll always have tree trunk legs and no man will ever be able to carry you in their arms like in the movies and your kids’ problems are because you’re so messed up and you tricked the man into marrying you and you should have way more friends at 52, but all your friends left you because you’re lazy and weird and full of crap.

I don’t know if this post will help anyone at all, but it is a glimpse into the thoughts and chatter that regularly occupy my brain. I’ve only become aware in the last few years that other people don’t experience constant words/thoughts/chatter/commentary the way i do. My brain is never silent, not for a single second when i’m awake and conscious, and even when i’m sleeping, if i’m dreaming, i’m think-talking the entire time in the background – sometimes it’s lucidly so, sometimes not.

Weird post i know, but that’s what you’re getting today.
Let’s try to have as good a week as we can, shall we?

~H~