Today was the kind of day where I walk out of therapy saying, “That’s why I pay for therapy.” It doesn’t happen every time. I’ve spent the last two weeks wondering why I pay for therapy. Then I get reminded. Because I’m not good at framing things.
Today my therapist and I spent a lot of time talking about my friendships with women. She asked me if I have noticed that I like to pick (for my closest relationships) women who are not good at taking care of themselves, let alone anyone else. I reflected for a few minutes and said yeah, I’ve noticed. My “besties” have pretty much been universally people who can’t feed themselves regularly and appropriately, most of them can’t finish school or work or clean their own houses. They don’t exercise. Many of them have trouble with hygiene (and I have low standards).
I don’t say that to be mean, I say it because it is true. I pick a lot of people like that. I could go down a list. They are all functional in some ways at some times. But not consistently and not across the board. They are all people who struggle with the basics of their own self-care.
Then I enter into a relationship and turn my neeeeeeeeeeediness towards them and.. guess what? They let me down. Because they can’t take care of themselves or their actual dependents… let alone me. It isn’t a reasonable expectation of them. I don’t go pick people with a whole drawer full of spoons. Then when they can’t take care of me I feel like it is a statement of my worth as a human. I decide that since they can’t/won’t care for me in the ways I need/want I should die.
This has been a consistent pattern of mine for decades.
I get into relationships with people who can’t take care of themselves and then when they can’t care for me it feels like they don’t love me enough. Very much like my mom. It feels like no one will ever love me enough.
But Noah does. He can’t meet all of my needs, but he does love me enough. Getting one of those people in a lifetime is a lucky break not attained by most people. I shouldn’t complain. I shouldn’t be so greedy.
My therapist suggested that I need to stop thinking about these people as sources of support. The trouble is, I tend to treat people like they are on the inside or the outside. Either I can ask them for things or I can’t. So if I have to pull back from expecting things from someone, I push them all the way outside the box. I don’t know how to have a middle ground.
I’m struggling with this with Sarah. (Former housemate Sarah–remember her?) We are trying to find our way back to friendship. But she got shoved outside the box. How do I let someone in a little but not all the way? (To be fair, she’s gotta be in a similar position because I was more volatile and problematic when we had problems. I am inherently scarier.) It was nice taking the Impact class with her. When I started crying and feeling scared there was someone in the room who understood why I was crying. I didn’t have to explain anything. She just knows. She’s already put in all the hours and hours of time listening to the stories so she understands. Whatever difficulty we have in dealing with one another’s needs… we understand one anothers’ history. So in the class I could turn to her for physical comfort when I generally won’t let anyone touch me.
I feel like there needs to be an in between slot. Not in the box not outside the box. Part of the frame of the box. There and accepted and loved but… not to be depended upon.
I can’t expect people to know how to treat me even after many years of telling them. People don’t listen. I know that. They don’t actually care that much. They may “care” but they don’t care enough to adapt their style of interacting with people. (No shaming here, I am similarly entrenched in being who I am.) I don’t gentle-down very well for people. I struggled like hell to behave appropriately around Jenny and my niece when they visited. I am not good at adapting to other peoples needs. I don’t think that other people have trouble adapting to me because they are terrible, unloving people. I’m hard.
I know that I am hard. Sometimes Noah starts rattling off all the ways I need to be accommodated: all the things he has to pay attention to, all the topics he has to avoid, the body language he has had to carefully learn. I feel pretty bad for him, actually. I don’t entirely understand why it is worth his effort. But it is.
Why do I manage to ignore the fact that Noah thinks it is worth jumping through hundreds of hoops but I dwell on the fact that other people can’t clear some.
It isn’t that my friends do nothing for me. It isn’t that they don’t adapt in any ways. It isn’t that they don’t care. It isn’t that they aren’t trying. I am hard. That isn’t their fault and it isn’t appropriate to get mad at them for doing their best.
Ok, then what do I do? When I can’t get mad at other people because they are doing their best, that is when I tend to decide that I should die because I am so terrible for asking for my needs. Over reaction much?
My shrink suggests pulling back. She said that I put too much energy into wanting friendships because I don’t have anything else to distract me, like a job. I told her that it isn’t that I need a job. I don’t have much of a family and my friends get all the energy that I would put towards my family complete with all the broken that resulted from my actual relationships with my family.
I do have a family now. One complete with no abuse. I am the most potentially problematic person in the house and I actually manage to keep a pretty tight rein on my crazy with my kids. (Noah gets more backlash.) I’m not perfect, but I have it on good authority that perfect parents raise incredibly fucked up kids. I’m better off not trying for perfect.
My shrink then clarified that by “distraction” she meant interactions with adults. I pointed out that when I worked, I was a teacher and I had the same problem I have now. Clearly a job isn’t the solution.
What is the solution? It occurs to me that the highest possible payoff for my energy is to really focus on being appropriate with my kids and home schooling them so that in 20-30 years maybe they will be the relationships I have wanted my whole life. That really is my best shot.
It isn’t really worth putting that much energy into most friendships. I will know them for a few years, maybe a decade or so, and they will wander off to their Next Thing. I do the same thing. I’m not being judgmental. It is ok that people do that.
My shrink suggests that I should stop deciding that people are my friends and thus anything they do is ok. Instead I should look at their behavior and decide if someone is acting like my friend and when they aren’t I should create distance. Not because I’m being mean, because I am taking care of myself.
Recently I went off on poor Pam about hoops I don’t want to jump through. I was bitching and whining in context of home schooling. I want x kind of event but I only want it y distance from my house with z frame work and other people want me to do something else! What the heck! I don’t want to jump through their hoops! For example, today park day is 27 miles from my house. No, I don’t fucking want to drive that far to sit at a park. Not because I have a problem with anyone there (I actually feel like this group is remarkably delightful) but more because I have to drive past almost 100 parks to get to the one that is close to the house of the organizer and uhm… yeah no. Yes, they move around. But they generally stay closer to the house of the organizer. Cause she’s smart like that. She’s been doing this many years and she’s not going to drive all over the place because she’s gotten burned a lot with people not showing up. I get it. I’m not cranky with her. I’m sad that we don’t live closer to one another but I’m not angry and I don’t feel betrayed and she sure as shit doesn’t owe me anything. She comes to stuff at my house when it fits into her schedule.
Hoops are funny things. I use that word to mean a wide variety of things. It has been my experience that people in SF/Oakland act like the freeway only goes in one direction. I have to drive to them. (Not universally–there are some people who drive here from those places and I rarely go to them so I get that I’m a hypocrite here.)
With home schoolers, we all mean very different things when we say we home school our kids. Some use prepackaged curriculum and sit down to do school every day. Some people are Unschoolers Out In The World and they are almost never in their home. Most people are some kind of hybrid and things shift from year to year. I’m selfish and self absorbed so I want other home schoolers to live near me and mostly do things how I do them. When I want to socialize with other people I have to accommodate to their preferences (cause inviting people to just come hang out with me and the kids isn’t working very well lately).
I’d be thrilled if people would just come visit me more often. But, many of the home schoolers seem very uninterested in that and I’ve mostly stopped asking. I’ll try again at some point. Maybe. We’ll see.
Some days I think I would be better off if I actually lived more rurally so I would let myself stay home and not feel the constant anxiety that I am somehow “not doing what I should do” by not going to museums and zoos and and and and every fucking day.
I am not real big on entertaining my kids. I seriously expect them to learn how to entertain themselves. I really expect them to learn from any environment and I have stuffed my house full of good learning opportunities. I don’t need to take them to a museum every day for “stimulation”. They haven’t read every book in the house yet. We’re stimulated.
There are tons of science stuff I want to do with the kids, but most of it takes a lot of set up and clean up and I’m not willing to do it when I have only an hour or two in between other things I have to do. They would love to do bigger art projects. (Although man we already do big art projects.) There are hundreds of things we could do in our house. But I can’t do them in an hour or two. I really need whole days home and I just… don’t seem to be getting them. Even the days we are “home” we are invited to the park and I don’t want to say no because I’m scared shitless that I am going to isolate my kids. So instead we drift through socializing and don’t do a lot of the really interesting things I think of. We just don’t make the time.
My shrink told me to stop putting energy towards people who aren’t acting like my friends. Given that I’ve had to pause this typing multiple times because one of my former students is negotiating to come for a visit because she loves me a lot and she misses me… it is kind of a fascinating dichotomy.
Why do I chase people so hard when they don’t seem to like me that much when there are plenty of people who like me just fine? Because I feel more comfortable with people who will speak to me with contempt. Because that is how I feel about myself.
I need to stop feeling like I’m “doing everything wrong” when I don’t want to do the same thing as someone else. I’ve been pretty sure about the home schooling path I wanted to take for more than 16 years. Why do I let myself spend so much time feeling bad because I don’t do the exact same thing as other people? There isn’t a rule book. There isn’t a One Twue Way to homeschool. I don’t feel guilty when I stand next to traditional schoolers. I’m absolutely sure that isn’t the path for me. Why do I feel so bad about home schoolers who make different choices?
Because ours is a species of conformity. That shame feeling is biological.
I love my friends very much. Even when they aren’t very good at caring for themselves. I have similar issues and I don’t feel like I belong on a holier-than-thou-high-horse. I’m just a broken girl trying to put myself back together. Trying to make a coherent whole out of the broken pieces of my psyche.
If other people don’t love me enough, that just means I need to love myself more. I need to try harder to take care of me. Self-care is a radical act. It may mean I step back from situations because I need to care for myself. That’s ok. I’m permitted. Caring for me is hard. Sometimes I feel very overwhelmed by how hard it is. Asking for help isn’t the most effective way of dealing with my issues. Not really. Staying home and taking care of me is much more effective.
And in the process, maybe I will teach my kids how to take care of themselves and they won’t have to learn it in their 30’s. I was not mothered appropriately. I can’t change that now. But I can change what I pass on. That is the only part I have control over. I can’t fix other adults just like they can’t fix me. It is self-hating to try.
I shouldn’t take them pulling back as a signal of my lack-of-worth. Instead maybe it is a sign that they are making healthier choices and I should be supportive. We aren’t teenagers any more. We can’t live in one another’s back pockets. We have very busy lives. Very full lives.
Friends show up when they can. They give what they have to spare. Family is on tap to give until it hurts… not friends. It is sad that I don’t have an adult family to depend on, but life works that way. Instead I have some of the best friends anyone has ever had. I should not take their best and bludgeon them with it. That’s not exactly gracious. That’s not a way to get more love from them in the future. I do want more love. Even if they have none to spare today.
That isn’t about me.
My worth is separate and distinct from the behavior of everyone in the world. That is hard to remember sometimes.
And then I come home from therapy and my wonderful daughters cuddle me and “read” me stories and tell me “funny” jokes. (I made a video today of Calli’s knock-knock jokes. They are “funny” and wonderful.)
I am financially stable. I have at least three people who love me intensely. I have a lot more people who love me at least a little. That’s more love than many people get. I haven’t been raped in eight years. I haven’t moved in over eight years. I exercise more than I ever have. I hate this elimination diet, but I’m making real progress on something that has been painful and exhausting my whole life.
Today’s run was nice. I like coming down the big hill and seeing the sun rising over the valley. I like where I live. I like my life. I’m whiny and I have trouble seeing the good parts on many days, but I don’t want to be any where else. I don’t want to do anything else. How many people can say that with a straight face?
Ok sure, I do want a vacation. Hawaii will be awesome. But I will come back. I will come back to Wonderland and the best family I’ve ever had.
How many people get to be so lucky?