Friday, December 12, 2014

Toxic People and Their Fallout

Normally, I keep things fairly light-hearted here, but there is something bothering me and I don't think it's going to let go until I find a way to spew it out. Therefore, I apologize in advance for being all brood-y and grr.

A long time ago, I decided to stop praying for patience, because doing so pretty much guaranteed I would be faced with lots of opportunities to practice it. Meaning: the Universe would find new and fun ways to mess with me.

Getting wise to that old trick, I don't seek patience anymore. It's never been my forte', anyway, and so over-using that out-of-shape muscle generally ends badly for all involved.

Honestly? My daughter is a more patient and tolerant person than I think I've ever been capable of being. That's maybe equally due to her awesomeness and my own complete lack of it.

I am easily irritated. Always have been, but I am better when I've had some decent coffee. Without it, I am fairly sure I would need bail money on a regular basis.

However, just as I am easily irritated, I can usually also move past it easily... Usually.

The times when I can't?
Well...those are usually due to much bigger issues than the minor irritants of life.

When I was younger, I was a full-on people-pleaser who feared exclusion more than just about any painful, drawn-out, horrible death  you can imagine. Those tendencies did not spring up overnight, but were fostered and fed by interactions with so many other damaged people (whose damage was just a different flavor than my own) throughout in my adolescence and teen years. It became this pattern of behavior combined with a self-fulfilling-prophetic attachment to people whose own issues were pretty much destined to encourage me to continue said pattern.

There's a lot behind that last sentence. For now, I leave that there... Just know that, as everyone has baggage. Some people have a carry-on bag or two. I have a 10-piece matched set that I've carried a long, long time.

When I finally did break out of that pattern, at the ripe old age of twenty-- good LORD, that was 20 years ago is that possible?!? -- I was able to finally see that pattern of attachment to people whose intentions for me were not good, and the damage I had done to myself by continuing to associate with toxic people.

At the time, I was involved with a world-class manipulative psychopath who made it clear I was the only girl who could "save him from himself," and if I ever left, he'd surely end his life in some dramatic, horrific manner... and make damn sure everyone knew it was MY FAULT.

Here is where I credit my many therapists for finally getting through my thick skull that those threats and obligations were just a giant crate of horse manure.

And, EUREKA-- they showed me that I didn't have to dance the jig in that nasty crate anymore-- I could just STEP OUT OF IT, if I was truly tired of the smell. And oh, was I ever tired of that smell!!

In stepping out, I made an initial effort to have some limited contact with the psycho. Because we were involved in some of the same activities and circle of friends, it initially seemed a better option than cutting him out of my life.

However well-intended, the outcome was not what I'd hoped. His anger at my "defiance" of his "need" for me to "heal" him led to him basically stalking me for about a year. Things got really messed up. The depths of his control issues and manipulative BS made for a very tense and complicated period of my life.

I got tired of those ongoing games and finally just opted out-- cut him out of my life entirely. And when I finally did it, all I could think was, "Why did I not do this sooner?!?" The wave of fresh air after two years of his manure was an absolute revelation.

But it still wasn't easy. And his giant crate of manure stained my psyche in a lot of ways. Cutting off someone whose party line was "PLEASE SAVE ME" felt harsh, cold, and irresponsible. It also flew in the face of my Christian beliefs-- "turning the other cheek" and all that.

Ironically, I first met MDDaddy in the midst of exactly this separation process. The first time he saw me, I was having a full-out screaming match with this psycho ex, in the middle of a busy street in the downtown area of our college city. Not my finest moment, BTW. 

MDD asked a mutual friend, also witnessing that melodrama, who "that GIRL" was...and the friend, rightfully, told him, "Dude. Just...NO. You don't even want to know what that's about."

Thankfully, MDD saw the drama as not being of my creation, but a sane person's response to a nutjob's irresponsible actions. I still tease him about how seeing me screaming mad, about to kick someone's ass in the middle of the street, could POSSIBLY have made me intriguing to him...interesting dynamic we have, right?

My friendship with MDD developed over that semester, during which time he watched me deal with the passive aggressive BS the ex tried to pull. I was newly single for the first time ever in my college career, and taking on the world while trying to sidestep the pitfalls of a psycho scorned. MDD and I found each other to be fabulous listeners and constant cheerleaders of each other's successes.

There was another friend in the mix then, who was, in fact, the "third musketeer" of the trifecta friendship, with MDD and me. She is also no longer part of my life today (or MDD's).

Our differences arose when I was undergoing nearly three years of fertility treatment, desperate to have a child. She found herself rather unexpectedly, spontaneously, pregnant.

It was hard. Really, really hard.

I tried to support her as best I could, but it's a different level of pain when the ONE THING you want more than all the world, you can't have...and here's someone gifted with that exact thing, who does nothing but bitch about it.

She didn't really want to be pregnant, and the timing was sure to get her in trouble with her father (the minister). To this day, I believe her family still thinks it's a miracle that her son was born "so early" and yet full-term size...deception as self-preservation, I guess. Her white wedding dress had to be let out a few times to accommodate a blossoming belly. 

She had a rough go of it, and WAS really sick. I get that. It happens.

Unfortunately, she dealt with it by venting, and made some heartless comments--to ME-- about all the things I "got" to do because I "could" and she "couldn't," because of the "stupid pregnancy."

It stung. I told her I was sorry to hear she was having issues and side effects, but given my own situation (which she knew very well), I really couldn't be the person she vented to about how much pregnancy sucks. I asked her to respect how hard that was.

She responded by telling me to lighten up and go have a beer, and another one for her, just because she couldn't.

It was the last straw in a long line of heartless things she'd done in times I'd most needed her support. I realized she wasn't much of a friend to me, and hadn't been for a while. We weren't giggling co-eds playing ping-pong at the dorm anymore.

Real life was different. WE were different, and I couldn't keep her in my "inner circle" if she was going to kick me where I was most tender.

As hard as it was, I severed ties with her.

I know that was right for me. She attempted to reach out to me a once or twice in the years since, but I've maintained the distance. There are more reasons than just this notable situation, and I felt it best not to let her back into a position to cause any more heartache. That got me labelled a bitch, among other things. But I know it's right, for me.

All of this drama from my past, and how I have dealt with it previously, has come to mind because of a few things. First, Monkey has started asking more about how her parents met and why we "liked" each other.

Truth is, MDD is my very best friend, and will always be. He was strictly "Friend-Zoned" for many, many years, because I value his friendship more than any I have ever had. I was never willing to risk damaging our bond or ruining the uniqueness we had, for something (seemingly, at the time) so trivial as romantic attachment. Dating relationships historically did not pan out well for me. I was not going to let that stupid boy-girl hormonal crap mess us up.

Obviously, I eventually rethought that, or we wouldn't be here. 

May I take this time as a shout-out to all the Friend-Zoned guys whose BFF is a girl who fears losing him as her friend if things change. Hang in there, guys. 

Eventually, when she's mature enough to see what really matters-- and stops being scared of her own truth-- I think  you will get your chance to prove her fears unfounded. Keep the faith. Don't give up. 

The second reason this is all rooting around my brain is that we've had a falling-out with a close friend that really shook me up. A lot. It's hard to put into words without going into full disclosure, and given the nature of the incident, I can't really dig do that.

Suffice it to say, I guess I still sometimes open up to the wrong people.

Damaged, broken people, whose specific form of damage is EXACTLY the wrong kind for my own brokenness to be around. They can hurt me deeper and quicker that way, that's for sure.

As a teen and young adult, I almost always chose to bond with those "wrong" people, somehow. But for much of the past 10-12 years, I really felt I was seeing people more clearly than that.

I kind of chose wrong, again, and someone hurt me pretty badly a little while back.

I am not sure what to do about it, honestly. Because I am now in a very different situation spiritually than I was at 20, back when I had suddenly woken up to the cast of people around me and went all Oprah on them: "YOU are a jackass, and out of my life! YOU are ALSO out! And YOU! And YOU, TOO!"

(I picture this like Oprah giving away cars to her whole audience...It's pretty much how it went.)

When I made those judgment calls and cast out the ones who had created such patterns of hurt and dependency, my Christian faith was not nearly as central to my sense of self.

Now, though, it IS.

And for the first time, I have a situation where I KNOW there's a person who is toxic to my well-being, who violated my trust and the right to be included in my life-- and definitely, my daughter's life.

And my faith is telling me one thing...while my sense of self-preservation, and Mama Bear protection of my child and her trust in her parents to keep bad things from hurting her-- well, that's saying something TOTALLY different.

I also know that this person is struggling. HARD. There are therapists and medications and a whole mess of complicated and difficult things going on. As a fellow human being who's had her own rock bottom points, I recognize that when I see it. It is sad and scary and I really, really hope this person gets help...

But for now, I have cut off contact with that "friend." Radio silence, after the text message I received confirming what I'd suspected as the truth.

The radio silence wasn't fully intentional. I just didn't trust my initial response would be helpful to anyone involved, so it felt best to not make one. It wouldn't solve or undo anything, and likely would mess us all up more. I know my own temper and trust my instincts about it not to unleash the anger unless I am ready to deal with all that could follow. So, I didn't say anything directly then, and now it's been enough time that I wouldn't know what to say anyway.

I sat, and thought, and prayed. I talked it through one side and out the other with MDD. I had nothing to say to this "friend."

But here I am, writing all this...because it's still rolling around my head.

At what point do I have a boundary to create and uphold, and where does Christian forgiveness play into it?

 I honestly don't know yet. I am still processing.

Funny-- the sermon the day after this incident was all about forgiveness. And how, if we claim to be true Christians, we need to examine just what we deem this very loaded, emotionally charged word to mean.

How can you possibly accept grace and absolute forgiveness for yourself, but withhold it from someone else for the wrongs they have done?

I don't have that answer, yet.

I just know it was a whole lot easier when I was 20 and I could say, "You know what? YOU have done enough damage in my life, so you will no longer be welcome in it."

And by saying that, I then found the strength to turn away from those who caused incessant harm to my heart and mind. It was so very liberating.

It was the first time ever that I felt truly able to handle my life and take ownership of its navigation.

I don't know where things will end up with this current situation. I am not sure how to assimilate both my faith and my Mama Bear instincts. Maybe I can't...I don't know.

For now, and for the past three months since this incident happened (this draft has been pending for quite a while), I am maintaining radio silence because I really just don't know what else to say to this person. I got a random "Happy Thanksgiving" text on the holiday, and didn't respond.

Time may heal some of the sting. That remains to be seen...

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