Sunday, October 07, 2007

I Been Thinkin'....

I've barely blogged during the last week. I've been busy, but that's only part of it, because sometimes I blog like mad when I'm busy. Most of it was a combination of PMS and stress-related ennui that made it a lot easier to engage my body in little tasks around the house than to engage my mind and actually consider my current dissatisfaction with life. I'm hoping to bring that to an end soon, except for the PMS. I realize that PMS will continue to be my special friend for another decade or so, stopping by occasionally to bring the gift of angst and turmoil into my life.

I was talking with a coworker yesterday about why she's so obviously unhappy lately. She started off with the usual laundry list of things...she's overwhelmed with work and school and the normals stresses that come with being an adult. I considered that for a while, and decided that that wasn't how it I asked her again.

This time, she let loose in a way that was different than anything I'd ever seen before from her, and probably a lot more than she meant to say. She said that everyone in her life had turned out to be a disappointment and that she'd decided to pull up her psychic drawbridges and not allow herself to be engaged in any emotionally challenging relationships anymore, since sooner or later that would end up hurting her.

I've been mulling that one over ever since, and this is where I've landed with it:

Sooner or later every relationship has a moment in which you feel like you've been smacked on the head with a brick. You wonder how that person could do that thing to you, and it feels like you've been emotionally sandpapered.

I don't believe it's because everyone is an asshole (although certainly everyone is capable of stunning acts of assholery), I believe that at that moment, that person didn't give a second's worth of thought to anyone's needs but their own. That for whatever reason, at that moment they prioritized they needs over ours.

But rarely is it because they've set out to hurt us. We're almost always collateral damage in their own internal wars. In the battle with our eternal inner demons, sometimes onlookers get hit with some misfired angst.

So my coworker, who explained to me that she has an emotional "one strike" policy, is forever disappointed with people. She feels that her life is an endless series of betrayals, and she vows each time more emphatically not to invest any emotional energy in anyone else, since it's only a matter of time until that person breaks her heart too.

And that reminded me of all the times in the last 44 years I've seen friendships ended over a single event of assholery. And every time, the recipient of that assholery stands up self-righteously, takes a stand against their own victimization, and vows not to risk in again.

But today I woke up thinking what a difference the world would be if all of us could look at slights from the perspective of the slighter for a moment, instead of the slightee. Since I'm as guilt as anyone else of making that stupid vow, "I'm not going to put myself in a position to be hurt like that again", I've allowed relationships to end abruptly in a way that hangs out in the deep corners of my heart and pokes me occasionally with pins. In me, it made sense at the time. In my coworker, it seems shockingly short-sighted and self-indulgent.

Everyone we know will one day do something that makes us question the value of the relationship. The value of every relationship remains almost always in exactly that...That the people who love us will still love us after we're assholes. Not just when we're a shining example of goodness, when it's no challenge to have relationships, but when we're weak and whiny and damaged, and do stupid thoughtless things because our emotional focal length is an inch past our own noses.

Lori and I made a vow when we started this relationship never to intentionally hurt each other. We have (and will again) done selfish, hurtful things that cause the other person to say, "How could she do that? Didn't she even think about me?" But it's a lot easier to resolve those things in our hearts if we remember that it wasn't meant to hurt us or the relationship, it was caused by the kind of thrashing and flailing that people do when they're wounded, and then end up wounding someone else.

It's depressingly true. Sometimes people don't think about our needs when they push the relationship off a cliff. And sometimes the last thing in the world any of us want to do is climb down there after it and haul it back up, but it sure beats the hell out of the alternative: looking over the edge and seeing the rusting carcasses of all the relationships we've let slip through our fingers and thinking, "There. I guess I showed them."

I think the real satisfaction comes from the ones that we rescue. When, years down the road, we can laugh with that person we've gone over the cliff with, and say, "Boy, was that ugly!" And realize that our relationships were strengthened by standing united against the demons that try to destroy them.


seasidehuny2 said...

I really liked your metaphor! It's a lot easier to throw good people away then climb down that hill and haul them back up again. And then you spend eternity asking, "What if?"


Suzanne said...

I just read a great book by AM Homes called "This Book Will Save Your Life." It was about a guy who basically shut himself off emotionally and physically from everyone and after an event that sends him to the hospital, he hilariously starts reconnecting with people. I loved it. I also love the phrase "assholery." I will be incorporating it into my life as (hopefully not) necessary. Thanks!