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Life lessons that never seem to stick [Aug. 18th, 2003|10:11 am]
[Current Mood |intimidatedintimidated]

I've written before about my childhood and how I grew up as the only thing between my siblings and disaster – foster care, a family split apart. My experiences made me strong, but there are scars, and coping mechanisms I carry with me that no longer help me.

One of them is my inability to let people just be angry with me. When I stand up for myself it tends to be with passion and strength, but I can never go the final necessary step.

I can never risk that my anger will actually end a relationship. I stayed in a bad marriage a decade too long because I didn’t want my in-laws to hate me.

I have a terror of being The Bad Guy. It's not really a fear of being alone, being abandoned, being isolated – I am strong and capable and unafraid of standing on my own. It's a fear that a relationship will end because I wasn't willing to try hard enough, that I will have indulged in my self-righteous fury and the other person will not understand and, cursing my name, will walk away from me.

So I try to be a peacemaker, and I make my own needs subsidiary to the needs of others, and I spread myself as oil on the waters.

And the really strange and horrible part that I am only just beginning to see is that these efforts, while preserving a relationship, cut away at the respect that others have for me – both the person with whom I'm interacting and the other people who love me.

Slowly, I lose what I most wanted to keep, despite my best efforts. If someone doesn't respect me, can they really love me?

If I show so little respect for myself, do I even deserve to be loved?

I have to find a way past the terror. I have to learn that keeping peace is not the highest goal in life. I have to escape the shadow of that frightened child whose aunt and uncle kept trying to put her and her brother and sisters into foster care, who felt like one wrong move could ruin everything.

I want to be a strong person, but I will never achieve that goal until I learn this.

[User Picture]From: danodea
2003-08-18 08:19 am (UTC)
I understand. It took me a long time to understand that I needed to care as much about myself as I did about others. It took me longer to get to the point where others' opinions of me weren't a critical factor in my opinion of myself.

Starting that isn't easy, but I think you're headed the right way.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2003-08-19 04:20 am (UTC)
Just taking me a long time to get there. But, hell, considering everything else I've gotten through I guess I shouldn't be too tough on myself - at least I have identified the issue, which is a big chunk of the battle.
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From: space_boy
2003-08-18 07:39 pm (UTC)
Can i just say that people who go thru a harder life tend to end up really knowing what life is really about. I too have had a somewhat hard life, and I'm thankful for it everyday because it really has made me a much better person. Anyways, Trudge on. =) Good luck in law school and if you ever need to talk and you can find me, please feel free to.


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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2003-08-19 04:21 am (UTC)
Thanks, the support is appreciated. I'm curious, though, if I know you. I checked your profile page and couldn't find any clue as to what led you to me [g].
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From: space_boy
2003-08-20 12:47 pm (UTC)
New to lj, found you on random search looking for interesting peoples...... Sorry to intrude..

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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2003-08-20 01:06 pm (UTC)
Oh, no problem! Just wondering whether you were someone I knew but couldn't identify. Glad to have you around!
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[User Picture]From: correspondguy
2003-08-18 09:19 pm (UTC)

Ponder mode *on*

I am seriously thinking about this post.

"Mr. Wolf, no disrespect intended. I respect you." - Pulp Fiction.

There seem to me to be really deep issues here. You've spoken before about some things that I have gained some insight into, and there's a real urge to add my $0.02 to the mix, but I'm not quite sure what to say, or if I can say it right or whether I will offend rather than help.

'Tis a dilemma indeed. The more so because 1) I don't know the backstory, having just arrived on the scene recently, 2) I don't want to be a pompous ass, and 3) I have no business going around taking other people's inventories.

I will ponder further.

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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2003-08-19 04:26 am (UTC)

Re: Ponder mode *on*

It is no single issue, but a culmination of many different incidents, with different people, and some long talks I had this weekend. It's been going on all my life, really, and I'm just now understanding it enough to get some kind of label on it. Less sudden crisis, more slowly looming shadow.

Feel free to butt in - the fact that it's posted here sort of gives you permission, after all [g].
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[User Picture]From: correspondguy
2003-08-19 07:52 pm (UTC)

Here goes....

I went to a meeting tonight and someone talked about fear and I thought of you. And then I came home and read the Ferrett's post and thought more about responding, and then I re-read the above and thought more. Maybe I'm totally wrong for weighing in on this, but this has been nagging at me for a while.

Are you sure you're not trying to solve the wrong problem?

There seems to be a theme to these anguished pleas of yours. In addition to the very insightful analysis of your own flaws, there seems, to my eye, an elephant in the room you're not addressing. Perhaps you use different terms to describe the elephant than I would - since you don't say things as I would, I'm not sure you're not doing yourself a disservice.

In any case, it sounds like you have a real fear of being wrong. If I read between the lines, and I haven't dug far enough back to read the posting(s) about your childhood, there was a time in your life when not only did you have to be perfect, or at least doing the right thing all the time, but you had to protect your sibs and the adults around you. This is, of course, an impossible task, and one which it is not fair to ask an adolescent or child to perform. The fact that the impetus came from inside you matters not; you felt it.

I can imagine how enormous that burden felt. I can imagine how enormous that burden feels now. Emily seems to feel it too. When she and I argue, I get the distinct impression that at one time, she argued with some frequency with someone with whom she could concede nothing, because they would seize on that concession and conclude that she had conceded everything. She reacts like someone who has to keep her walls at maximum height, because to admit that she regrets the argument would be to allow me to believe that the stuff I said that was out of line was okay. Now, I know that to be untrue; that I am quite capable of admitting that I was wrong about lots of things and accepting her "I'm sorry we had a fight" as simply that, not an abject apology for disagreeing with me, but she does not, at least not that I can tell.

I suspect I know where it comes from, but she won't tell me. It's not me - she's been like this as long as I've known her.

And, knowing that she chose me when I was an active drunk suggests that she chose me in part because I would always be more flawed than she was, so even if she was wrong, she could always feel better because she wasn't a drunk.

So, you're married to The Ferrett, a man who perceives his own flaws so keenly that he remains unconvinced, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that you really, really, deep down, love him. He's so convinced that he's fucked up that he became weepy and needy and almost drove you off.

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[User Picture]From: correspondguy
2003-08-19 07:53 pm (UTC)

(I broke the database)

What does that say about you?

These are not negative judgements - you and he are among the kinder, better people I've ever known. (Either that says something about you, or I need to get out more.)

Perhaps there's an element of contempt in your kindness and peacemaking. If you can fix this person, you must not be screwed up. Let's count off all the stuff you do - you've made Law Review, you have a full-time job which you do extremely well despite not having a great deal of formal training (if I remember correctly), you garden obsessively, you're a Mom, you're a lover and a friend, you write intelligently, caringly, and wittily in a journal, you can probably dance and sing, and oh, yeah, you broke your shoulder this year. It has occurred to me that an element in your oil on the waters is just wanting to fix things so they won't be so demanding.

I'm not sure if the resentment you're seeing, or think you're seeing isn't coming from a leakage of frustration that these two sides don't see their commonality and stop trapping you in the middle.

You wanted to save your family, and you did. But you had a vested interest in that; you didn't do it entirely for other's benefit. You may want to save people from themselves because it makes you feel better, and they may be picking up on that. (Unless you have poorer taste in friends than I think you do.)

What if you are the bad guy? Is that really so awful? I mean, I was the Bad Guy - I was the sucking drain of need who was doing nothing to save themselves. I was the guy who wreaked havoc just because I could. I could apologize, and feel guilty, and listen to people try to help and then I'd go out and do it again.

I wonder if you're expecting way too much from yourself - you self-sacrifice and then are beating yourself up because you're too self-sacrificing. That seems like another impossible burden.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2003-08-20 09:10 am (UTC)

Re: (I broke the database)

Wow. Interesting insights. I thnk you are right, about my need to be right, and my fear that admitting a wrong will mean being blamed for everything. (My first marriage was characterized by the need for blame to be assigned, and if I didn't defend myself it would always be my fault, no matter what - so I got very defensive.)

Good insights, now I just have to figure out what to do with them...
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