I took a sleeping pill last night because after walking all over DC yesterday, I needed a long period of recovery. I think I was asleep by 10:00, which hasn’t happened since the Reagan administration. I slept deeply, without dreaming, which is also unusual for me. Usually my head is filled with conversations I want to have and how they might play out and a thousand other things I’m “working on.” Seriously, as a writer, dreams are precious commodities, kind of like open letters that have no response except the ones I made up for them. It’s convenient. No one says anything I ain’t tryin’ to herrrrr. It’s safety and comfort in all the relationships I’ve managed to crater into oblivion because I can go back in time, like an episode of Doctor Who all in my head, because I can go anywhere in time and space, and something the Doctor does not have- the ability to cross my own timeline. I don’t know that it makes my relationships better on the ground, but it does ensure that the negative reactions I’ve had in the past don’t dog me until I can’t function.
I’ve been reading “The New Codependency” by Melody Beattie, and it’s kind of a love letter to me. She says that things like people being in trouble and wanting to help, like trying to get an alcoholic to stop drinking, are NORMAL reactions to loved ones being in trouble. Codependency is normal behavior taken to an extreme unknown to God and man. The people you are trying to help don’t need that kind of help. Sometimes the best thing you can do is walk away, because detachment doesn’t help them. It helps you. Obviously, trying to control something as gigantic as alcoholism isn’t going to work. You detach to keep yourself from going crazy. Setting boundaries has always been a nightmare for me, because until now, I have given til it hurts and given til I feel better. In some relationships, especially when I was young, I lost my entire identity except “support person.” This is because I did not allow myself to have my own dreams and the ability to take up space in the world.
The problem started when I got into the relationship with Diane, because I was so young I hadn’t had time to build my own dreams before I got sucked into someone else’s. I was content to let her shine, because she could. Opera singer. Conductor. Educator. Badass. I couldn’t compete with it, I could only go along with it. I have no doubt that my love was a great thing for her, until she became old enough to discover what codependency meant and get out of those relationships, but I did not age with her. I was still in high school…. which started the pattern that I was the crazy one. I wasn’t crazy. I was just much, much younger. I was varsity and she was major league. It arrested my development greatly, but I didn’t realize it until I started working on myself and realized the lack of coping mechanisms that other people had that just didn’t grow for me like they were supposed to- 14 years old in an adult body.
Now that I’ve done so much reading and self-introspection, I don’t have that anymore. I don’t have that drive to just be “the support person.” I am a leader, and I know it. If you’ve ever seen me preach, you know what I mean. However, preaching at Bridgeport was a mixed bag, because on the Sundays that Diane was there, I’d look down in the middle of a sermon and she’d be bawling in that “my little girl’s grown up” sort of way. My mom says that my grandmother was the same way when my dad preached in front of her. It was so sweet, and it’s one of the things I take with me as I navigate leading people I don’t know. By “mixed bag,” I mean that my memories with Diane aren’t all sweet and mother/daughter/sister/friend. It was always easier for me when she wasn’t there, because of course I wanted to stop preaching and just hug her. Of course I did. When she was in front of me, on the front row, seeing and hearing her emote took me to this place of “why can’t you be like this in my daily life? Why don’t my feelings matter to you except when I’m in front of a crowd?” The disconnect was palpable, and one of the things that kept me working on that relationship far longer than I should’ve, because it clouded my interactions with other people to a frightening degree.
I saw all relationships as ones where I needed to give of myself, hoping that they’d take care of me in the same way. Unless those people are as codependent as you, it’s not gonna happen. No one is coming. No one will help you. Life is something you have to navigate on your own, because a “relapse” into codependency is life-sucking. Love shouldn’t have to hurt, and for me, it has. I have lied and manipulated to hide who I really am for as long as I can remember, because showing someone the real me would cause them to run away… I was sure of it. This became a self-fulfilling prophecy because I wasn’t working on relationships to make them last. I was working on them in terms of hiding the real me so that all the outside world got was a shell, and they could fill out the rest on their own.
When I have let people into my inner sanctum, they’ve found the mixed bag that I have. So much power for good lost in behavior patterns that haven’t lifted because I don’t know how. It is the journey of my life, becoming whole and secure in who I am, because I cannot deal with life otherwise. I do not have the tools to give everything of myself and expect that I’ll be taken care of, because I won’t. People can smell codependency a mile away, even me, and it is ironic how freaked out I get when people want me to take care of them if it’s something I don’t want to give, even though I have been on the other side and expected people to jump in for me whenever I’ve asked….. even when it’s something they don’t want to give, either. I just run away, because it’s not that I am not capable of caring for others. It’s that I do not know how to operate a healthy relationship without lapsing into codependency, so I ask too much of people. I know I do. But that is because self-care is so foreign. Self-soothing is right out.
Or at least, it used to be. I am waking up to the fact that I haven’t been whole, that I’ve expected too much because I’ve given too much and can’t understand why people don’t respond to me in the same way I respond to them, because they have boundaries and I don’t…. the first moment I realized that I was getting healthier is when I did not take off my coat and give it to a homeless person, because it occurred to me that I would be freezing if I did. In the past, I wouldn’t have let it be an issue. I would have just been cold and dealt with it. Keep in mind that I am not saying that giving your coat to a homeless person is wrong. I am talking about the phenomenon that I would literally freeze if it meant saving someone else and forgetting entirely that self care is wearing my own damn coat.
I am waking up to an enormous degree, and all that I ask is that you continue to be the listening ear that cheers me on- not to take care of me, but to encourage the work I’m already doing. I know that there’s lots wrong, but until now, I did not have enough self-preservation to see why I needed to do it.
I also literally just woke up, and now I am off to make black tea with milk and Splenda. The best part of waking up, in my humble opinion. Coffee used to be that for me, but I like the ritual of tea. The tea and I both steep, just not at the same rate.