I actually can not get enough of the mirror. Please never stop. Help me see all of myself, especially the hideous, shitty parts that I have kept hidden from me for so long I didn’t even know they were there.
Sure it’s scary, the truth is scary, and once you know, you can’t un-know, but that’s the point. Why the hell else are we here: to be inadvertantly fucked up by the people who have the best intentions (our parents), take our experience based belief system into the world and continue the cycle…until we realize there’s a cycle, and then decide which parts of it work for us and which ones are garbage. There’s no way to do that without getting down and dirty in our own minds, by listening to the people we trust when they shine light on the dirt.
We just have to be sure it’s our decision to vacuum that shit up, or leave it there and be proud of it. Flitting between those decisions can only happen once we know it’s there.
Thank you for helping to shine the light on my dirt Leslie. XOXO
I truly believe that this is the finest comment I’ve ever gotten from anyone, anywhere, I am quite biased because Bryn has been one of my best friends since Jesus was a boy, but at the same time, she shoots straight. So it isn’t all bias. As she would say, “it’s just true.” But I will say that based on our past conversations, I don’t write about Bryn’s dirt specifically. We are on this journey together, and when she sees herself in me, she takes it in like, “why are you in my brain?”
We have similar stories in terms of letting our emotions be controlled by how other people are feeling and trying to fix something that really can’t be fixed. She’s a lot further along in her journey than I am in mine, despite being a lot younger. That’s because she’s taken more steps to get away from the people who controlled her emotions than I have. I need her strength, especially right now, because it sustains me as I walk my own path toward the freedom of being self-directed. I find that I am fine on my own, but the minute I give my heart to someone else, I don’t depart from the dysfunction I’ve always known. Perhaps that means I am better off as a single person, because when I am partnered, I become the fixer/pleaser that eventually no one likes because they can’t make a decision to save their lives…. because they want to do what you want to do.
I dated Bryn’s brother for a short period of time, and we were both fixer/pleasers, and neither one of us wanted to disappoint the other, so our relationship never went anywhere. I saw this Tweet about marriage that made me think of him and our relationship, that marriage is “just a series of asking each other what you want for dinner until one of us dies.” Dana and I had a little bit of that, but at the same time, I always thought she was in charge because I was only allowed to be right so much of the time, and when I was, I made sure that it was duly noted because it happened so rarely. 🙂
I completely decompensated in that relationship because of it. When I cleaned something, Dana would come along behind me and do it “right.” Just an example, but a huge one as I felt more and more devalued. I went into my small place and couldn’t get out, which is why the lifeline to Argo was so important to me. There was someone in my life who thought that I was capable of more than, well, that.
By the end of our relationship, I thought I was a complete failure and Dana wondered why I’d stopped taking care of myself. Because when I don’t feel valued, I don’t take care of myself. Period. I try to take up as little space in the world as I possibly can. It was nice having someone do all my laundry and fold everything with military precision, but each little thing she took over because she thought I wasn’t doing a good enough job took a piece of my soul with it…. to the point where she came over after we’d broken up and looked at my kitchen and started tidying and I said, “no, this is my kitchen now. Get out.” For a cook, a kitchen is the same space as a sanctuary. There might as well be a cross on the wall. To Dana’s credit, being a chef in her own right, understood and immediately retreated.
We were both very different personalities that somehow made it work for a lot of years, but at heart, our years of communication styles were set in stone by our parents. For Dana, it was “wait until a little thing drops the Mento over the Diet Coke and explode about everything I’d ever done wrong all in the same fight.” For me, it was “get angry in the moment, and then it’s over and we don’t have to revisit it.” She felt like I was picking on her all the time. I felt like she was intentionally keeping things from me because she didn’t want me to get angry. But at the same time, I understood why. We fought differently, and always would. It felt like not being able to be the full emotional range of a human being, because if Dana was angry about something and didn’t bring it up, I couldn’t express anger and then the fight would be over and problem solved.
There was only one time that she got mad at me in the moment, and it was a doozy. I’d gotten a lot of parking tickets in PDX and it was going to wipe out our emergency fund to pay them. She yelled at me on the street in front of God and everybody, and instead of being embarrassed, I almost cried with joy. We were going to have this fight right here, right now, and then it would be over. She wasn’t going to save it up for later. Of course I was just as frustrated with myself for being such a right jackass, so it was a mixture of emotion. Shame and pride coursing through my body because eventually, Dana would cease to be mad and we could get shit handled. She finally got angry at me in a way that I desperately appreciated, and I told her so. She was utterly baffled at first when she finished screaming and I said, “I’M SO PROUD OF YOU!!!!!”
So, a few years later, when her car got towed and impounded for something or other, I didn’t even flinch. It was like, “I ain’t even mad.” Dana handled my issue with such grace that getting mad at her seemed unnecessary given the amount of shame she was putting on herself for it. We just got shit handled.
It was the same with her DUI. We’d been through so much together that this was just one more thing to add to the list of situations in which we needed to lean on each other to survive. She was embarrassed enough as is; I didn’t need to add anything on top of it. Even driving her to work at 2:30 in the morning became a ritual that has stayed with me all these years as something sacred. Driving through the night when all was quiet.
I don’t remember the exact moment that we turned against each other instead of taking care of each other, but I can think of several moments that added up in my memory. But the ultimate reason for us to be apart is that Dana and I would always fight differently, and there was no way around it. Our communication styles were too different, too entrenched, to go the long haul. But that doesn’t mean that I didn’t want to. Reality hit me like a brick wall.
I loved Argo’s brain because it worked more like mine- we’d get angry and yell at each other, and then it was over. This latest go ’round is, to me, for the best, but not a case, as she puts it, of being “creepy AF.” Curiosity killed the cat. I thought that if I came her way and recognized how it must have felt to her, that she’d recognize that I was just being me, processing grief in the best way I knew how. But there was no compromise, but I feel good that I made the effort, anyway.
And then there was just more escalated language and more “I’m done.”
And that came from me. She was putting a lot on me that just wasn’t there, never would be, and escalating a fight far beyond what it needed to be, as we have done, again, since Jesus was a boy. She finally pushed me one too many times and I got tired enough to fight for myself instead of for her.
I wrote her a letter once that she said that she hoped one day she’d have enough courage to respond. I hope for that, too, because for all of our flaws, failures, and vulnerabilities, I would like to think that there is a modicum of affection left. I don’t know if when she throws her escalated words around if she actually means them, or is just mad in the moment and doesn’t know what to do except launch RPGs designed to hurt and regret, just like I do.
I don’t want to fight anymore, even if our fighting styles are more similar to each other than not. I also don’t want to crawl back on my stomach the way I have pretty much every month for the last two years…. because I’m not getting argo. I’m getting Argo.™ And I’m afraid that there is nothing that will bring argo back, and she’s the one I love.
Argo™ is tough as nails with armor to match, and once it’s up, you’re late.
I tried to love barbed-wire Argo™ to the best of my ability, but friendship requires a modicum of reciprocity, and I got tired of there not being any. That I could come her way all I wanted but she wouldn’t give an inch. Everything to her came across as an attack. Nothing was ever a conversation-starter or a way to bridge the past into the future. Once I realized that, I was out.
But I’m not very far out, and that’s where Bryn comes in. I look at her for strength when I just want to cry to Argo and beg to have her in my life at whatever level she can engage…. to stop going back into dysfunction and keep delving into myself to try and find the pieces of me that allowed all my triggers to be pulled at once. To look hard into the past and find out how I got here from there.
I think all the time about what would have happened had Dana consistently made room and argo calmed down. I think back to all the things I could have done and didn’t.
And then Bryn reminds me that I cannot change the past, and it is so very useless. But I am one of those people who has to look at all 85 sides of a problem before I can put it down. Right now, I’m at about 16.
Sometimes I really hate that aspect of my personality type, but that’s what INFJ does. There is no self-improvement without a Freudian amount of delving into the past.