In the middle of the night, it gets ya.
You know, overall, I’m a pretty secure person. I’ve had a lot of trauma to deal with in my life (no, not sexual trauma), so much so that honestly, looking back over my life experiences, it’s a wonder that I turned out sane. Given all the shit I’ve gone through, I ought to (at the very least) have suffered years worth of depression by now, but as it turns out, I’ve only spent about four months of my life depressed, and even then, it wasn’t constant. I am damned good at minimizing, interrupting, and conquering bad feelings. I can fucking cope.
Still, I have some issues to deal with.
Who doesn’t, right? Forgive me for getting all Buddhist here, but the nature of life is suffering. As humans, we all get attached to things, things which bring us joy, but no matter how much we would like to delude ourselves that that is the case, the truth is that nothing is permanent. We will all, at some point, suffer the loss of something we’ve gotten attached to, or the deprivation of something we need, and that’s going to cause some psychological pain. We all gotta deal with it one point or another. What’s interesting to me is how we deal with it.
Why do some of us succeed, while others consistently fail? I started thinking about this a few days ago, when I read this guide to becoming a secure person. All of the advice given there is pretty much a no-brainer, for me. Although I’ve never been in a poly relationship, this is all stuff I have been doing on my own for as long as I can remember. Without even realizing it, without ever articulating it, somehow I learned to be content, and enjoy life even though my personal situation was pretty crappy. Why did I, despite my bad circumstances, develop such good habits, while so many others (who, by their own admission, had much healthier circumstances) failed to do so? Am I just wired for it? I watched a documentary on the science channel once at six o’clock in the morning (I love doing that), which featured the “giggle twins” (I think that’s what they called them), who just… pretty much laughed and were happy all the time. Like, seriously all the time. They did a test and found out their brains were flooded with ridiculous levels of some hormone that I can’t remember the name of anymore (maybe oxytocin?), I’d have to look it up but I’m too lazy to do it right now. But it just makes me wonder if it’s not simply the case that my neurochemistry predisposes me to being happy and secure.
I wonder, also, if I am not predisposed (genetically or otherwise) to being overly generous with people I care about. My mother and maternal grandmother both display this personality trait, one positively and the other negatively. I’ve seen it in myself over and over again, and quite frankly, it’s frightening. I have to cultivate a sense of cynicism and a keen ability to judge people, or else I could well find myself in (another) draining situation with someone who doesn’t care, or worse, with someone who is emotionally abusive. Fortunately, having had plenty of experience with them, I have pretty good sense when it comes to abusers. However, it’s very difficult for me to tell when a person really cares about me, and when I’m just a convenient commodity.
My eight-year-long friendship of apparent convenience with K kind of messed me up. For years, she was my best, and at times my only friend. When our whole school filled up with rumors about her, I was the only one who didn’t turn my back on her. I suppose she cared about me at one point, but as the years progressed, it became more and more clear that she was only being nice to preserve the status quo, or maybe on some level because she pitied me. She was quick to promise to be there for me, and help me out when I needed help, but whenever I needed her, she wasn’t there. Once, in high school, she was dating some dumbass loser who eventually dumped her to play WoW (yes, it really does eat up your life!). She got extremely sick, and although he had said he would get her some medicine, he failed to do it, so she called me. I went right over immediately with the medicine she needed. A couple years later, when we were roommates in college, there came a time when I was so sick that I couldn’t even stand up long enough to take a shower. She wasn’t there, she hadn’t been there for days, and I didn’t bother calling her because I knew she wouldn’t answer her phone. And even if she had, I didn’t want to deal with her. She’d become increasingly passive aggressive towards me in the past few years, and on a few occasions, even openly, stunningly, just plain mean.
I don’t throw that word around lightly. I am not sensitive to criticism, or teasing, or anything of the sort. I very much appreciate brutal honesty, and I never take things personally unless they are very clearly meant as a personal attack. Even then, I brush them off. Basically, I’m unemotional.
But when someone I genuinely care about, to whom I have devoted so much of myself, who has been close to me for years and ought to know better, starts to show a consistent pattern of implying through their words and actions that I am somehow childish, petty, and “just jealous” of her new bf, well. That’s a different story.
I suppose some of it was defensiveness, but not all. A lot of it was just bitchy subterfuge, from before she started seeing that new boyfriend. I’d ask her if she wanted to do something, and she’d say, “Oh yeah, go ahead and buy me tickets, and I’ll pay you back!” And I would do it, but when the night came, all of her earlier enthusiasm was gone, and she would only grudgingly agree to go, and make it very clear she didn’t want to be there. There was one trip we’d planned for months, which I paid for and ultimately ended up having to cancel, because she flaked out on me at the last minute. I couldn’t even sell the tickets, because she waited so late to tell me she didn’t want to go, so it was basically a waste of a hundred dollars. It just pisses me off that I wasted so much time and effort trying to be friends with her, just because she wanted to be “nice” or more accurately, she didn’t have the balls to tell me the truth.
And it’s made me wary of getting into a situation like that again, which is in large part why I ended up cutting off contact with M a little while ago. I don’t want to give myself, even in part, to someone who just doesn’t care. I’m afraid to, because I don’t want to get hurt again. But when I try to determine whether that fear is legitimate, I just… don’t know. I find I’m afraid of being wrong, too. It’s just layers and layers of fears on top of one another, which by themselves are small and negligible, but put together make a huge monster hiding in the closet, which needs to be dragged out into the light.
I tried to do that once, but it only ended up legitimizing at least one of those fears: the fear that if I brought this tangled mess out into the light and showed it to him, M would run away. Ironically, it was probably because of that fear making my communication with him back then infinitely more confusing, but still. After what I described here happened, my instinct was to go through this whole process of picking apart my fears, and sort out which were legitimate and which were pure paranoia. I wanted him to see them and assuage them; I wanted him to understand. He didn’t.
Does that mean that all my fears were justified? No. His actions showed that he never intended to hurt me, so that fear was bogus. But the real root of all of my other fears, was the fear that he didn’t care about me. I don’t mean romantically; I knew he didn’t have romantic feelings for me, and I never expected, nor was I even sure I would have wanted, anything more than rejection, on a romantic level. I just mean caring about me on a friendship level, beyond maintaining a friendship of convenience. When I try to answer the question of whether he did or not, I find that I can’t. There are things that make me think he did, and things that make me think he didn’t, and they’re just about equal. Really, the answer can only come from him, and he’s not talking to me anymore.
I’m afraid that I was wrong to fight with him like I did, that I cut off contact with him under the false assumption that the situation had the potential to turn out a lot like what happened with K. Not that he was ever anywhere near as “nice” as she was; he actually eschews niceness in favor of honesty, which is something I like about him. I’m less afraid that he would intentionally mislead me as I am afraid that my own judgment about him is lacking, that he’s a lot more selfish than I initially pegged him to be (and going into this with the assumption that I understand that to him, it’s just convenient). Ultimately I am doubting myself, which is something I almost never do. It seems I do a lot of that when it comes to relationships.
When it comes to people I care about, my instinct is to give, without thought of getting anything in return. To spout a cliché, the giving is its own reward. I am perfectly willing to have sex with someone I care about, if that will make them happy. But obviously, I need to be careful. I need to make sure to question my instincts in order to protect myself, because there’s only so much I can give. But how much caution is too much? I consider human relationships a worthy enterprise, but goddamn they are fucking messy.
I guess it says something about me that I’m more afraid of being too attached to someone who doesn’t care about me than I am of actually leaving that person. I always used to think I had abandonment issues. Pshaw.
For now, I guess there’s not really anything I can do but go through all of this and try to process it, so I can put it behind me. I really do think of my relationships as a system that needs to be refined, with problems that need to be solved, and dwell on them so long after they’re over, even after all the emotions have died down. I’m not at that point yet, but I’m slowly getting there. Hey, I made some progress tonight. I stopped feeling bad about all these fears by getting into analytical mode, once again proving that hey, I can cope.