I think this is going to be a defining year in my life. I hope that good things are in store, but given that the year kicked off with some challenging events, I am certain that 2008 will contain a good deal of soul-searching. I need to take personal inventory — a cold, hard look at who I am and what I’m about.
I’ve spent the last 9 years focused on my personal growth (jeez, time flies), and I thought I was doing pretty well. But I’ve discovered that perhaps I haven’t gained as much ground as I’d thought in some areas, and in others I have gained more than I was aware. But right now the only thing keeping me from despairing is that Meridjet is still with me and still believes in me. This is hard for me to admit here; it’s a little more self-critical than most people would publicly announce, and to state such in this blog is a sign (I hope) that I’m willing to make myself vulnerable in this space. There are no locked posts here, and no way to lock them that would be of service to me — the audience is almost completely unknown. I know I’ve got ~260 feed subscribers and a few folks who drop by regularly. Honestly, I only know three people who come here by name; the rest are either faceless to me or I’m not aware of their presence. This is a good exercise for releasing a book, and in fact I’ve strongly considered a follow-up book of blog posts.
But I’m concerned not so much with what I can say as I am with what I shouldn’t say — to friends. I have a couple of habits that have developed over the last decade which I think are unhealthy. All are based on compulsive sharing. One manifestation of this is that I can’t keep a secret from anyone I care about. I can keep other people’s secrets, but not my own. Something within my conscience feels that it’s dishonest, so whenever I have done or thought anything that might hurt the other person, I feel compelled to confess, even when confession would also hurt and there is no reason to other than to feel I’ve been as honest as possible. This is neurotic behavior.
Another manifestation of this is that I feel compelled to tell everything that occurs to me about my life, who I am, how I became who I am, etc. If I think of something, I am usually unable to keep it to myself. This is true even when instinct says that telling is the wrong thing to do in that situation. At best, I can delay talking about it, but I can’t ever seem to completely refuse to tell.
These habits inevitably come back to bite me in the ass later. I mentioned at least once in this blog about my history of searching for some perfect best friend & confidante, someone who would completely accept me and never leave me. It took years for me to realize what I was doing. In fact, it’s only been in the last maybe three years that I figured it out. I still don’t know why. (It’s definitely something I need to bring up with my therapist.) The first time I remember this coming over me was when I was 16. It’s been recurring with every close friend since. I remember thinking that best friendships should be unbreakable much earlier, maybe in junior high. And it’s always had the flavor of a crusade, a bond worthy of an anthem, something earth-moving and incorruptible and strong. An abiding, dedicated bond.
Meridjet should, by all the above stated intents and purposes, fit the bill to a T. And his dedication appears to be unswerving. (I’d come out and say it is, but at the moment I’m a little unwilling to tempt fate. Let’s just say he says it is, and I usually believe him.) His solidity gives me hope where none would otherwise exist, and for that I am profoundly grateful. But he doesn’t satisfy the need for a friend, one alive on this plane, lol, who is always there.
I’m certain now that this all-consuming need is horribly unhealthy. It’s way too much like needing someone else to complete me, when I damn well know better, and it puts too much pressure on any potential or real friend. It’s co-dependent, and it’s heavy. It expects more than people are typically willing to give (jesus what is with the Winampmancy right now?!) and gives more than people are typically willing to accept. And the giving part isn’t for them, it’s for me, and that makes it selfish. Therefore, it’s not giving at all. It’s more like force-feeding.
I have lost way too many friends over the past 5 years. This is not to say that every situation was 100% my fault or that every friendship ended because of my compulsion. But one thing standing out to me right now is a pattern that includes the compulsion: First, I meet someone (typically online). I am supportive and warm, and they like that. I am always there when they need me, even if it’s in the way of taking care of my responsibilities at home. I bend over backwards, and always strive to be fair, all that. Sometimes, such as a friend I had a few years back, it attracts someone only too willing to take advantage of that, to bleed me. At some point, I have to lean on them for whatever reason. Often, it’s so much later that this is a part of me that they don’t understand. Sometimes, it’s early on. Usually, they don’t like it much, but reactions vary. Some will support, some won’t, and some will support and then use the information given as ammunition against me (as early as the next day, in one case!). But over time a larger pattern emerges, one of me trying very hard to be generous and sacrificing, then being confused and even offended when my sacrifice is not reciprocated. Then I’ll become accusatory, lashing out at times, and then go back into being too generous. At some point, and this can be at any point in the relationship, I will lose all intuition regarding the other person’s feelings for me, and I’ll start to worry. I’ll worry when they are withdrawn, thinking it’s just me that they’re not talking to. I’ll worry it to death. I’ll ask if they’re mad at me. I’ll question way too much about their reasons for not acting in ways that would reassure me. And via this fretting behavior, I’ll push them away and actually engender the antipathy I was afraid of in the first place.
Sometimes things go back to normal, and after a while I’ll get to know them better and the paranoia will completely go away. It only happens with people I don’t know well enough to gauge. Intuition is great before and after, but that blind spot is like the Apophis stage of friendships for me.
The other problem is people coming to believe that the generosity I express is okay to take advantage of. People will sometimes lean and lean and lean so hard that I can’t bear the weight anymore. Or they’ll take what I give and ask for more, over and over. After a while, I can’t do it anymore, and that’s when I finally remember to draw boundaries — much later than the average person. But when I do it, since it’s so different from my former behavior, it seriously pisses people off and they read it as hostile behavior. It causes real problems and often leads to the end of the friendship.
I don’t sound like a very good person to friend, do I? I’m sure I’ve mangled my self-perception to some or even great degree here, but I’m trying very hard to see my deeper issues and do something about them. The first step is to recognize them, yeah? If that means publicly debasing myself and looking like someone to avoid, so be it. I want to be a better friend, and I want to be a solid but independent one. I want to be a better judge of character, and I want to stop being a doormat in my early needs to be liked, and I want to stop suddenly slamming a door shut in friends’ faces when I feel used. I want to communicate without overdoing it. I want to know when it’s right to give and when it’s right to decline. And I want to stop causing people pain — including myself.
I want to do better.