I just wanted to thank you for your comments, feedback and encouragement; for those of you who enjoyed the story, or who thought it was entertaining, or who complemented the writing, I am deeply flattered and grateful. You just don't know how much I appreciate the encouragement; it's been a very long time since I have written anything at all, much less for any kind of (semi?) public consumption. My self-confidence, which over the last several years has been dealt some almost fatal blows, has been much healed by your beautiful words of support and encouragement.
And those of you who felt it offered some kind of tiny grain of wisdom or healing - I am profoundly humbled and thank you for saying that. Sometimes, growing up in a dysfunctional or toxic environment, it's hard to know that it's not just you.
It took me till only very recently to start getting that idea - and I have to say that being here has really helped with that.
You see, I was raised (like so many out there) not knowing the difference between 'normal' and 'dysfunctional.' Oh, sure. I had a vague impression way in the back of my mind that the boundary trampling (though I had no idea that's what it was), insults, constant criticisms, negative comparisons being made between siblings (the list goes on) wasn't quite 'normal'. But I had no real frame of reference to figure out just what 'normal' was supposed
to be, since spending much time at friends' houses was not allowed, and they sure as heck weren't allowed at our place. So, really, what's left to teach a kid about family, and life in general?
When mom and dad were bickering downstairs, the only place to hide was to tune out the drama downstairs
by tuning in to the drama upstairs
. And then, as you physically
grow up, you begin to live your life - and set up your expectations about
life - according to the rules of television.
This is embarrassing to admit, but what the heck. I've already called out my siblings. I might as well be fair and do it to myself, too. Until recently, I think I really thought all of life was like a soap opera. It's never just a headache - it surely must be a brain tumor!
Life or death. Didn't you know one crisis was supposed to follow on the heels of another that had just ended? Everything is so important! And the stresses and strains of daily living - and the minor setbacks and ups and downs of life - become magnified and overwhelming and dramatic
. Because it is so unique and no one has ever had it as bad as me.
And I have to be perfect, and everything I do has to be perfect, and I have to be a great success at everything.I.do. to earn (approval) because less than total perfection = complete and utter failure. And if I'm not better than everybody else, then the math says I am worse than everyone else, and therefore the most.awful.person.ever. So I have to find ways to feel superior, otherwise it hurts too much. And,because I'm such an awful person, the problems between my parents and siblings are my fault
- so everything in the world revolves around me and what I do. And everything that happens in my life and my feelings are their fault
. And if one is not 100 percent completely engaged in the dramas of the family, then one isn't loyal. It's all in - or on the outs. And if one's is not over-reacting, one is not showing they really care.
But then I found this board. And I started reading. And learning. And realizing a few things.
One thing I realized was that I
have been a Special Snowflake. Because everything was always about me
. And if something didn't go my way, then clearly I had to make it so, (because, again, I have to be perfect and everything has to be perfect, at any cost) no matter how badly I over-reacted, whined, shouted, threatened, cajoled, manipulated - because that's my job. It's how I was taught. I was taught that the world is a rotten, evil place and people, generally, are rotten and out to get you, or get over on you somehow, that they're not to be trusted - ever - and the best way to go through life is to punish them before they have a chance to hurt you.
Kind of like declaring pre-emptive war without any deployment of diplomacy or the gathering of meaningful data of impending attack by the enemy. Because, everybody is the enemy. And they're all waiting to attack.
But you know what? Living life in a state of maximum readiness for nuclear war is exhausting
. It's hard to go around in a personal national security state of DEFCON 1. It takes the joy out of life - and it's not a real effective way of operating in a professional setting or winning friends and influencing people. Trust me on that. It.just.hasn't.worked. for me.
And trying to be right all time? Trying to soothe my ego by criticizing everyone else and finding ways they're wrong so I can feel right about me? That doesn't work either. Just makes me feel worse about myself. Sometimes, it's okay to admit that I don't know everything. In fact, it's kind of liberating. I don't have to try to fix everything. And I don't have to make someone else
feel better by having them fix my problems for me or dictate my choices.
Because that's what life is. Choices. For most of my adult life, I didn't think life was much worth living, since it was so miserable and lonely, and I didn't think I had any
real choices; that I was constantly in a state of having to react to things, instead of being proactive. And then I came here - and learned that while you can't control what other people do, you have a lot of control over your own behavior.
And you can help mitigate the effect of others' behavior on you through the very good techniques to be learned here - you don't have to be at the complete mercy of other people all the time. And you don't have to go through life either ignoring your own needs (being a total doormat/people pleaser like I've done, thinking that
was the answer to making friends) or being on constant alert, ready to deploy the nuclear option at the first sign of conflict. I've learned here that there's A LOT of options between total appeasement and World War III.
So, in the spirit of trying something different in order to achieve different results, I decided to try out some ideas I got from you guys. Now that I realize that life is filled with choices, I don't have to make the same
ones all the time. And things are beginning to change.
Life is more boring. Or, I thought it was, because there wasn't another family or interpersonal crisis waiting around the next corner. And then I learned that life isn't so much boring but beautiful, and magical, and full of new things to try. And it isn't all bad all the time. .And that the minor (and even, major) challenges that come with living (financial, career, health emergencies) aren't all bad. Sometimes, they're opportunities to make things better than they were before. Sure, I have some things going on now. But now, the difference is, I'm learning some perspective. It's not. the. end. of. the. world. Not by a long shot. I'm finding that when one applies a little planning, patience and (egad! common sense!), solutions seem to be a lot more....available. And, itís okay to ask for help. Because I donít know everything. And I donít have to pretend to know everything. And I can try to do stuff, and even if it doesnít come out perfectly, thatís okay, too. Because I tried my best. And trying is better than giving up, which is what Iíve been doing these last several years, because since I canít make it be perfect, why bother to try? But, now, I know that at least if you try, you might get somewhere, instead of nowhere. Which is where Iíve been stuck. But I donít have to stay that way. I can choose not to stay that way.
And now that I found out that it's okay to let go and learn a little emotional dis-engagement, it's a nice thing to love certain people...from a distance. Everyone doesn't have to be up in each others' business all.the.time. And it's okay that we're not all the same. They can be who they are, and I can be who I am, and it's all good. Sure, I'd like it if we could be close....but I also accept that that isn't possible right now. Everyone has the right to work out their own lives at their own pace. And a little time and space can be healing, too.
And when you don't spend all your time engaging in drama, or creating drama because that's what you think life is supposed to be, you have time for other stuff. Way better stuff. Like learning a new skill. Or taking up a hobby. Or figuring out what you really want out of life....and working on making it happen.
...and, sometimes...even a spot of joy, here and there. And learning to laugh about stuff that happened a long time ago that at the time was earth.shatteringly.awful....but now doesn't really matter...and really, wasn't all that drama just a silly waste of time and energy and emotion in the first place?
So....thank you fellow eHellions. Thank you for helping me find some perspective about life, and realizing that I have a lot more control over my own than I thought I did. And for giving me the tools, feedback and support to use that knowledge in a more productive way. I can honestly say that I think I've achieved the status of Special Snowflake in Recovery. Oh, yes, the road ahead is long. I have much work to do on myself. But I now have the hope that reaching emotional maturity is *not* a totally impossible goal. I realize now that my life is a work of art in progress - and even maybe a worthwhile one, too. So from the best part of my spirit, I say thank you to each and every one of you - for, to me, you and this board represent a very cherished piece of my journey towards growing the eHell up. Thank you for walking with me, and holding my hand, and the hugs. And giving me a gentle nudge in the right direction every now and then. I don't feel quite so lost anymore.
With deepest gratitude and respect,
***Plus, CATS!!!*** Now, they ARE
perfect. Totally incapable of doing anything wrong. Ever.