Wednesday, May 30, 2012

You have no power over me.

Noah asked me why I am letting this woman have so much power over me. She responded to my first email with a short thing basically saying, "I was nine months pregnant when I sent this to you. Maybe I could have had more compassion. Can't you forgive me?" I ranted back. I explained that I am going to spend every minute I am near her terrified that I am going to have another panic attack in front of her. I'm afraid of how nasty she will be next time because apparently I go through "chances" without ever having any idea I am doing something wrong. I told her I don't really want to deal with that given that it took me a year to have the courage to leave the house because I was afraid of running into her.

Why am I so afraid of her? What does she represent to me? Noah pointed out that I'm creating my own self-fulfilling prophecies here. I say that people hate me and reject me foreverrrrrrr I will be aloooooooooooooone foreverrrrrrrrrrr. Ahem. Or something like that. She apologized, why don't I accept the apology?

If she had sent some kind of an apology spontaneously instead of because she couldn't ignore me any longer I would have had a different reaction. She didn't want to apologize. She doesn't think she did anything wrong.

Why does she have so much power? Why does her disapproval matter? Because I spent about a year telling her intimate things. It didn't feel like the break up of a "friendship". This was as emotionally intense as a romantic relationship. Since I had kids I have been bonding a lot more strongly with women. I am getting too attached too quickly, apparently. I told this woman extensively about my mental health issues and more specifically about my life. Then she shamed me.

I don't like someone deliberately shaming me. I shouldn't care what she thinks. I don't have anything invested in her opinion. She is not going to be part of my life again if I can help. She responded to my last rant saying she left the Meet Up group.

She's right that it will be hard to avoid one another given that she lives twenty minutes away. I get to ask her for space once. Past that she really doesn't have to give me any room. She gets to live her life as well. She lives around here and there is a finite number of kid things. I can't keep her out of all of them. That's not cool to her kids. But I can ask her to stop showing up at my gosh darn park day, once.

There were four of us. We spent over a year hanging out together at least once and up to four times a week. When we got together we would spend at least five hours, sometimes up to nine hours. We did a lot of long-term talking about things that our kids would do. We spent holidays together. Then I got told that I was out of chances completely out of the blue after I had a panic attack.

I was punished by the removal of two peoples love because I was bad. Because I am crazy.

So what happened was I was on edge to start with. I was at the beginning of the unravel I had last year. Shanna was in a brief hitting phase (it lasted less than a month). She hit this other little boy twice and I pulled her into the bedroom and told her that if she did it again we would have to go. It was not nice to repeatedly hit someone in their own house. That's just really over the line for me. She was two. No she didn't "get it" but if children never have consequences for their actions they will never "get it". Of course she hit him again. And right as I was telling her in a ranty voice that if she hits people we have to leave Calli had a dirty diaper. I tried to get Shanna to sit still while I changed it because she lost the privilege of playing. We walked out with me repeatedly saying in a louder-than-necessary voice something to the effect of "It's not ok to hit people. When you hit people there are consequences. Get your butt out to the van. No, don't play. You are in trouble. It's not ok to hit people." I never called her a name. I wasn't demeaning. I wasn't insulting or nasty. My tone of voice was really harsh and loud. I couldn't breath and my heart was racing. Dealing with both kids in that moment was hard and over whelming.

That night I received an email telling me that she didn't want to know me any more because my behavior is over the top and I am mean to Shanna. I don't have age appropriate expectations.

Uhm, I expect my two year old to hit people. I think it is then my job to enforce consequences so she can have some idea that it's not a great plan. I don't hit my kids. I don't call them names. I don't put them down. But I do separate them from their friends when they can't play nicely. I guess that's not "age appropriate".

I feel defensive and angry. I feel like for some reason she has the power to cause other people to share her opinions. I'm scared that she would join this play group and people who currently tolerate me would no longer want to because she would sit there and gossip about my faults. I'm worried because the "Attachment Parenting" community is very harsh and dogmatic. They absolutely encourage shunning people who do not completely follow the party line.

I have mixed feelings because I wonder if her nastygram was a good thing. I wonder if I really am a mean nasty person. Shanna really is a strange mini-adult. I don't tolerate a lot of "age appropriate" behaviors most of the time. I set really firm boundaries around them. Am I somehow robbing them because I expect manners? Obviously I am insecure.

I believe deep in my heart that I am nice to my kids. I get angry, yes. My anger is bigger than a lot of peoples, yes. My kids are going to have to deal with being my kids. I have mental illness. That's just a fact. I may always experience panic attacks. I don't know. I have no crystal ball. My kids have to be near me. It isn't possible for me to make my panic attacks completely invisible and silent to them. I talk to them a lot about how they aren't responsible for my emotions and my behavior.

Awhile ago I was having a panic attack and angry with Shanna over something. She started crying. I looked at her and asked her if she was afraid. She told me yes. I sunk down to the floor and put my head down. I told her that I was doing something wrong then. Kids shouldn't be afraid of their mothers. Mothers are never supposed to hurt kids. I sat up and pulled her into my lap. I asked her to explain what she understood about why I was upset. She did a good job. I explained the rest of the back story on why I don't want her doing _______. I told her that I was sorry I scared her. I didn't mean to. She hugged me and said that she would try not to do _________ again. I thanked her.

But I'm a terrible person, right? It's not ok to ever raise your voice. It's not ok to ever be angry.

Wait, what? Oh good grief. Why do I give this idiocy so much power over me? Partially because it feels like the drumbeat for my stage of life. It's not as if this woman is the only one presenting that image. I spent way too much time on Mothering.com.

She was just an echo chamber for what I feel society as a whole wants from me. The vast majority of the time if I express any anger near anyone there is some comment on it. "Don't hold back, tell me how you really feel." "My son is an empath so you can't get angry near him." "You get angry really quickly." I suppose that depends on how you look at it.

Why does she have so much power over me. Because she is able to smile and spew poison. Because I am very susceptible to girl games. Because I was taken down many many pegs. And now she has come and joined my new hierarchy. Those kinds of status things feel extremely transitory. I don't really want to get a sudden demotion.

When I transferred to Leigh High School during my freshman year of high school I started going by a nickname derived from my middle name. After I was there for a month or so someone leaved over a teacher's shoulder and said, "Wait. Your name is Kristine? Like Krissy? Are you Krissy Archer? That Krissy Archer?" I had sex with multiple people at my previous school. It was part of the reason I ran. I didn't want to deal with that reputation when I moved. Abruptly I had someone calling me a whore in every class.

And women are vicious in a way that is far more hurtful. They don't just insult you and call it a day. They get close to you and then use withdrawal of love as a weapon. They talk to your friends. They lower the general opinion people have of you. Often by repeating half-true stories. The more they smile at you while they are doing this the more problems you will have later.

My kids need a fucking stable group of friends. I really don't want to play the social status game. I only kind of interact with the other parents. I really need for my behavior and relationship with my children to be judged based on the things we actually do. Not the things people speculate that we might do because they witness some of our worst interactions. Everyone has their worst interactions. If mine involve my tone of voice being ranty and harsh while I say things that are otherwise fairly reasonable I will live with that and consider it a life well lived. I don't rant very often. It's quite rare. And Shanna is quick to tell me that my tone of voice isn't ok and I need to change it. I don't think she is a beat down child.

Why have I set her up as a judge and jury I have to defend myself from? Because most other people don't pay enough attention to me for me to feel like they would bother judging me? And yet mob mentality is very real. I am weird. I am reminded over and over again in a variety of ways (parenting books like this try to make it a joke) that for me to be weird is a problem for my kids. They will suffer for it. It will be my fault and that's bad. I should be trying to blend into the crowd. That book in particular stressed how it is ok that you know you don't fit in but you have to learn how to fake it so your kid isn't punished. It's true if you are in a public school. I don't want it to be true at our home school group.

It's kind of like playing Plants Vs. Zombies. She's a double pea shooter walking towards me. She's going to kill me. She feels like she can poison my environment. She was certainly good at having me like her and think well of her. Until she turned on me abruptly and was really nasty. Oh shit I don't want that kind of poison in the well. It's just a bad idea.

Why does she have so much power over me? Her brand of poison is pretty powerful. I believe she mostly liked being friends with me. But I'm one of those polarizing figures. She liked me a lot but the things she didn't like she disliked a lot. I don't need to have someone who is good at making me like them but who occasionally tells me I am a terrible person in my life. That's kind of my crack. What's our favorite game, Noah?

I don't want her in the group because all of a sudden park day becomes a whole different beast for me. I no longer have to think of whether I'm up for all of the basic things. I have to think about how secure I feel that I can sit off to the side quietly and not get into a conversation that might trigger a panic attack. Because it absolutely not ok to have a panic attack with that woman nearby. Oh God. Poor Shanna might lose more friends. And it would be All My Fault.

I'm not planning to move. Shanna is stuck here. She has to make friends here. I have to not fuck this up.

Why does she have power over me? Because I'm not good at taking it back once I give it to someone. Why the fuck do I care what Tom thinks? Why in the fuck do I care what my mother thinks? Because I do. Because I love them. Because I wish with every part of me that they thought I was good. Because I am very used to people who profess to love me telling me that I am horrible. I have a magnetic attraction to this cycle. I like people who have more control than I have who tell me I am bad for not having it. It's really pretty fucked up and self-loathing of me.

Why does she have power over me? Because in my experience, other than the people I live with, people don't give other people second chances. Not really. She has a bad opinion of me. I'm supposed to try and prove that I am worthy of a second chance. Now she has told me that I am going through chances so I can be held to it.

Noah thinks I should just think of her as a stupid person and move on with my life not caring how she feels about me. He has a point.

Even though I feel wicked uncomfortable about having done so I created a socially safe place for me. I hope. I don't think I will have a perfect experience without her there. But I'm not going to be judged on something half remembered from a long time ago.

I'm not at this group to make friends. I am cordial. I participate in conversations enough that I sort of look like part of the group. Mostly I play with the kids or run. People probably either think I am aloof or shy. I'm ok with either. I have told more than one person that I have horrible social anxiety. That's as personal as I have gotten.

Where is this space in our life for acquaintances? For community? For people who are around but with whom you don't have a personal connection? If I keep people out at arms length then they can be out at arms length forever. What they do has very little effect on me. If I let someone in closer they have to be shoved much much further than just arms length away when they hurt me. It's not a very forgiving system. My problem is I assign too much intent to behaviors. People aren't trying to hurt me. They are trying to express their emotions.

She felt intimidated by me. So she attacked. Normal. The person who sent the recent accusatory letter? He's not really upset because of my actions. He's upset about things in his life and I'm a good target. He at least thinks he is doing a good thing.

It's not about me. Don't make excuses. Don't apologize. She apologized to me. Shouldn't I take that at face value? What I should do is get off my butt and go eat a banana. Then get dressed. Then go run. Today my wonderful friend Taylor is coming over. That guarantees a good day. I'm going to stop thinking about her. I asked her to leave the group and she did. I may run into her again some day and then I will have to revisit this emotional experience. That time I won't get to ask her to leave a group. She lives here too. It's not ok to make her pay for the rest of her life. That's really not cool. Hell, in a few years I may suddenly grow up and decide I don't give a shit. Folks either like me or they don't and I will have been part of the group long enough that it really won't matter.

But I'm not there yet. My skin is not that thick. It's too raw. It's too scary. I have a hard time getting out of the house. If I knew she was going to be there I wouldn't be able to go. I wouldn't be able to put my kids through the experience of dealing with my panic attacks. That's not fair.

I'm going to go now.

1 comment:

  1. It's ok to not want people who don't make you feel safe in a safe and comfortable place for you. Boundaries are a good thing, for children, mothers, and bitches.

    ReplyDelete