Tag Archives: love stinks

(Easier than) waiting around to die

(Trigger warnings for discussions of suicidality, family drama, and other A+ parenting issues.  Also, as usual, language.  This is a sort of undecided, sort of open-ended piece because I need to tweak my meds again and am feeling more than a little blue, but I have already called my shrink & let my therapist know I feel lousy, in case you’re wondering.)

I read some author’s line someplace that we sometimes feel like can’t be who we really are until everyone who’s known us is dead.  Sometimes, it’s even true by circumstances of money or other constraints– you don’t have the freedom to tell other people and their expectations to go screw, and sometimes just heading out for the hills and reinventing yourself somewhere, somewhen else is not in the cards. Continue reading

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Pyromania, the relationship cure

May the bridges I burn light the way,
said that late 80s sage, Dylan McKay.
It took me a while, but I’ve come to see
it’s not just ironic, but true.
The flames of your past illuminating what lies ahead–
it’s the flip side of leaving a room like General Sherman,
or Scipio, even, burning and salting because after a fight,
you might as well make damn well sure that it’s done.
Over.  No more chance of rising to haunt you,
to try to drag you under with memories of when you
used to be able to stand one another.  Before.
They don’t want to parry, negotiate peace, even consider
some terms of surrender?
Burn it all.  Let it light up the night,
and ride your horse into the dawn.
Don’t look back– just let the salt leak out of the saddlebags you’ve
stolen and slashed, let to drift on your path out,
a reverse cookie crumb trail.
No witch with an oven at the end of this trail,
no more fattening period, no waiting,
no more.

All you really need are waterproof matches,
some razer-sharp wit to discern the next
impending disaster, that and a heart that’s dry,
ready to kindle again.

Friends & family

I’ve been trying, in a somewhat haphazard way, to piece together old friendships, relationships with friends & family that I have let slide as my attention’s been focused mostly on putting one foot in front of the other.  I’ve been trying to do this with the consciousness of several things all at once, or as the White Queen once said, “as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

It’s not that easy, and keeping all those things straight makes me feel very Down the Rabbit Hole-ish indeed.

In often contradictory order, those impossible things have been:

Thing One:

As someone bipolar and depressed and anxious and insecure as an adult child can peculiarly be (and all of those things do not always intersect, though sometimes they do, because they are separate pathologies/traumas whatever the emergent DSM-V might have to say), I can often be a self-absorbed and shitty friend who doesn’t hear when someone’s in distress and/or who drops off the face of the Earth during my own points of distress because I can’t handle social interaction, and so I miss important things in people’s lives, and if, as a result, people no longer trust me at all, or as far– they have that right, and my unreliability because of my crazy and perhaps maybe just because I am simply selfish, as well, can make me an undesirable friend.  So– if I reach back out to someone and get no response, or a chilly response, or an initial response and then a withdrawal– I can’t really blame them.

Everyone has a right to want people they can rely on.

Thing Two:

I have reached out to some of my oldest friends, ones who’ve disappointed me and I’ve probably disappointed in one way or another and gotten initial warm responses, only for them to fall off again.  People have babies, spouses, other things I do not, and those things are consuming, regardless of Thing One.  And the fact also is that people change, and our expectations of people aren’t met, whether they’re realistic or not.  I’ve found that with one old friend that I chafe under the old constraints of our once-friendship and old expectations about who I was going to be in that friendship– and I have the feeling that they didn’t approve of my leaving my husband despite the support I gave them during their breakups, a fact I find I’m really, really angry about.

Despite all of that, and because we’ve known each other so long, I reached out and got an initial more-than friendly response, and sent a birthday/congratulations on a momentous occasion gift not that long after that I hoped was well-recieved– but now it’s back to nothing again, not even a thanks for the gift, and I think at this point I’m just going to walk away, as sad as it makes me to say and think that.  They’re just– caught up in a life where there’s no room for me, and I’ve made attempts to visit and be part of that life(though not lately because: personal meltdown).  I don’t feel like it’s been reciprocal, though, (they’ve visited maybe once since their marriage) and I just don’t want to keep banging my head on that wall.  That’s ok, right?  To give up on a once-best friend because they just… aren’t anymore?  And to ignore them if they ever reach back because it hurts to try to be a person they want you to be and you aren’t anymore?  I know all of this.  I’ve told it to others.  It’s just hard to take my advice.

Thing three:

I find it very hard to tell people I’m friends with on less than a best friend level (especially ones that I’m conscious of having been a shitty friend to on occasion myself, despite the fact that it’s life, and even non-crazy people have ebbs and flows) that they’re bugging me because of X behavior and that I need them to either stop X or I can’t be friends with them anymore.  Partly, this comes from a long history of not speaking up for the things that I need and being afraid of confrontation, and partly, guilt for having been a shitty friend.  I have two different friends who this is a problem with, and both of them are engaged in shitty cycles of bad career choices/self-hate and want me to validate them– and I can’t.  I really can’t, because I no longer have patience for people who self-victimize (see: my Mommy issues) for years and do jack shit to change things, even if it means really painful retrenchment (see: I haven’t bought new underwear in two years, and don’t ask me about my sock drawer).  It hurts to see them flagellate, and I am angry and angrier the longer I spend time with them/talk to them and… I don’t want to be angry.  I have spent so much time being angry.  I feel guilty because they have been very supportive of me in the past, but at other times they haven’t gotten it, or have been poking at me when I have expressed a real desire not to be poked, and I just can’t be around them while they’re focused on feeling sorry and not doing bupkiss.

So– do I say that?  Do I withdraw and let them feel hurt?  Either way will result in hurt feelings, but my preference would be to be honest, even if it isn’t potentially “kind” to say that I think they’re being a moron.  (Not in those words, but still.)  I made a vow to myself when I left my husband that I was going to be honest and stand up for myself and not put up with people who couldn’t meet me halfway.  Keeping that promise is hard.

Thing four:

I’m really fucking lonely in my regular, in-real-life life.  I love my dad, but he doesn’t like to talk about feelings.  Getting over his alcoholism and keeping a job is what he can manage, and that’s about it.  He is my friend, in his way, but he also drives me batshit and I can’t talk to him about my crazy thoughts except in a clinical “I am feeling kind of manic/kind of suicidal, please poke me occasionally” way when I have that level of lucidity.  And I do that, and he does, but beyond that, it makes him twitch to talk too much about feelings.  My brother and I are not close; he and I can talk about Traumatic Family Shit when my mom’s acting up or my dad’s in poor health, but he’s not a talker to start with and I find it hard to tell if he likes me at all beyond family “of course” obligation.  Of course, I’m scared to ask.  I am sure he is worried he’ll melt down like me.

I have some married friends from law school who all have kids and spouses and jobs and it’s erratic how often we get together– and I have a feeling my most recent drop-off-the-planet stint pissed one of my female friends in this group off to the point of no return, which makes me sad, because she is sarcastic and smart and refreshing like a beach breeze, even though we don’t see each other all the time. I need to send her a card and tell her I miss her and I wonder if I did something to make her mad, even though I worry that it’s clingy, because I won’t know unless I ask, and if it’s clingy, well, I guess I can’t make things worse.

As to the others, well– there’s a married couple and I need to balance them because I enjoy their company in different ways as well as their dynamic together, and they’ve been kind and moreso to keep me after I broke up with the husband.  They have wonderful kids, are busy with that and professional life and their pack of married/kids/friends, and I can’t help but feel a little bittersweet every time I spend time with either or both because we used to do couple things with them and now it’s just me.  And I have another local law school friend who’s going through a rough patch who I’m trying to be available for, but he’s in a needier place than I am and I need to conserve my energy (aka, I need to watch all my spoons), too– so while I am grateful that I have more kindness and patience for him than I used to (I was a horrible bitch, at times, in law school, I like to think it’s not just the meds that have changed me)– I can’t spend too much time with him or I get exhausted, because while he’s a good resource for getting my Geek on, it’s more of a me giving than a reciprocity thing.

There are other friends with other commitments, and it’s hard to keep track of them all, because: everybody has lives/lives at a bit of a distance/I haven’t sucked it up to apologize yet/it’s been a really, really long time/we only talk on Facebook.  They are none of them best friends.  But they are all of them friends.  And I need to work harder, even if it does wear me out.

Thing four:

I am feeling shy about making friends at the new store, both because of my role there– professional secret keeper of personnel files, etc., disciplinarian helper, etc., etc., and therefore The Last One to Know– because I’m older than a lot of the others, if only by a few years, because I’m experience-older than others by a few years– and because I’ve been burnt by people at work who I thought were my friends before, only to have them either backstab me or drop off the face of the Earth once I left an old job, in spite of all their  “keep in touch!” and “<3 u!” protests.  Some of them hurt less than others when the attempts to get together (some initiated by them, some by me) slide off into nothing.  Still, it hurts.  (I feel like that should be my real memoir’s title.)

I should know better.  I do know better.  And yet, still, I’m hopeful.  It’s either a sign of psychosis, uncurable sentimentality, or something else that has yet to respond to medication.  And yet, I know that same soft-heartedness and “I just want everyone to be OK and happy (and also for people to like me)” thing is what makes me a good middle manager and good at my particular job, because my job is to figure out people’s emotional tone & be helpful in a caring, kind, neutral way.  Which I can’t always be if I’m all entangled in messy friendships with people.  I should probably talk with one of the other people in my particular job group outside my store about my TOO MANY FEELINGS about the job and how to/whether to make any friends aside from the three people at work more or less on the same level at work with whom I’m passing from friendly to work-friends– at the very least (and gee, duh, that may result in making some friends there, too).

At my last bookstore, I didn’t push for activities outside of work except for one or two people– and even those fizzled, either because of significant others or I-don’t-know-what-dysfunctions.  It’s rough, mixing business with pleasure.  In short, as much as I really, really like all these folks I work with and have a lot more in common with them in terms of cooking! reading! progressive social issues! political thinking! geekery! the fact is, I’m still kind of an old lady and in an uneven power dynamic with a lot of them, so whether or not they like me as a person and think I am competent or moreso at my job, it’s probably not a good idea to try to do more than be friendly and helpful.  Which makes me sad, because see: fucking lonely.

Thing five:

My brother and his lovely wife are having a baby any minute now, and while I am really looking forward to being an aunt, and as much as it seems like my sister in law seems to be looking forward to my being a competent babysitter, it’s AHOY, MIXED EMOTIONS.  At one point, I wanted kids before I got married, and was pretty baby-crazy.  And then the husband didn’t.  And I was crazy, and angry at my mother and everyone else, and didn’t want to pass on my crazy to anyone else.

Then my husband’s brother and his wife had their son, and he is amazing.  I love him.  I miss him very much, his parents too, and my husband’s older sister’s husband (funny, that, which in-laws you want to keep, despite everything) and the family dinners we used to have.  I was uploading pictures to a fancy photo-editing program my brother got me and got chest-punched with feelings from old photos of some of those dinners with the nephew and my mother-in-law, may she rest in peace and roll her eyes at my drama forever.  (And also, do I email those photos to my brother in law, and try to have no expectations of any response, even a thanks?  I should send them, just because they’re good pictures, good memories, and any good picture of my mother in law is worth having.  But the brother-in-law kind of sat on the sidelines while my marriage dissolved and I can’t help but resent that, and my resentment clouds how I think about him, even as in general, I want nothing but the best for them all.)

Still, when my nephew was born, I started to think… hey, these baby things are pretty fucking cool, but at that point, there was a shadow of awareness at the back of my head that it wasn’t working out with my husband.

And now I’m single, if not yet divorced.

(Also, background, when my mother was moving to California, years ago, one of her prefatory declarations of why was because I wasn’t giving her grandchildren anytime soon. Thanks.  Thank you, mother, for reaffirming my conviction that your narcissism runs so deep that my use to you is limited only to your expectation that I fulfill those roles you had of yourself and failed at.  She is thrilled, however, that my brother is providing a grandchild and plans to come visit that grandchild on as much of my brother’s dime as he will spend as soon as they will let her come, and incidentally, she may spend some time with me.  No, I haven’t had this discussion with her.  It’s like kicking a retarded puppy.  They’ll still piss on the rug, and they’ll whine even more loudly than they did before you kicked them.)

I am really looking forward to being an aunt.  Again.  And this time, to getting to stick around.  (I don’t know what would have happened if I’d tried to maintain a relationship with the nephew-in-laws, but it would have been awkward for the husband, so I chose not to try.)  I do want to be helpful to my brother and sister-in-law, and not just because I’m fucking pathetic and need to be loved whatever way I can get it, even if it’s just competent cook and babysitter.  I want to be that sarcastic aunt who gives my niece all the cool books and takes her on hikes and teaches her to take pictures and shows her how to make a mean steak and a salsa verde and shows her how to install telephone jacks or whatever passes for handyperson skills when it comes time for that kind of thing.

But now I am thinking about– is there any possibility of me, mother-me?  It’s a hilarious thought, considering that I just had (just, literally, as in last night just) my first sexy dream about anyone in two years.  My sexual self has been on the back burner for a long time, and I still have Incredible Moments of Awkward where I don’t know someone’s flirting with me or I get embarrassed because they are and I have no idea how to respond because it’s been … IDEFK because it makes me cry too much to think too hard about it, six plus years since I’ve had someone else want to have the sex with me.  I am no longer used to feeling like I am sexy.  Attractive.  At all.

There is no timeline in my brain for dating again, though I know it’s something in the aspirational undefined future.  I don’t know about pregnant/foster/adopt.  But I look at babies and toddlers and think for the first time more than just cute/adorable/give them back.  I think… mine.  Maybe.  Even if the idea of who/what I might do that with is as nebulous as things they aim the Hubble Telescope at.  (And about as far away.)

Thing six:

I have made a lot of really good friends on the internet, some of whom I’ve then gone on to meet in real life.  Some of them were through this blog in its various url-incarnations, some of them were through writing/fandom sites.  Some I’ve let go because they were toxic, some I let go because I began to associate that community and what I was writing (once I’d looked it over) with the falling-apart of my marriage and I needed the distance to sort out why the hell I hadn’t seen it sooner because I had this erroneous idea that I was beginning to get a handle on shit.

Hah.

Now I need to try repair those friendships I’ve neglected, and suck it up if people don’t reciprocate anymore because I’ve let things go too long, not given enough of a heads up, not apologized enough.  I need to understand not everyone has to understand, because everyone has their own shit and they can decide that even though I have mine, they don’t have time for it, and that if they let me back in at all, I have to accept it on their terms.  I have to apologize in not too abject terms, try to be straightforward and honest and say all the whys while not getting all TMI with the gory details– and if they respond, then I am lucky and blessed and they are generous and kind and I have to work hard not to waste it again, knowing that there’s a good chance I will anyway.

Thing seven:

I have given all this advice to other people.  I need to reread it.  I need to reread my own blog and stop committing Santayana on myself.

Thing eight:

I’m having a bit of a comedown from the initial high of the new job as we settle into the real everyday problems and I’m being a bit of a drama-llama and insecure and feeling depressed as I come off the high, which could be situational or neutransmitted or both.  But I want glitter and flowers and fucking unicorns, okay?  I just do.  It’s unrealistic and I still want it.

Thing nine:

I want a cat.  But– we have a feral one who will attack any other one we bring in the house– I don’t want to bring her to a shelter to kill her just because my father couldn’t be fucked to tame her and only fed her and changed her litter for the four years before I moved in.  But I want a cat who will sit on my chest and love me me me me, because people-friends and lovers and all the see: above shit to the side, animal comfort is no small comfort in deed.

It’s enough to make a girl want to hide under a mushroom and wait for someone to tell her what to do, no matter what nonsense they might happen to spout.

Allowing for feelings…

I’m in a weird mood, and I have a mish-mash of things I want to rant/write about, but I don’t know that I will, other than making a fairly curtailed list, each of which could be an epic whining post of great whinging.

I don’t want to feel grateful for something someone did for me that I never asked them to do– or that I specifically told them to no longer worry about, especially when they did it out of guilt or their own sense of unfinished business, however they might define it.  I don’t want a gift forced on me that I never asked for, not when I was working on figuring out how to do the thing for myself.  I know that it’s a stupid fuss to make, to feel it an imposition, rather than to just allow this person to do the thing (if it even comes from amends), but I also feel like I’ve made it really clear in this phase of my life that the subtitle to this section of my memoir is subtitled: No, really, fuck you.  I’m going to do it myself because I am smart and motivated (read, not suicidal) enough to figure this out.

I wish I wasn’t so angry that any gift or offer of help felt like an accusation that I was a failure, incompetent, fragile.

I’d like to recognize if someone was flirting with me.  I know part of this is getting back on the bike, but the rest of me knows that I just– can’t believe I’m attractive, not after not being wanted that way for so very long.  I want to know that I’m wanted.  That I’m want-able.  Love-able, too, even if I’m ten miles from ready.

I want to learn to just be grateful and not to feel startled, embarrassed or ashamed when someone at my new job (again) says I’m doing a great job at X/Y/Z just my job, even when 1) I know that it’s partly the work culture that promotes the expressions of praise, 2) that I am good at my job, 3) that I deserved to hear it all along whether I worked some place or lived with and befriended people who should have been expressing it long before now, 4) I want to learn to say thank you and not be flustered, because I feel like it’s as plain as the shock in my heart that it’s not something I’m used to, and I don’t want to walk around forever with “Kicked Puppy, Please Pet” written on my forehead.  (I want to not have to archive the emails reflecting these praises and then pulling them out after I’ve had a shit day, just because I need to know that somewhere, someone thinks I’m of use.)

I want to be friends with people who follow up invites, one way or the other, or at least drop a line to say they’re flaking out.  I want to learn to let go when this doesn’t happen, and to not blame myself for maybe something I’ve done.  I want to try to reach out enough to feel satisfied that I tried, but not so much that I feel like a doormat.  I want to learn where that doormat line lies.  I want to learn to let people come and go as they need to, to not harbor anger about that, to not rely too much on anyone one person so that their loss is a shattering thing (been there, done that, husband, college best friend, maybe some more pending, we’ll see) to not feel like I’m being needy or clingy, but also to feel like I’m standing up for myself and saying– you know what?  I’m going to go associate with some folks who do have time for me, even if we’ve had a good, a great run even– because they may not be you, but at least they’re around when it counts.  They’re curious.

We all need to love and be loved.  Somehow.  Even in the smallest of possible ways.

I want to be brave enough after all the brave shit I’ve done– quit doing a job that I hated, did something new until I wasn’t just treading water, got out of that, found something I loved, learned to say what I needed and then walked away (though not without too much looking back, but I think I’d rather suffer regret than run the risk of becoming callous), learned to say no to things that hurt me, learned to say yes to things that pleased me, learned to turn aside from callousness and self-interest directed only at others’ self-absorption– to keep learning these things, to not lose strength, to not feel worn out, to not feel like even though I am still redefining who I am, what I want, what I expect from myself and the people I am willing to continue to know.

I want, sometimes, to not have to be brave– even though I knowingly walked away from a situation where I thought I didn’t have to, all of the time, only to find out that wasn’t the truth.  I want to learn to embrace the truth that it’s okay and I’ll live and learn to live with the fact that in the end, we all always have to take care of ourselves, because no matter how hard we cry or plead or try to spell things out for others, in the end, we, alone, have to decide.   I would still like a vacation from having to decide.

There are times when I would like someone to wave a magic wand and make my mother and all my memories off her fuzz, gently, and that I would fuzz out of her mind so that I didn’t have to talk to her at all anymore.  I can’t bring myself to cut her off again because that would be consciously cruel, even though she’s oblivious as ever as to the narcissistic harm she causes, but I would like to … stop being part of her self-reflexive calculus of worth, so I don’t have to deal with her slights and her obtuseness, and could get on with reconstructing a self that will always be shaped by a mother’s neglect, but which can maybe have a little time to recover from the continuous dents she puts in my armor from dealing with her.

I would like my father to pay attention long enough to the things that drive me truly batshit to keep his mouth shut about my 1) driving, 2) not wearing slippers, 3) not doing things the way he would have done, 4) any other critical thing that comes out of his mouth, because– parents?  I’m not you.  And guess what?  You failed.  Stop projecting your unfulfilled wishes on me.  I’ve got enough of my own to bring into better alignment.  I don’t want yours, too, no matter they come from a place of good intentions.

I would like to stop being so fucking introverted, agoraphobic, and gun-shy about relationships outside the internet, and inside it, too.

I would like to finish some projects.

I would like to be perceived as creative.

I would like to stop having so many (too many) feelings.  I would like for these feelings to stop bogging me down, suffocating my throat, blinding my eyes, making me twitch and dream anxiety dreams and feel paranoid about people who have sticks up their butts and aren’t worth thinking about because if they have a problem but won’t come out and say so, then screw them, stupid sonsofbitches, I’m pretty badass, crazy or not.

I would like to actually believe that last bit.  I’d settle for even most (not all) of the time.

I’d like to not be staving off tears as I write this, because even after all this brave shit and all these fucking feelings I’ve done things to acknowledge these last couple of years, I still hate to cry, and I still suppress things rather than just having a sobfest.  I think I don’t sob because there’s no one to hold me, and also because I would probably punch/hate/resent anyone who told me things would be okay or who just patted my back and said there, fucking there.  Things won’t be okay, not forever.  Life isn’t like that.

I’d like to just suck that bit up and move on.

There is nothing more to be said

There was a phone call after some deliberate silence.  Checking in after bad news.  Bad news talk made way to talk of some of what had happened, before, and what was happening, more recently, now. Before I knew it, an hour had passed, but it wasn’t the same as before, and there were pauses, awkward. I let them be. There were statements, painful. They weren’t mine to soothe anymore. There were truths that might be reassuring, if they could be heard. Those truths, I said.

There came a point, though, when there was not so much as a realization as a general knowing–there is nothing more to be said.  I wished him good night, asked him to take care because even with everything else, there is at least that– I still care.  Then I set down the phone, plugging it in to recharge.

Armor, costume, mirror?

I got rid of most of my suits when I stopped being a lawyer.  First, I’d lost so much weight they didn’t fit anymore, but second– I didn’t want to be that person, whoever she was, any longer. I knew I wouldn’t go back.  There was no point in hanging on to the accoutrements to that profession, not once I knew I was done.

I got rid of more clothes when I left my husband– more on the “I haven’t worn this in a while/it no longer fits” basis, at least, that’s what I think I did (mostly).  I did just shove my wedding dress deep into a rubbermaid box, with a “No,  nope, not going to deal with it now.”  I’ve left it there, still.

I bought a corset and an antique kimono not long after, and while I don’t wear them, often, they’re aspirational clothes.  I’ll wear them, someday.

I have a few sexy or form-fitting clothes I wore from before that I’ve kept, that I’ve worn, that I’ve been admired in, and I have no qualms about wearing them.  Still.  There’s no baggage attached to them, ha ha.

Now, though, I’m unpacking spring’s clothes and I’ve got these two pair of silky pajamas, ones that for whatever reason I’ve come to associate with my husband– or with the absence of him, while we were married, in bed, in his not coming to bed at the same time as me, in our sex life and lack of as our marriage progressed.  I don’t know why I associate those particular items with him, because I think I actually owned them before we got together– but the fact is, I do.  I associate them and their silky feeling with– the feeling, whether he meant to convey it or not, of me being the only person touching myself, or of him admiring their feel and nothing more.  That I, under the clothes, was not admirable.  Touch-worthy.

I can’t decide now if I want to go to the bother of reclaiming the clothing (and what’s underneath?).  Someone else won’t recall the same taint, and my flannels (not associated with him, though bought at his urging, isn’t memory strange?), put away until next fall, can leave me head-room for cotton tshirts and shorts, room for me in my own skin until something else, something new comes along– even if it’s just me, figuring out a different different costume– one that mirrors what I want to feel, not what I think I’m reflecting from somebody else.

Underearning and the power of shame

There’s a really well-written post about being the low-earner and the power of shame here.  It’s an issue I’ve been struggling with ever since I left the practice of law, back in 2009 when I had my Big Fat Nervous Breakdown.  Managing a bookstore is not mucho moola (frankly, it is a joke, and I wasn’t a manager all that long, either), so while new job is a raise, I’m still not even close to what I made as a law clerk out of law school.   It is, though, a much better way out of being underpaid and living for the rest of my life with my dad– it’s a more solid career path/skill set, as well as work at a company with real, solid growth and demonstrated commitment to internal promotion, not to mention actual morals and, y’know, customer service.

I was ashamed to have quit my job, to have quit it unprofessionally, to have not understood why I hated it so very much, to have not been understood by anyone who was
“supposed to” instinctively love and support me and maybe shake me by the shoulders and say “OH MY GOSH, YOU’RE DEPRESSED, TAKE SOME TIME OFF, I’VE GOT YOUR BACK” in the midst of my panic when it was something I didn’t get and was trying so damned hard to hide because– who’d love a failure?

I was ashamed that I was depressed and not earning money (for all of three months) and not going to work when I had all of this college and (now essentially useless) graduate school debt.  I was ashamed that I might turn in to my mother, who used her own depression and divorce as an excuse to not work most of my life, a fact that is a huge barrier in my relationship with her, and a huge trigger for me in my responsibility kinks, because I feel like I have to be the grown-up all of the time because my Mom never was.

Formative Childhood Traumas (TM) aside, though, I was ashamed that my husband had to pick up my slack (what kind of feminist was I?), even though he’d been un- and under-employed for several years of our marriage, during which time I’d been the bigger wage earner– and at no point had I felt too resentful toward him because eh– shit happens and we didn’t live in an economic boomtown/boom-region.  I did have the occasional what, you couldn’t have at least cooked me dinner, if you’ve been home all day kind of feeling.  I’d like to think I didn’t voice that feeling too often, I know I didn’t push him too much or pick fights just because he was underemployed.  Maybe I should have.  Who the heck knows.

TL; DR: I was ashamed to have failed at my legal career, just like my parents had failed at their academic careers due to their depressions/etc., and panicked that I was never going to find my way out or be worthy of regard or merit.  (By my husband, who had had his own period of unemployment, which I didn’t fault him for all that much, and by my parents, whom I sometimes faulted and sometimes didn’t and yet, still held their opinions important.)

So.

I was nevertheless proud, in the midst of my shame, that I was getting my ass out of bed to go to my bookstore, and proud that they basically hired me the minute I walked in the door.  I was proud that for all that my pay was shit, I could help people, was the smartest girl in the room (Emotional Trigger #2),  and was making it through every day pretty soon without feeling like I was a complete useless sack of shit whose depressive and suicidal tendencies made her utterly worthless and unworthy of love.

Except, well, you know, when I was frustrated with work and wanted to vent, I got shut down because I was “stupid” to be frustrated about it.  Because, you know, crazy people aren’t allowed to have feelings of annoyance and frustration, because they’re being unreasonable.  It’s a fallacy of logic by the non-crazy, by the non-underpaid– if we “accept” shitty pay at shitty jobs, we are required to suck it up and be quiet, because if we aren’t at a place of complete, total mental health like every one else to get out of our shitty jobs, then we should just shut the fuck up, because the frustration is only what we deserve for our craziness, laziness at not going back to our real vocation, or whatever other faulting-thought-process is going on in our own minds or that of the people who judge us– not just ourselves.

I’ve always held the “you never know peoples’ story” party line, and never tried to judge my bookstore coworkers, many of whom are as smart or smarter than I.  If they lacked ambition to start with, were disorganized or addled or as burnt out or sad as I ever had been?  I got it.  I wasn’t going to call them a slacker.

But all things come around to Monty Python, and I wasn’t dead yet.  I got better.  And as I got better, my frustrations with the mundanities, the mediocrities, the inanities that were part and parcel of the job got to me because– I might not be the most emotionally level of gals, but I have an idea about the right way to do things most of the time, and if you just let me at a problem, 95% of the time, I’ll solve it, the right way, on time.  Ride my ass about it and insist I do it the One Corporate Bullshitty Way?  Yeah.

I lost patience, in short.

I lost patience, too, with all my fellow smart/depressed/unambitious/slacker/burnout fellow underearners, and started to feel very much as though I was not only not getting paid enough for this shit (all too true) but that I hated all my coworkers because none of them were doing their jobs and I had to pick up all the damned slack.  It’s not a good place to be in, both for me and my responsibility kink, not to mention anyone who wants to avoid acting like a defensive jerk to their coworkers;  plus, as I must always remember, because this is my Golden Rule, you never know everyone’s story.  If you can’t confront/fix other people, and you can’t fix yourself to fit the situation, there’s only one answer.

(Cue George Thoroughgood and the Destroyers guitar track…) “And out the door I went.”

It took me four and a half years to get to that point, and only after working myself up to ask for a promotion to shitty retail manager pay (GO, ME, I CAN MANAGE GERBILS ON WHEELS) and then running around being pulled in 60 directions for two years, feeling frazzled and under-appreciated, not just underpaid– and all the while, feeling ashamed at doing something below me and angry at everyone who was telling me it was below me because– they had no idea how hard it was to go to work some days instead of just slitting my wrists– not to mention?  Retail is hard, because people?  Are fucking moody assholes.

Getting promoted to manager was a pretty big fucking deal, even if the pay was bupkiss.

It took almost two years as a manager before I “learned” (got mouthy about) to stand up for myself because other people weren’t doing their share, and I deserved to work at a company whose larger management structure (not my store team, per se) was less brain-dead, more interactive, more customer-friendly, more interested in the employees as actual people and not churns through the mill.  It wasn’t graceful, and I wouldn’t do it this way again– but this was literally the first time at work where I’ve stood up for myself and said– “Um, no.  This is crap, what you’re pulling, I’m going to find something else and go there.”  Will I avoid the what I suspect was a retaliatory “performance” IP the next time by being more gracious in my 360-degree feedback, or just learn to keep my mouth shut?  Maybe.   The fact still was, though, I managed to say ENOUGH without blowing everything up at the same time.

That I’d been meaning to get the hell out, anyway, and lit the fire under my own butt in the process because I was/am TERRIFIED of doing “real” work in the “real” world with people who have expectations of me beyond the minimum competent threshhold?  Eh.  I’m not forty yet.  I’ve still got time to learn to stop flailing.

And I’ve got a few more pennies in the bank account.  Not a lot, but a few.

I’m still underearning, but I no longer feel– underdeserving.  And I can only feel joyful for that, at that release from that shame, and the relief at knowing– I did that, all by myself.

It would have been nice to have had some help on the way– to have had encouragement and belief from others before things got to an almost-crisis, and not some sheer dumb luck and flailing and the lucky fact that I’ve got some raw talent around the crazy, but– I’ll take knowing, for sure now– that I did it all by myself, and now I know– I can do it again.  (And, again, my coworkers have their own stories, some of which have nothing to do with me at all.)  And while yes, it sucks that I am currently having to live with my dad because I made the Classic Stupid Married Woman’s Mistake (no separate savings, no emergency fund) and I have a shitload of educational debt to pay down– there are worse things.

I might have to mostly do it myself, but by the same token, there’s no one to tell me I’m doing it wrong because that’s not the way they’d have gone about things.

And that– that’s both priceless, and mine.