Hall of Mirrors

You’re a great person, until someone gets to know you.

One of my best friends told me this a few months back. Talk about being eviscerated! Holy shit. While I may be a bit secretive, I’m also exceedingly sensitive, and this statement right here literally crushed me. Emotionally mashed me into paste. I still can’t think about without crying. It hurt, a lot, and it still hurts.

But it also made me think. Seriously. I’ve looked back over my life, at all the great people and my ever shifting sets of friends. I only have a few friends, precious few hardy souls, who still talk to me. I came to realize something even more horribly painful. He was right.

I’m not easy to get to know in any real capacity, unless you read what I write. If you read my stuff, you get to know me, see me, see into my head, my heart. I’ve been journaling since 4th grade, however old kids are in 4th grade. I’ve trained myself to write honestly, baldly. But not to speak that way. Not with real people. I expect people to forget me, so I used to introduce myself again and again to people who’ve known me peripherally for as much as 5 years. I stopped doing that a few years ago when someone stared at me like I was an idiot, and after a few moments they deadpanned “I remember.” Oh. Note to self: stop that.

But this attitude that I expect to be forgotten, looked over, ignored … It means I also don’t know how to accept genuine gestures of friendship. I stammer or stare, dumbfounded, unsure what to do with it. I expect that when they leave my presence, they have forgotten all about me. I have heretofore not actually realized that I have an emotional footprint in someone’s life. That I have genuinely failed to recognize that I actually DO affect other people. The more deeply I get into friendships, the more nervous I get, the more invested in opinions I get. This investiture causes an internal collapse of some kind which leads me to betray everything I started out being which they initially liked — it leads me to abandon myself in favor of someone else’s vision of me, a vision I can’t hold because it’s not honest and then they get disappointed. Let down. Leave.

I am a great person, until I get attached to your vision of me. Then I stop being me.

So this soul searching is in the background, this slow percolating awareness that I’m a great person until you get to know me is eating away at my current sense of identity. I’m listening to Robert Ohotto‘s latest show, and he talks a lot about codependence. Ironically, as he’s talking my internal monolog comes online and I launch into this vitriolic diatribe about how so-and-so is codependent, and so is so-and-so. I’m working myself into a lather, denying that I’m codependent but THEY are.

*record scratch as the music comes to abrupt halt* I am now in the Hall of Mirrors. I’ve been here enough to recognize it.

Hello projection. I’m not something, but they are. Said with vehemence and emotional fire. The waving red flag which announces quite loudly “here is a projection that I need to own”. Yup, that’s mine and I don’t want it to be. Am I codependent? My immediate shout of NO! is followed by a more calm rationality. Let’s just think about this. Imagine it’s true, just for the moment. I’m codependent, so how I am making myself responsible for other people’s moods or actions? *blank stare for a few moments as I ponder* I don’t … think I do this …

Ooooh, no. Flip that statement around. I’m making THEM responsible for my actions, my idea of who I am and what I *should* be like. Then I begin to punish myself with sabotaging actions when I fail to be that foreign vision. Aaaw, fuck. *kicks snow*

The more I think on this, the more I am playing through the exact same information that I played through with that ego crushing pronouncement. I am a great person, until I get attached to your vision of me. Then I stop being me – I attempt badly to become what I think you want of me. An exercise doomed to failure. Guaranteed disappointments, resentments, and other such ugly outcomes.

Another statement Ohotto made at one point in the past had to do with abandonment issues. I’m not afraid that others will abandon me. I EXPECT it. Anticipate even. Why? Finally I dug up that it’s because I abandon myself at the earliest opportunity, so others will too. It’s just a matter of time – and so far, I’ve made damn sure that’s happened. When I get into deeper relationship with someone, when I become invested in their vision of me, I abandon myself. I hightail it right out of my own skin and attempt to become someone that I am not. I can’t hold this, especially for a long period of time. The longer I try to hold onto this false vision, the worse I get. I start gaining weight, I spiral into depression, I drop my hobbies, become isolated, uncommunicative, shut down. Yeah, who wants to hang around THAT?

What I’m starting to really key into with all this is that there is only one relationship which will last me the entirety of my life. No matter what is going on, there is only one relationship that sets the stage for everything else. That’s my relationship with myself. And “myself” includes my body, my mind, my heart, my sense of self, my esteem … Everything. All aspects of me. Right now, I have an adversarial relationship with myself. I bully myself, am hyper critical, negative, scornful, dismissive. Yick. That’s not healthy. No wonder I abandon this at the soonest opportunity. No wonder I’m afraid of being alone. I’m afraid of what I’ll do to myself, I’m afraid that without someone else telling me who I am that I’m not anything at all.

Well I know that’s not true. There’s plenty in here that’s genuinely me. And yes, I AM a great person. I just need to learn how to hold onto me. How to have a great relationship with me, so that I can have honest and real relationships with others. How to actually like who I am. If I can’t even stand to see myself, then I am unable to leave the Hall of Mirrors. Everything is a projection, and I don’t have the discernment to suss out the truth because until very recently I’ve refused to sit down with myself and talk.

In the radio episode I’m thinking about, Ohotto was talking about having the strength to say “I don’t have the strength to hold my center when I’m around X”. Now he was talking about addiction, but it applies to anything. For the past few relationships, I’ve had a serious run-in with the Damsel-in-Distress and the White Knight/Rescuer. You could say it’s been a theme for a while now, and at first I got mad. “I am NOT a damsel-in-distress.” Guess what? Yes, I am. I’m a Damsel, and by owning this I know that when I encounter a Knight, I immediately start to swoon and drape dramatically across the fainting couch, expecting to be saved. *sigh* It just happens. If I don’t own it, it will continue to happen. Indeed, when my Knight found a new Damsel-in-distress to help, my own Damsel went ‘oh yea? I’m TWICE as pathetic as she is, see??” *facepalm*

By knowing this, I can start to say “I don’t have the strength yet to hold my center when I’m around a Knight or a Rescuer or another Damsel-in-distress.” I get attached to their vision of me and I throw all of my strength, all my competency, all of my empowerment right out the window. *chuck* I become something I hate, and this eats me up. But guess what? I chose to do it. That means I can choose to do something else.

Caroline Myss writes of the Damsel: “The shadow side of this archetype mistakenly teaches old patricarchal views that women are weak and teaches them to be helpless and in need of protection.” Remember my post talking about the health issues the women in my family were (unconsciously) taught to embrace? This is EXACTLY what I was talking about. I was taught that to be worthy of a man, I had to be weak and in need of protection, and it is this  weakness which gives him purpose and allows him to be a man. …  Soooo, let me see if I’ve got this right: a man is only a man when the woman is crippled? *stares*

Do I consciously believe this? Hell no. Do I subconsciously believe this? If I’m brutally honest, that I have to say yes.

So what is a Damsel to do when she doesn’t want to be in-distress anymore? I have to learn to be my own knight, to have a strong enough relationship with myself that I know I won’t abandon myself. Ever. I have to learn to be on my own, and be ok with that.

Personal Growth

Resolution time?

First off, Happy New Year! If January 1 is your new year. It is for me, so I send felicitations. There’s a tradition around this time of year which is essentially “it’s a brand new year, clean slate — what do you promise yourself you’re going to do with it?” It’s actually a pretty cool idea, and I can only speak for myself when I say that my new year’s resolutions are not particularly sincere and so they don’t last.

The number one resolution I can think of is “this year, I’m going to get back into shape” or “this year, I’m going to lose weight.” I’ve certainly said them, and it never lasted beyond January. I stopped making resolutions a few years ago, but friends still do it. My husband is gearing up to go on a diet again. He does a great job with it, getting down into the 190s where I must say he looks really good. Then goes off Atkins, and the weight creeps back. I dated a guy with this pattern, except he was nigh manic about trying every new fad diet out there. I just stared at him, drinking my soda and eating my fries. He was a master of the weight lose/gain yoyo. I once told him “if you put half as much effort into changing your lifestyle into a sustainable one, you’d never have to go through this again.” He stared at me like I’d just sprouted a second head.

Diets? Don’t get them. “Diet” actually means “everything you eat”. My diet consists of Dr. Pepper, goldfish crackers, and fast food burgers. Clearly, I’m a health nut. *sarcasm*  But when I want to lose weight, it’s not a question of “this new diet I heard about to lose weight fast” but rather one of “what can I live with doing for the rest of my life?” Sure I need to lose 20 (*cough*30*cough*) pounds but deprivation is not my thing. This year my hubby is actually taking my approach — of course he has no idea this is my approach. Being a secretive shit and all. But he’s taking a close look at the Nerd Fitness thing. I gotta say, this is more like it.

Health is not a short term commitment. Wait. Scratch that. It’s not “health”, it’s “taking care of yourself”. It’s self-parenting is what it is. If we’re lucky, the result is health but that’s not a guarantee. I actually think this statement right here is the breakthrough I was looking for when I sat down to write this post.

Nerd Fitness espouses making sure that the long-term commitment is there. It starts with taking a good, hard, honest look at your motivations. It’s not an action item recipe of throw out that junk, start doing this specific thing, add these other things. I’m sure that’s in there, but the first step is making sure that the inner and outer are in alignment. If they are not, success will be elusive. Personally, I think this approach is fucking brilliant.

I’m working on a free class I want to teach on Financial Education – aimed at helping everyday people get control of their finances. The entire first class is examining attitudes toward money. Is money evil? Is it short supply? Is someone keeping it from you? Whatever the deeply held belief, that’s going to affect everything. Start with knowing the personal landscape. Everything else comes out of that.

So here’s my hubby talking about this first step in Nerd Fitness, and he’s talking about making food from fresh ingredients. As I’m puttering around, I’m thinking about this. I will cook if the occasion calls for it, but food just frankly isn’t that important to me. I literally get annoyed when I have to eat. So I eat junk, anything to shut up the hunger as fast and as conveniently as possible. Spending 15 minutes to boil noodles? Too slow! Throw a frozen dinner in the microwave and wait 4 minutes, that’s more like it. Spend an hour preparing food? Are you effing crazy? Oh, and now I have to clean it up?? So absolutely not worth the effort. I don’t appreciate the difference in the flavors or textures between fresh spaghetti with homemade sauce and the frozen stuff I can get from Michelina’s. Why on earth would I invest time, energy and … well, time making fresh when it’s literally no better to me than the frozen cheap stuff? Now I do cook, because my husband likes fresh food. To him, it’s absolutely worth it. I do it to make him happy, and that’s about it. Now I prefer cooking one pot meals, or casseroles, or crock pot items and he hates all of that. “The flavors get too blended; I may well be eating just one thing.” *blank stare* So I have to dirty up dozens of plates, bowls, spoons, mixing implements, and cooking spoons to make what I would consider 4 separate meals all in a oner, and that doesn’t include the serving bowls or the actual dining cutlery.

Can you see where I’m going? I don’t have anything against cooking; it can be it’s own reward, but food is NOT my thang. I once blurted out at the reason I like drinking soda is because the sugary syrup coats my tongue and prevents me from actually having to taste food. Sad commentary, I suppose, but true. I hate drinking water with meals. Now there’s all these annoying flavors. I’m picky enough about texture, don’t add taste to the mix. Sheesh.

So here’s a lifestyle change that is espousing cooking your own meals. Hubby is all kinds of excited. Me? Not so much. I use this as my starting point to dive into the motives behind this.

Why do I not like to eat fresh? It’s not that I don’t like it, it’s that it’s just not worth the effort. There are so many other options which require almost zero input in terms of effort and time, that why would I make that investment? Ok, so I value convenience over fresh food. Yes. But eating as I have been, basically at fast food 3 times a day, is taking me a direction I don’t want to go. So I value convenience over health? Yes.

That answer brought me up short. I don’t go to the gym I’m a member of because it’s not “convenient”, and I don’t bother with doing my stretches for my back because it’s not “convenient”. So that means I don’t value my health? Correct.

Ouch. This statement actually bothered me.  It prompted another look at the attitudes I was raised with. In my family, my grandmother used her frail health as a weapon to control others around her. Other family members would make comments about how loving someone was because they took such great care of their frail or sickly wife. My own mother, raised in this environment, has these attitudes imbedded. She has literally physically destroyed herself because of these patterns.

Let me put this attitude into a verbal format: Women are supposed to be weak, frail and sickly – that’s what makes them lovable. *agog* Once I began to see this, I rejected it quite vehemently. My desire to break this pattern is one reason that I moved to the other side of the country. I once tried to talk to my mom about this, and she got very upset and defensive. Not a good thing, so I backed off. I can’t force someone to face an ingrained idea until they are ready to. I love my mom; she’s generous and courageous and brilliant and creative. She’s an inspiration in many ways, but self-reflection is not part of her paradigm. My health is an issue that was important enough to me that it prompted me to leave my family behind.

And here I am saying that I don’t care about my health?? Really??! But in the process of writing this, I came out with that statement above.

It’s not “health”, it’s “taking care of yourself”. It’s self-parenting is what it is.

It’s funny when I can quote myself. But there it is. It’s not that I don’t value health; it’s that I value something else more. I don’t want to self-parent, because it’s not convenient. It’s not easy. It’s adulting, and I don’t want to adult. Ever. I want to play, have fun, and that’s about it.

Wow. There are days when I say things to myself which have me cringing. Is this really me? *sigh* Yes, it is. I would like to remain a child forever and have someone else enforce the rules, be the parent. Is that reasonable? No. Is this fair on those around me? No. Is that who I really and truly want to be? No. So what can I emotionally plug into which is more valuable to me than being the Puella Aeterna (puer aeternus is the masculine version).

“Like all archetypes, the puer is bi-polar, exhibiting both a “positive” and a “negative” aspect. The “positive” side of the puer appears as the Divine Child who symbolizes newness, potential for growth, hope for the future. … The “negative” side is the child-man who refuses to grow up and meet the challenges of life face on, waiting instead for his ship to come in and solve all his problems.”

I think I need to read some Jung on this one. Being an adult means all the toys I have, I earned. If I lose them, I can earn them again. I don’t like charity because that which is given, can also be taken away – and there is no idea on how to get them back again except begging. The child is given things, with the expectation that one day they will be earned.

I have a huge issue with being given things. I don’t ever feel that I have earned anything, so I tend to reject or sabotage what I do have. What a Catch 22. I want someone else to be my parent, so I can rebel against that; and I want to be given things, so I can reject them. I value self-sabotage more than I value my health and well-being.

*headdesk* O crap, this journey of personal discovery really sucks ass.