I hadn't really planned on blogging about this but it's still on my mind so I might as well. I've been sick, so I haven't been able to do much and have had WAY too much time to think (It also means I have an only partially functioning brain so my apologies in advance if there's anything in here requiring apologies in advance! :-P )
A few days ago was a friend's birthday. Another friend of ours (R) planned a dinner out for all of us to celebrate. This particular friend (M) is like me and is not a big fan of celebrating her birthday (unless it involves getting too drunk to think). This year, at almost a year sober, she decided she was willing to do something to acknowledge it.
M and I spent most of the day together....not doing anything "birthday" specific, but mostly giving her a fun distraction so she wasn't thinking about the day. We saw a movie and then were headed to dinner but realized we needed to stop at her house first...which was going to make us a few minutes late. We had already texted the other friend that was planning to come (A) to let her know we were running late, and when we got to M's house she ran inside and I called R to tell her. To my total surprise, utter chaos ensued from there. R flipped out, asking why did no one let her know and how could we change the time when she organized it and yada yada. I was confused from the start, because the whole reason I was calling was to let her know, and it's not like we were trying to cancel it...just push it back 15 minutes. But I guess A had texted R to ask if she knew we were changing the time, and R was upset she hadn't been told first. The only reason we had texted A earlier is because A had texted M and M was replying to it.
Ok I know that probably sounds confusing when it's all just letters...and really the details aren't important anyway. Long story short, R decided she wasn't going. It basically turned into an adult woman throwing a fit like a 2 year old and saying well fine then I'm not going. I was totally blindsided by it. When at first she said she didn't want to go I figured she'd suck it up and go anyway. When she said she wasn't coming I just didn't even know what to think.
I get that it's hard for some people to understand why celebrating your birthday would be difficult and stressful (especially if you have a traumatic past)...and I get getting overly emotional about little things...especially if there are bigger things going on (and I do know she's been having a rough time lately)...but regardless of everything else going on, a friend's birthday is when you suck it up and go anyway and be there for your friend! The 3 of us had a good time anyway, but M was clearly hurt by R not showing. And the really crazy thing is....M and I are ALWAYS late going anywhere....we're both working on it but we're both horrible at time management. Between the two of us, something will happen to at least one of us to make us late. And really we weren't even all that late. So it's just such a crazy thing to pick to be mad at.
But even that is not the point. M called R the next day, and all R could say was that she was upset and that we weren't considering her feelings. She still doesn't get it that she's completely disregarding M's feelings and the dinner out was for M, not R! It's just insecurity and bitterness taken to an extreme.
I've noticed this happening with R for a long time now, and it's getting worse. Basically, she wants everyone to tell her that she's our best friend or else she feels excluded and jealous. A few weeks back at a meeting I was sitting with R and then invited another friend of ours to come sit on the other side of me and turned to say hi to her and see how she was. Well that night I got a series of angry text messages from R about ignoring her at the meeting. Well....at meetings...and especially this particular meeting...half the fun is getting to see a lot of good friends but there's very little time to actually hang out and chat before the meeting starts. It's not like we were having a long, in-depth heart to heart...and it would've been totally weird had I not greeted this other friend. (And the other friend was friends with R too...so yeah...).
It's really weird to me watching all this unfold with R. It's amazing to see someone so wrapped up in herself. I know that's how I used to be. I looked around constantly saying "but who will take care of me?" like a hurt child. The only way I knew to make friends was to sit in a corner somewhere looking sad until someone took pity on me and came to talk to me. I used to use that as "proof" that people didn't like me...I'd sit by myself and if no one came to talk to me than clearly no one liked me. That gave me an excuse not to try...and to go home and sit by myself and drink....continue to be miserable and take the easy way out. I still get that way sometimes...especially when I can sense I'm around caretaker or motherly types...I go into little kid mode. But it's something I'm really trying to change. When I start feeling that "But what about ME?" thing, I take a breath and try to turn it around. I try to look for what I can add to a situation, not what I can take. If I'm being ignored, is there someone else who is feeling ignored who could use my help/attention? A while back I went to this big AA convention thing. It was super overwhelming and it felt like everyone had a group of friends. I got overwhelmed and scared (still don't handle social stuff well), and ended up hiding in a corner crying. A month or so later I met a guy who had also been at that convention and had had the same response...except that he hadn't been sober nearly as long as me and had been so upset and so lonely that he went out and drank. He was just coming back into the rooms again when I met him. So I may not have met him while I was there...but I'm sure there were others like him that I walked right past. Maybe I could've offered something to someone... And even if there wasn't someone to help, there was nothing stopping me from saying hi, joining a group, meeting people, etc. If people aren't talking to me, it's probably because they haven't met me.
I have to remind myself on an almost daily basis that people aren't mind readers. If people aren't coming to talk to me I need to go to them. I need to put myself out there. And if they're not calling maybe they're busy. Maybe they have their own issues going on. (Or maybe they have something going on but I'm supposed to be supporting them and have totally forgotten because I'm thinking about me. Yep has happened more than once...lol). It's a weird balance, this recovery thing...I'm learning to take care of myself while also learning to stop thinking about myself all the time. It's strange, but both of those things actually fit together really well. I used to let my health go entirely. Now I'm taking care of it but and recognizing my own needs, but part of that is also recognizing that I'm not the center of everyone's universe. For example, with this R situation...she and I used to be a lot closer, but now I've made a point of distancing myself from her. She's on a serious negative spiral right now, and I am learning to value the positive in my life. I try to help others where I can, but I recognize when I need to be around people that build up the positive in me because it can be shaky sometimes. R is a bit of a vampire...she takes a lot and gives very little back right now. That said, many people have said I should stop being friends with her all together, but that's not something I'm going to do. Like I said I used to be where she is and I feel for her. Her birthday is coming up soon and I'll still give her a card. I'll go to her celebration if I'm asked (though I'm getting the feeling now that I won't be! lol). I'll be there for her if she wants the support. But I'll be honest with her and let her know she's pushing people away. I'm not going to cater to her why me, what about me, notice me, etc. I'm not going to go begging for her friendship, trying to convince her she's important, because that just plays into her manipulation and doesn't help in the long run. The next time I get a chance to talk to her, I'll let her know (in a loving way) that I think she's being selfish and I think she needs to change her thinking. That might sound mean, but I believe it's the best thing I can do for her as her friend.
I finally understand what people have told me for so long about choosing to be miserable. It doesn't mean that you can snap your fingers and suddenly be happy, but R is showing me that if you're not willing to look outside yourself and make some changes you're going to keep being miserable. It's hard to watch but she's isolating herself and then blaming us for her loneliness. She could've chosen to be a part of the fun the other night, but instead she chose to stay home, likely dwelling on how people supposedly didn't like her. It wasn't our job to chase her down and convince her to come. It was her job to make the decision to be there. Every day it's my job to make the decision to be present for my own life. If I'm isolated, alone, and miserable it's likely because of a decision I made.
And here I thought I was too sick to have much of anything to say! lol
I'm grateful for honest friends who will let me know if I'm making bad decisions. These friends show me they believe in my ability to do better and they want better for me. If they see me going down a bad path they not only show me but they support me all the way back to where I want to be. I'm very lucky to have them!
Thursday, May 22, 2014
We live in a negative world. Has anyone else noticed that? And I don’t mean just because bad shit happens. Yes, of course, bad shit happens. But I’m talking about the competition that seems to be going on out there to be the most miserable. Somewhere along the line it became “cool” to have it the hardest, and less than cool to be joyful. Isn’t happiness something we aspire towards? In theory, yes, but we look down on happy people like there’s something wrong with them. It’s like we’d rather try to be the biggest martyr about how unhappy we are than actually work to be happy. (And yes, being happy does take work).
We all have our shit that we go through. It’s useless to try to compare and see who has it worst, because what we deal with is unique to us. Whatever is the worst thing we’ve dealt with is the worst thing we’ve dealt with…so to us that’s what “almost unbearable” looks like. Also, what we know in our life is what we learn how to handle. I have traumatic nightmares and flashbacks from the past. They suck, and at times have been almost too much to manage, but I’ve learned to cope with them. Others have said that they can’t imagine having to live through what I did back then and what I deal with now. Thing is, I don’t know a life without PTSD. I don’t remember a life before trauma. But I look at what other people go through, and feel the same way others do towards me. I absolutely can’t imagine being thrust into a world where everyone else is speaking a language that I don’t understand. I can’t imagine having to get by 100% in a second language. That sounds terrifying to me. But that’s what many of the kids I work with deal with every day. I can’t imagine living in a war-torn country, or in a place where life is otherwise so bad that you’ll pack up your family and go to a new country where you don’t speak the language, aren’t treated all that well, and have to move into a tiny house with 8 other family members just to be able to afford to live. But that’s what many of my kids, and families all over the country have to go through. There’s so many challenges I can’t imagine…that I don’t know if I’d be able to deal with…if I were sick or if I were blind or if I were whatever. Point is, we all have stuff in life that makes life hard.
But why do we seek it out and dig it up? I spent YEARS of my life dwelling on the fact that my trauma made my life unmanageable and essentially unlivable. I was miserable. Until my first sponsor told me to let it go and stop being miserable about it. At first I was pissed. Of course I’d let go of it if I could! But over time I’ve realized that that wasn’t the case. I was actively holding on to it and not allowing myself to be happy.
That said, I hate the phrase, “Just choose to be happy” or anything related to that. That doesn’t really describe it either. What I believe we have the choice in is deciding whether we’re going to find the good in each moment or the bad. Because whatever we’re looking for, we’ll find. That doesn’t mean that we’ll never be angry or upset. That’s a part of life, and in my opinion if you’re not angry sometimes you’re not really living. And there’s nothing wrong with experiencing and processing anger. In fact I think it’s healthy and necessary. In the past when I thought I didn’t need to do that….when I thought I was just so peaceful…really I was stuffing everything deep down inside and becoming more and more angry subconsciously.
I know I’ve said a lot of this stuff on here at various times already, so sorry if this is repetitive. What brought it to mind recently is that I was reading through some different things online and I was struck by how sad everything seemed to be. We live in a beautiful world and we only get one chance to exist within it! Why are we spending it all being upset, angry, and stressing about what might go wrong? Without a doubt I still have bad days, but even on my bad days I’m generally laughing and having a good time. That’s because I no longer let bad days take over my good life.
I guess that’s what I’m getting at through all this. There’s a difference between being happy/positive or upset/negative about something that’s happened, and BEING happy/positive or upset/negative. The first is a reaction to an event, the second is a worldview. I found the ability to be truly happy when I let go of my happiness needing to depend on the world around me. I used to be on a perpetual roller coaster…if something good happened in my life I felt good. If something bad happened I was miserable. All day every day it was back and forth, up and down. It was exhausting, and I never felt ok or peaceful. If I was in a down spot I was either feeling stuck or looking for what good event was going to pull me back up…wondering if I’d ever find something big enough/good enough/whatever. If I was up, it was like being at the top of the hill after the roller coaster has done its climb. I knew things were going to drop into a wild and rapid descent at any moment. I couldn’t get the full enjoyment of the up times because I was bracing for impact for the next bad thing. So I wasn’t fully living. I wasn’t fully experiencing my life because I was always trying to look ahead for what might come next to change wherever I was.
Today I don’t see my life as a roller coaster. I see my life as a river. It is a large and majestic river. Everything that happens to me is a droplet, a ripple, a wave, etc. that all helps to make up the river. But no one thing can change the course of the river itself, or stop it from flowing. Good events and bad add themselves in and eventually dissolve together…no longer visible as separate entities but still a part of the collective. The river itself flows towards happiness and contentment. That’s because I choose to hold on to the beauty I see in life…in my environment, in the people around me, in my faith, and in my experiences. And there is always beauty. On bad days there is the beauty of my friends supporting me or a chance to visit my “god spot” and find peace that way. There’s the beauty of healing itself. I’ve been so blessed with an amazing recovery community, with people who have shown me the way and people who I am able to help. Today I’m able to be a positive example of hope. I NEVER thought that would be something I could be, but what a beautiful thing to be! If nothing else, there’s beauty in the fact that I get to be a daily f-u to the people that hurt me…just by living each day, being successful, and not letting them control me. (Ok maybe f-u isn’t the most beautiful thing I could go with but it works for me J ).
I know I can’t make people change their thinking, no matter how much I want to grab them and shake them sometimes! I don’t say that to judge, it just makes me sad to see people missing so much of life by spending it stressing and in pain. It’s up to every individual to change his/her own thinking, and it’s not easy. It’s not something that happens overnight. It takes work to seek the beauty rather than the stress, the fear, and the what if’s. It takes a lot of faith to enjoy the moment rather than stress about bracing for every scary possibility. But the effort is so so incredibly worthwhile. My life today is beyond anything I could’ve imagined back when I was in roller coaster mode. The funny thing is, my circumstances have changed very little. I didn’t win the lottery and my life didn’t suddenly become amazing by some other means. The life I have today is beyond anything I could’ve wished for during my depressed “yuck” times, but outwardly very little has changed since back then. What has changed is my perspective and what I put my effort and energy towards.
(Disclaimer: Because I know there are a couple of people reading this who are probably wondering….this is in no way directed towards any one particular person. A particular online discussion I read made me think of it, but it’s been on my mind to write for a long time now).
I’m grateful to have the chance to be positive, peaceful and content.