Saturday, February 17, 2007

Becoming myself again

I recently left a not-particularly-healthy relationship. I'm not going to take all the blame for its failure, and neither am I going to heap all the blame on my ex; we both bear responsibility for it. I've spent the last few months discovering all the damage I suffered over the last fifteen years, and slowly beginning to heal it.

See, somehow I'd gotten to this point where Lewis's approval was more important to me than my own opinion of my life and what I was doing. So the least little 'failure' on my part would send me into paroxysms of guilt and shame. He didn't help with this; he had an unfortunate tendency to point out the bad at the expense of the good, and then to overreact to said bad.

His first words upon coming home from work were more often 'this place is a wreck' or 'all I smell is litterbox' or 'aren't you making dinner tonight' than something more loving like 'hi honey, I'm home, how was your day'. I longed for the occasional times he did express a bit of that love, and eventually got to the point where I'd put up with any amount of yelling and grumpitude, then excuse it after a kind word because 'see, he does love me and so it's okay'.

Then there were the times he'd come home and I hadn't scooped the litter boxes, or hadn't made dinner, or some other 'failing'; and he'd had a bad day at work, or a tough ride home; and where I might say 'hey, I've had a really crappy day, I'm going to go and hide in my room for a while so I'm not an asshole' he'd just explode, yelling over the least little thing and blaming me for his mood. Eventually he did begin to tell me, once he'd cooled down hours later, that the problem wasn't actually me; but by then the damage had been done. If I messed up, I got yelled at, and that was the lesson I learned.

So I've a fear of messing up, and I've had a very hard time not carrying this over to my relationships with Tim and Ray. Much more Tim than Ray, since in a lot of ways Tim reminds me very much of my ex (fortunately not in the bad ways!). I've caught myself cringing from fear of Tim getting upset at me for something like making the wrong thing for dinner. I know in my head that he won't; he's happy enough just to not have to cook himself, and quite frankly he eats just about anything. But that fear is still there. My rational mind can say 'he's not like that' all it wants, but in the back of my head I still expect a scolding.

He's caught me at it, too. I've done something dumbassed but minor any number of times and then stood there, cringing, and he'll quietly and patiently tell me I've done nothing to apologize for. And then, half the time, he'll lean over and lick my nose or something smartassed like that. Even Ray's caught me doing it once or twice; and they both do their part towards pushing me to make my own decisions.

And I've made progress. I've made decisions for me; big ones, like 'which job am I going to take'. I've made decisions for the lot of us. Mostly small ones, like 'what's for dinner' or 'where are we going today' (though 'what's for dinner' has a lot of baggage for me) but one fairly big one, that being 'we're getting Tim to the hospital now'.

I've made progress in other ways, too. Tim can say 'hey, you're doing a thing that annoys me' and instead of groveling and apologizing and feeling as if I've been Bad I simply apologize and try not to do it again. He can say 'when you get home we have something to talk about' and I'm not terrified until the conversation happens. This stuff? It's all pretty new.

I caught myself while I was back in Pennsylvania for Christmas. I was having a bit of trouble breathing; there's more oxygen in the air, but all the extra humidity in the air apparently sets off my asthma now. I looked at myself and said 'I need to get into shape'. The problem was when I wondered if I could get enough exercise in a week to make enough of a difference that Tim would notice it.

And then I caught myself. I'm not doing this for Tim. I'm doing it for me. Could I get enough exercise that I would notice the difference?

Which I didn't manage (though I have done so since then). But the mental shift was more important, right then, than beginning the exercise program.

It's a small step; they're all small steps. But each one is a step and each one gets me closer to being me

And I could say that every small step is one step closer to me and Tim and Ray all in a happy triad...and that'll be a lovely thing if it works out, but that's not what it's about. It's about me becoming me.


Jenne said...

*sympathetic noises* It's a tough road, but worth it.

seeking chivalry said...

Thank you. Means a lot, and even more coming from someone I know understands.

Little by little, bit by bit...