It takes a lot for me to quit anyone as a friend. I have realized that I put up with a lot, mostly because of how I grew up as a child. “You are terrifically loyal” (to a fault) my mother would say, in praise, either in an effort to deepen and reinforce my loyalty to her and her tribulations, or to inspire it from the ether.
I learned this about myself this week. I’ve been sick with bronchitis and a sinus infection and the growth of these maladies was so subtle that I didn’t notice it was happening until I was prone on my bed murmuring, “Oh my God… Oh my God…Oh my God… Oh my God…Oh my God… Oh my God…” through the pain. Through the pressure.
I have often said that of sinus infections (of which I have endured my share), that the time to call in the professionals is when I repeat “Oh my God… Oh my God…” a thousand times (and it ends up sounding like “obygaht… obygaht….” as well as utter the following novel concept of facial reconstruction:
“I want to take a zipper around my face, from below my chin, along my jawline, along my hairline and to the other side to meet at the chin again and unzip my face from my skull. Then, I want to take my face and shake it out and then zip it back up, just so.” (I’ll leave the nasal translation to your imagination: “N” becomes “B,” “D” becomes “HT” and “S” sounds like “Zn.”)
This one came out of nowhere, I think. The symptoms in my face were not so horrid until I admitted defeat and said to my husband, “I neeb do zee uh dogtoh.”
“Do you want me to take you?” he asked (he’s awesome).
“Yezdh.” And I barely walked to the car.
When I was finally seen (note to self: wait until AFTER the NFL game kickoff before going to see a doc-in-a-box), the doctor asked me, “Why are you here?”
“Beguzdh I veal lyghe crahb.”
He took one look at my right ear and said, “Feelled all de waiy. Dat ear ees feelled. Oh my. You cahn’t hold anymoh fluid…” (He was a lovely man from a part of the world with lots of consonants and only a few vowels in the last name.) So he went to the other ear and said the same thing. Then said, “Let’s juss looook aht dat sinus, jusss to be shure.”
And then, “Yup.”
So then he did the stethoscope and nodded. “How long you feel like deese? Why you wait sooo long?”
And I said, “Zogger games. I hud du go du my zon’s zogger games.”
“In dis weathuh? No. Not like this.”
I tried to sound convincingly happy… “I made hod cocoah. It’s gud. I drank dat… a lod….”
“Not good enough to beat dhis…” he said, standing up and reaching for his prescription pad. I left that office with three prescriptions. One for antibiotics. One for a nasal steroid and another for sleeping through a cyclone so I don’t cough.
It’s all working magically, this prescription stew. And can I give a shout-out my homie Mucinex D? Holla!!!
So what’s the corollary between a sinus infection & bronchitis and the demise of a friendship / relationship for me? It’s this: I sometimes take a lot of shit from people. I sometimes put up with a lot. And it’s not until the end, when I’m on my face saying “obygaht… obygaht….” that I am ready to admit dysfunction, that the law of diminishing returns is indeed at play in my psychic world. That no amount of GIVING and PATIENCE with people is going to be the salve. That when the proper definition of “compassion” is at play, that we also have compassion for ourselves enough to remove ourselves from the chaos, as well has have compassion enough for the other person to show them what shrews they are being.
And then… when the actions have been verified by a neutral third party as being obscene and horrid (such as in the case of the multiple infections) that I am liberated and allowed to say, “Duh hell wid dhat.” I put up with a lot.
I tried to express this schematic to a person today. A person who grew up in a normal world. A person who didn’t put up with the “let’s make a bull’s eye on your chest” -forming existence that created me today, and she tilted her head and said, “I guess so. I just know that when I feel like crap that I need to rest and take it easy. Or if I have someone in my life who’s treating me like garbage, that I need to take a break or leave.”
“NOT ME!!” I wanted to shout back. “I was one of those people, trained to put up with garbage and crap and stink and then shower and then go back at it again and again… that’s how I ROLL…” but I realized how insane that was. How insane that I ignore my own stink and that I allow the bull’s eye and that I put up with the nonsensical madness of abuse and the small daggers that eventually lead up to my being stabbed or clotheslined.
When I used to hit my threshold, it would just kept inching along, to the point of utter desensitization and then I’d miss all the cues. And then, later, when I’d sit up after being broadsided by the (betrayal / dysfunction / bronchitis) bus I shake my head like Shaggy or Scooby-Doo and say, “Was it something I said?” Still not seeing the damage as not being my fault, or simply as a symptom of taking too much crap.
So it’s like that. That’s the corollary. That’s the allowance we need to give ourselves. I’ve been in a few amazing situations where I’ve hurt people and they’ve welcomed me back. That does not come without a sincere heaping of “I’velearnedmylesson” and a realization that I must be my own person in order to be a good person to someone else. Lots of my actions and biases were fed to me, so it’s no surprise that my tolerance would also be fed to me.
Sometimes, in order to get back to our base, to come back to ourselves, we need to be broadsided after putting up with chronic weirdness due to the thickening of our skin (or our skulls). We need to have sense shaken back INTO ourselves in order to see where we’ve been abused. We need to have a neutral third party look at us and say, “You’re filled all the way. You can’t take anymore. How long have you felt like this? Why do you wait so long?”
Because you think it will get better? Because you hope your friend / S.O. will change?
Screw that. Be the change. I have realized after many years of therapy (oh! the boots I could have instead of the relative sanity!) that when you change yourself in a system, the system inevitably changes. Sometimes we stick around and things improve. Sometimes we stick around and things don’t change at all. Then we know. As long as we’ve changed, as long as we’ve done what we can to improve ourselves, then that’s how the healing begins. We can’t change what isn’t ours.
I’m proof that when you change yourself, the changes happen. When you go to the doctor, when you get the antibiotics, the healing begins. The friendships I had before I got “healthy” emotionally, almost all of them are toast. The ones that changed along with me (my marriage), they’re still around and I’m so glad of it. The ones that stayed where they were despite my changing for the better (for myself), they are in the rearview mirror.
We can only put up with so much for so long.