Tag Archives: masochism

Glutton for Masochism and When It Ends


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.”)

I got so sick I turned into a man.

I got so sick I turned into a man.

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.

Thank you.

Cutting Off Is Never That Simple


I have never “enjoyed” the process of letting people go, of making the decision that cuts them out of my life.

It is incredibly hard. Depending on the depth of the relationship, it can be emotionally devastating. But so can staying with that energy, allowing it to cloud your judgement and color your thoughts.

I was once told that I seem to do it with such ease, that nary a thought occurs to me when I execute such a decision, that I seem cold, heartless and missing the bigger picture: that having sandpaper people in our lives can yield in us a softer and kinder person. That the parable of the pearl, created through agitation, can apply to us humans as well.

I get that. In fact, the phenomenon of a pearl’s creation is one of my most favorite analogies in dealing with life and its moments of intense difficulty.

I also think about bridges and how they snap under too much pressure; I think about how load-bearing walls are there for a reason; I think about how hurricanes and tornadoes and earthquakes and mudslides show us how when enough is enough, it’s often too much.

I have been a jerk to people and they’ve summarily cut me out. I get mad, defensive and feel like they’re insensitive to MY needs, that for some reason, I should be tolerated for epochs and should be able to just chip away at people because hey, “I’m flawed. Love me anyway, ok? Love me for me….”

Why? Why should people love me for me? Are they Jesus? Are they the Dalai Lama? Are they Mother Theresa? No. They are not limitless in their compassion (which means “to co-suffer,” by the way), and often it’s their compassion that needs to kick me to the curb. They need to get out of my way so that I can look at myself in all my idiocy, with all my raw data and no filter to see myself, as I can be: an asshole at times.

Enter nine years of therapy. Being raised by a brilliant, distant, narcissistic, elegant-on-the-outside, tortured-on-the-inside, terrified, caustic parent has prepared me for others like her all my life. I get it now: Mom prepared me all my life to be on the lookout for more people just like her.

Exploiting Kindness

Even Mom said to me when I simply couldn’t handle any further duplicity or hurt, “You have nooooooooooo problem just cutting people out of your life…. you just cut them off because you can’t handle what they show you about yourself… You’re not strong…. you’re weak….” and I used to believe that.

I used to think, “Holy shit. She’s right: I am unable to cope with this, I must be stronger and show myself that I can take it….After all, ‘what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger,’ right?” which from my now very-cheap seats, that kind of self-talk sounds a lot like masochism, and self-abuse. It looks a lot like enabling too: if we keep letting it happen, if we keep exposing ourselves to the same people who hurt us or that make us uncomfortable, then we are tacitly endorsing it, we are allowing it. All of this, and many more forms I’ve likely not mentioned looks a lot like putting ourselves last.

When we take a stand, we hear the appeals and the apologies and the boo-hooing and before you know it, you’re shoving your intuition down the tubes and taking care of the offender, by putting them first. You’re suddenly responsible for their feelings. You’re suddenly telling them it’ll be ok and thrust into feeling bad for making them see the truth. (More below.) It’s verrrrrry sneeeeeeaky.

I’m not talking about the discomfort that arises when you do something uncool and someone calls you out on it. I’m talking about witnessing an uncool act and then saying nothing about it. The former is an opportunity for change; the latter is fertile soil for codependency and continued ugliness.

Over time, the bridge can only handle so much load. Over time, the walls cave in. Over time, the bough breaks and down will come baby, cradle and all.

If you’re like me: you were conditioned to doubt what you saw and what you felt and rationalize everything that hurt. You were conditioned to try harder, longer and put up with more, to essentially stand in the lightning storm under a tree, then the guts and the gumption to begin to decide to cut people out often comes at a price: we are bruised, we are broken, we have suffered and we have poured out our spleen on the table — only to have to defend it. It’s madness.

But we still try. We try to keep the broken wagon rolling because we have been conditioned to do ALL WE CAN to abate the pain of the offender. We don’t want the other to feel bad for our exposure of their treatment …

Then there’s the actual decision: incredible self-doubt to make the decision to sit up, to stand up, to leave, to walk and to not look back. NONE OF THIS IS EASY.

Then there’s the weight of the decision, the appeals and the blame and the “but you’re not perfect either and I love you anyway!” music from the person who can’t sit with your decision, who can’t sit with the hurt they’ve inflicted on you, who can’t look themselves in the mirror and dig deep inside themselves to shine a light and look at why they do what they do — and not just to you, but to lots of people. Why they stir pots, why they fight so much, why they pick and tear at people and their psychic fabrics. They have to keep flapping because that keeps the dust flying. If they were to stop flapping and let the dust settle, they’d see the wash of destruction and hurt they’ve inflicted on people.

Another point, and it’s very subtly played out: When person A starts out with an apology, but it morphs into “you’re no prize either, I’ve seen you do some crazy shit…” You, person B, have naively slipped into the defending-yourself-for-no-apparent-reason-when-this-was-supposed-to-be-an-apology-from-the-other-person zone. It’s a slick slope.

I don’t like this feeling when I cut people out: the supposition that I’m intolerant, that I’m hard, that I have no flexibility, that I’m the one who is unkind, that I don’t forgive and forget, that I’m super-sensitive and that I have no compassion.

But is that me? Am I projecting that opinion on to myself and placing it on society? When I’ve heard similar stories from other people about treatment they’ve endured up until a point or whilst in the midst of it, I’m certain I’ve said, “That sucks. You need to cut bait and leave…” So why should I, why should you, why should anyone stick around?

Is there some great grand lesson? Heck yes! The lesson is this: IF IT HURTS, STOP DOING IT OR IT WILL CONTINUE.

This is what we say in yoga, “Take the pose to your edge, no pain. If you feel pain, back off. You are not supposed to feel pain.”

I can’t believe for ONE second that we are put on this earth to suffer; that God or whatever you want to call it is so spiteful that we are supposed to ENDURE needless emotional pain, for that’s what lasts the most.

But I Love You Anyway…

Those people who try to pull this on you, say “I love you for you” and “You’re messed up just like I am…” are again placing their crap on you. It’s subtle and sneaky and I like to believe it’s even unconscious, but they are again saying, “Take me for how I am with all my shit [because I’m unlikely to change] because I take you with all your shit [which is equally screwed up; but even if it’s not*, my misery loves company and I can’t bear to be left alone with myself] and you and I will get along fine… [Just don’t remind me of what I do…]”

Don’t be fooled by it! They are trying to lump you in with their bad behavior; they are trying to point the finger at you; they are trying to play the upper hand, and BELIEVE ME: THEY ARE JUDGING YOU! Right there! They are judging you! It’s very very very subtle, but you’ve just been judged. They’re keeping score, they’ve been watching you screw up all along so that when the freaking hammer falls, they’ve got an ace to throw on the table. *if you’re drawing a line, if you’ve hit your limit, chances are you’re no longer as equally screwed up…

The last time I checked: if I didn’t give birth to you or marry you, I don’t have to take this. I can be nice, I can be civil, but there’s nothing else I need to give to you. Speaking of children, what are we modeling for them if we just keep taking it? To teach them resilience AND self-care, we must model strength in all its forms.

People who are close to self-actualized play fair and  this recent bullying experience has shown me all I need to know: if an adult is an actual adult, and possibly your friend, s/he doesn’t go after your kid to attack or argue with. They go after you. They don’t rationalize what they’ve done as “crazy” and they don’t offer forced apologies to continue to rationalize their behavior.

Any adult who goes after a child is a predator, no matter how you slice it: they go after the weaker and the smaller and I simply don’t have time for that.

God gave me my mother for a reason and I’m so grateful now. Mom showed me that I had to put up with only one person like her, because she honed me to deal with life in a very clear cut way: I must stand up for myself because expecting someone else to is folly. Shrouding abuse as friendship / love / marriage is really insidious.

As Travolta said …

Cutting people out is never easy. There can be community repercussions, you might lose some sleep over the decision, you might want to run back hours or days later and say, “I didn’t mean it! I am sorry I cut you out after you abused me! You’re right! I should’ve been stronger! We all make mistakes!” (DON’T DO THAT.)

Sometimes, it’s the only way. You don’t have to take it. You can’t be a jerk about it, but you don’t have to take it. A clean cut, no matter how difficult and uncomfortable, will also, my friends create a pearl, or brighter yet: a diamond, and that sparkly, shiny thing is you.

Thank you.