Apparently I was not as settled about what happened at work as I though. I talked about it at therapy and then later in group. I received excellent feedback about more effective ways to handle similar things. Lordy. I know that all of this is going well, and I am looking forward to my last day of therapy.
There is more help in my future because even when I arrive at a good place regarding all of the mess, I have come to understand and appreciate the value of excellent therapy as a tool for improving many aspects of my life. Perhaps this is not for everyone, I am fairly sure of that, but the process has drifting into other life issues and has been helpful and healing and has improved how I address and handle so many other things. It has been particularly informative in helping my clients. It has been a great help in moving towards calm and being more grounded, less rattled by all of the challenges life brings. And, we all have days when it is a relief to come through the day relatively unscathed. Yeah.
The experiences of the past two years have brought me here. Well, way longer than that, but those last years, but this recent period has been the catalyst for many things, like divesting myself of friends that really are not the kind of friends any of us would like or should have in our lives.
That separating from people who are not helpful to have a friends is so difficult. Being around her means that prying sad stuff from you so that she can share the gossip with her 'real' friends. Get smarter. Get rid of her. Talking on the phone with him is an frustration and a time waster whilst he rants about all of his problems and how his boss is screwing him over and his mother is smothering and his kids are ungrateful brats. Get off the phone and he feels much better for spewing and you now carry the burden of his crap. Get rid of him.
So, I have done that, taken a serious look at some of my relationships and found that either I was unable to continue to be the friend that someone needed me to be, or that having that other person as part of my life is simply not healthy for me. Because of my life circumstances I had may acquaintances, but few close friends. It is not possible to have a life that needs to be kept secret and have truly intimate friendships.
And, I digress a bit, but it needs to be said that the secrets were not only the things that happened to me, but include all of the millions of ways that I behaved and thought that were not representative of the person I could have been, wanted to be, should have tried harder to be. It is extraordinarily painful to be in the closet about who you are and not be able or willing to be your true self. As a result of my marriage I behaved in ways that did not serve anyone and manifested all kinds of things that shamed me then and continue to shame me now. I never did anything bad, but I, only on way too infrequent occasions, did not manifest my true self, the person that I wanted to and knew I should be, that person deep in here, my center, the ideal me. I am trying to make sure that that happens more now. I try every day to be that idealized person. She has been in that deep place too often and is out to play whenever she likes. She lives beside me now, instead of in the dark.
So, therapy good, fire bad. Oh, and it sometimes bothers me to be using all kinds of psycho-babble language, but I have come to accept that there are moments when only those words will do, properly express how I am processing (ah...) and working through stuff.
Back to Wednesday and my ex's friend. He was my ex's friend, not mine, although I knew him and his wife. He worked with my ex and one of their outside of work activities is that they had a card club, where they would take turns meeting at each other's homes on Saturdays to play cards, drink refreshing beverages and have their wives create fancy meals, serve, clean up and make a big deal about some even fancier dessert. Their daughter would babysit for our daughter and because we lived in the same neighborhood would often walk over and hang out. Even so, he and his wife were never my friends, mostly because they were my ex's friends and he did not like sharing. Not insisting on him sharing kept me safer.
It was what it was, and it was like that for every friend and co-worker and acquaintance that he had. I used to believe that I was not worth knowing and that he was ashamed of me and did not want to impose my presence on his friends. I think now that it was a way to keep the secrets of our dynamics, and assure that I would never let anything slip. Yeah. That.
I remember once, when our daughter was a toddler, he reluctantly brought us along to one of his baseball games. It had to do with us having only one car and that some important thing had to be done or picked up in the big city where he played ball and there would not be time after the game for him to come home and then take me back for the thing.
We arrived at the game and I asked where the other family members were sitting. He gestured and I went there. We climbed up on the bleachers and I said hellos to the women and their children sitting there and they just stared at me. Two of them looked at each other, meaningful glances ensued, and after a couple more attempts to talk to them, continued silence from them, my daughter and I moved. On the way home I told him about what happened and he would not reply either. Once again, it was a reinforcement of how I was flawed, not worthy of being with normal people. I have no proof, but it is most likely like the whole friend thing. The exact same thing happened over and over and I always knew that it was because there was something wrong with me, something un-fixable.
When he retired, he was forced to take me to a small dinner with some of his work friends and their wives. At the time of the invitation I did not know that he could not find a way to go without me, and it surprised me and since I had a marriage-lifetime of uncomfortable social context involving him, I declined, offering illness as an excuse. Possible because he made the request a few hours before we were supposed to meet the others. He became angry and insisted that I go, so I did. It was only when we were there that the conversation informed me that they were pleased that I agreed to come, having declined so many other chances to get together for so many years. Decades. What? Anyway, I mentioned the retirement party that I was having for him and his friends, coworkers and family and hoped to see them there, too.
I recovered and played along and played nice and I am pretty sure that my shame and new and painful understanding about all of that did now show. Writing this, I am experiencing all of that humiliation and pain and those feelings of betrayal all over again.
Near the end of the meal, one of the wives said that, now that I was less busy in my life (meaning that I was there finally) that she would see me at my ex's retirement party the next night. I said that I would do my best, as it was an important event and I was looking forward to it. On the drive home, he was angry and told me that I was not invited. I replied that I had told the others that I would be there, so I probably should be there. I asked where it was, he gave me the location and the next evening, after work, I drove to the restaurant where the party was being held.
It was a residential neighborhood, no businesses anywhere. I figured that in his distress about me being there that he made a mistake. I drove around the area for over an hour, looking for anyplace even remotely resembling a restaurant or tavern, stopped in and looked inside at a few and finally gave up, grabbed a drive-through hamburger and went home. When he arrived home he walked right past me and I asked how the party was. He smiled and said it was great, one of the best parties ever. I am a very slow learner.
The smiles. What is that all about? I know that a smile can cover all sorts of emotions, confusion, being uncomfortable, embarrassment, pain, suffering, lots of things. I remember all of those smiles he sent my way, and what they meant. And, then on Wednesday, that friend of his smiling that huge smile at me. It was not because we were close buddies and he had not seen me in a long time. I can only guess what that meant. But, the smiling is so distressing. It is like the seduction before the attack, the mesmerizing movements of the viper just before the strike.
I have to wonder what there is about me, what perception or vulnerability or availability I send out to people, what quality, what aspect of weakness I offer that informs some people that they can say anything, do anything they like to me. What is it that I do that seems to make it possible for that? Do I invite it? All I was doing was being polite. One of the women in group yesterday said that one of the reasons I stood there and took it was that I was in my work place. It is a volunteer position, but it is serious work that I do there. I am a respectable person, who receives respect whilst I am there. I show respect to everyone with whom I work, everyone who enters the place. Another woman said that I was being nice to someone who did not deserve it. But, I am nice to everyone. A third woman said to me something like, so, you are responsible for his bad behavior. Of course not.
But, there is an aspect about working with and being with people that does come with some responsibility. Other people can do or say or behave in any manner they like. No problem. My response is what I do or say or how I behave, and I do have a responsibility to not respond to bad behavior by being a bad person myself. I have a strong responsibility to respond in a way that does not further the original bad behavior. I have a responsibility to respond in, at the very least, a neutral manner. Responding in kind to bad actors does nothing to solve anything, nothing to further the dialogue in a productive way.
Still, I absolutely have to practice more, be ready to respond and be more self-protective if something like this happens again. It is unlikely because I have never known anyone in his life beyond his family. The chances of anyone else recognizing me are minute, and I surely would not recognize any of those people myself.
So much to think about whilst I straighten up around here. My house refuses to clean itself, so I have to help.