On Dreams And Adapting

I had a dream about one of my exes last night.

Well, not exactly about her, but all the ridiculous drama – particularly near the end – featured quite heavily throughout. It’s likely my own fault for watching Bachelor in Paradise, but still. It’s had an odd effect on my waking life mindset today.

I’m angry.

Not raging mad, or anything, just a kind of over the bullshit feeling. It feels rather empowering.

Of course, I’m also exhausted, so that is likely feeding my grumpy ill-temper, as well, but whatever. I’ll focus on the empowering part!

It’s weird to stand outside of someone else’s relationship – romantic or even just friend-wise – and see a glaring imbalance within it. Weirder still is standing inside of your own relationship and seeing it – yet accepting it, anyway. Even helping to perpetuate it. Such an odd sensation to kind of hate it, and kind of hate yourself for standing for it, yet still kind of assuming that maybe that’s how it’s supposed to be. Maybe just for you, maybe just for this relationship, but still accepting it nonetheless. The logic side of you is disgusted with the whole thing. The emotional side of you is more conflicted and unsure how to proceed, so you just kind of sit there inside of it and wait for something or someone to tip the scales in a different direction. Sometimes you even think it’ll be you who tips them – just maybe not quite yet.

The ex in my dream was a compulsive liar, I think would be the term, in real life. I knew this very early on, and I adapted to basically take everything she said with a grain of salt. I think I spoke to this before, in that not believing her became a habit which was then transferred into my next relationship, until I realized what I was doing and willed myself to cut it out and treat that new relationship as the wholly different entity that it was. I still catch myself being quietly sceptical of those around me sometimes, though. I’m not sure if it can all be traced back to that relationship, or if I just have trouble trusting people in general. Same result, either way, though.

Anyway, the lies weren’t necessarily huge, and weren’t usually hurtful towards others. I figured it was kind of a defence mechanism to keep people from getting too close to the real person inside; that it likely stemmed from some deep inner self-hatred, the source of which I was never privy. It was always clear, however, that it had nothing to do with me personally. It was just a part of who she was, and I decided I couldn’t pick and choose which parts of a person I would love, so I chose to essentially ignore some of those parts, instead.

I do that will all living beings, really. No one is perfect, so I chose which parts I like and ignore the rest, if the parts I like outnumber and outweigh the parts I don’t, I mean. Like, I don’t love that Flynn poos on the mat more often than she poos in the litter box, but I love Flynn for much more than where she poos, so I adapt and tolerate and go on loving her fluffy self. I chose to deal with the things I don’t like because there are so many more that I do.

Same with the lying ex. I didn’t realize at the time how far-reaching some of the effects of those choices I made then would be, but still – I didn’t make them blind. I knew pretty much exactly what I was doing. I remember deciding to just adapt and go with it. I remember making excuses for that decision. I remember not being surprised when it all came back to bite me, but still being incredibly hurt by it. Not that I thought it wouldn’t, or that I was special, or that I could change her with my love. Nothing like that. I think it was more just choosing to adapt to it – to change myself a little bit instead.

I think a lot of people do that – maybe everyone, maybe more often women – but a lot of people, regardless. I can’t keep track of the number of times I’ve seen one person – often a guy – talk down at someone else – often a woman – and watched the woman just take it. As though maybe a part of her believes whatever he’s saying to be actual truth. And maybe it is, but it’s his truth, and she takes it on as her truth, as well. Maybe some part of me believed I deserved to be lied to by my partner; perhaps as penance for not trusting anyone to begin with (damn you, X-Files!), or perhaps just because that’s what I get when I don’t open myself up to anyone else, either. Maybe I felt I was strong enough to take it on when few others could, which in turn made me feel kind of special. Like an emotional superhero, loving those who feel they are unlovable.

Whatever the reason, it wasn’t the first time I allowed an imbalance to permeate a relationship/friendship, and it wasn’t the last. It’s interesting that watching a cheesy “reality” show could dredge up some of those old emotions to the point where they had to show up all throughout a dream that otherwise had nothing to do with them. Now it’s all swirling around in my mind again, even though I haven’t seen that person in almost 13 years now, I’d say. I guess it’s not really the specific person, anyway, so much as the feelings that evolved throughout our relationship and then escalated during our ridiculously dramatic relationship.

Like, people are mean – to each other, to other living things. Giving someone the power to hurt you is hard, especially once other hurt-y people have paved the way for them in the past. I think the kind of cool thing for me today, though, is that I’m more angry than hurt, and that’s a newer stage for me. I mean, I went through them all back in the day, too, don’t get me wrong. I was hella mad, I was vengeful, I was afraid and I was devastated. I was all over the place, dealing with that sense of loss. Even to the point of not really considering it a loss sometimes.

I remember, like, a day or two after i moved out, I went back to get the last of my things while she was at work. With her permission – she knew I was going in and that I’d leave my key once I’d retrieved the rest of my stuff, most of which she had thankfully packed for me so it’d be a quick trip. I knew she’d screw me over on a lot of it, too, because she didn’t really care if I ever got everything that was mine back, but still. It was mostly just stuff, with no real value to anyone but me, anyway. The first thing I noticed when I got in the door was that every photograph of me or us or anything to do with us had been removed from their frames and replaced with entirely different pictures. She’d essentially erased my existence from her life, pretty much overnight. That realization ruined me to the point where I stuffed as many of my remaining belongings into as I could into a garbage bag and booted it out of there, never to return.

Well, and I left my key. I’m not the asshole she expected me to be, after all.

I also accidentally left behind a few items that were personally very important to me, and never saw them again, either, which sucks. That hurts more now than the picture thing, actually. One hurt was in the moment, and the other – which was a direct result of the first – has had long-lasting emotional repercussions.

I feel like there’s a lesson in that…

Anyway. I’m grumpy today, and feeling less like putting up with other people’s crap than usual, which is probably a good thing.

I will, however, still put up with Flynn’s crap, because the things to love about her will always outweigh the…crap.

The Lying Wall

I once dated a person who was, for all intents and purposes, a chronic liar. And when I say ‘dated’, I mean moved in with and tried to forge a relationship. I knew about 2 weeks in about the constant lying; about how very little of what she shared about herself and her life was untrue, yet I slipped easily into the role of placating and enabling. There was much more there, to my mind, so to me it was worth it. At least I went in with eyes wide open, I figured, and the lies were mostly unimportant, in that I didn’t care if a particular event happened or didn’t happen in her past – I was dealing with the person in front of me, instead. I felt at the very least it was a good exercise in learning compassion, empathy and patience. I tried to be supportive of the person standing in front of me, even as I took everything said with a grain of salt. Or a silo of salt, depending on the circumstance.

Anyway, this isn’t really about trying to defend either one of us. We all make choices, and we all live with them. Whatever.

The interesting thing is how the whole experience bled over into the rest of my life, even to this day, though to a much, much lesser degree.

I spent just over a year in that relationship, and apparently that was enough to form certain habits in my relations with other people. Friends, mostly, because I only had one actual relationship after that, but really, it’s affected everything in some form or another.

I didn’t notice it until that next relationship, but that’s likely because that was the first person I allowed myself to really get closer to, and be vulnerable with. It’s an odd experience, to remain vulnerable and honest when you don’t really believe what the other person is presenting to you. When you see mostly a façade, yet allow yourself to be open and real…it’s peculiar. One would think, looking at it from the outside, that it would be difficult to just be yourself, and not put your own guard up, as well. But I think it’s actually easier that way. Like how actors often feel more free on stage than in one-on-one scenarios. There’s something liberating about being able to just put yourself out there and not be too concerned with what will get reflected back to you. When you talk to a brick wall, you don’t worry about what it thinks of you; you just talk. And when it goes a step further to reflect only acceptance and love as a reward for opening up, it actually feels pretty good. You’re still aware that it’s a façade and only partly true, but part-real love is better than all-real hate any day.

When you are open to accept any amount of positivity, it’s amazing where you can find it, and how far even a little bit can go.

There are, of course, downsides. One is that eventually the lies will be about you, so if you’re not at least a little confident, that can be destructive. I lucked out somehow, because while most of my confidence was shattered by my own mind, at the time, where this liar chose to strike was in a ridiculous area that didn’t really affect me at all. The insinuation that I had removed a small amount of cash from a place where I didn’t even know there was any – after I’d just “loaned” her $1500 (which I also knew would never be paid back) – was pretty ludicrous. I think I actually laughed at the accusation, but I can’t really remember. It affected me that little.

No, the lies that turned on me were not very severe, and far too familiar to what had been said about her ex when they broke up. They were a non-issue, and nowhere near what I’d been expecting.

Weird to be in a relationship and just waiting for both shoes to drop and the lies to become more personal.

Another downside is the one that has stayed with me, and that is in the distance I create between myself and other people in my life now, and ever since. Whatever barrier I’d put up between her and I has basically stayed up. I guess it was more around me than it was between us, and I sometimes still catch myself questioning things more than I’ve been given reason to. Questioning or doubting…the assumption that no one is being completely honest with me is a tricky path to navigate sometimes. It doesn’t stop me from being open with other people, but it does stop me from accepting any kind of real affection or other positive emotion.

I just don’t believe anyone.

I mean, I can’t blame that all on this one person, of course. I know the sensation existed long before that; for as long as I can remember. But it was such an easy mindset to slide into, and not even notice it until more than a decade later. As well, it’s one thing to notice, but another to dismantle and re-create something else. My therapist has given me crap for that more times than I can count; for not looking at her during a session, for not allowing an actual connection to be established, for denying myself the ability to see for myself how someone else feels about me, and how in the moment they are. Even with her, part of my brain knows I’m paying her to listen to me, and thus doesn’t completely receive anything more personal from her.

Usually when she says something nice to her, I tell her she must be drunk. It’s our little joke; one that she only puts up with to a point.

I remember describing how my first therapist was kind of like a hologram to me; that she didn’t exist outside her office space. That she was just there for me to vent, and when I left the room, she ceased to exist. She broke the barrier one day by touching my arm out of genuine concern, and the realization that she was an actual human being crashed in on my consciousness with more force than I ever would have believed possible. Had anyone asked me before that moment if she was real, I would have said, “yes, of course she is” and thought the other person was a tad loony. But I didn’t really feel it – didn’t know it with my full being – until that day.

It’s a weird barrier. It allows me to feel safe enough to be open and express myself more than I did before the liar came into my life and I constructed this particular wall in response. But it doesn’t allow me to receive anything real from anyone else. As an added bonus, it also allows me to blow perceived negativity way out of proportion if I think there is any directed at me. It basically skews my reality, even as it allows me to express myself more.

In other news, I’m looking into possibly working with some cool writing prompts, just for fun. I maaay even post the results of some of those exercises here! Stay tuned!