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.

More Than Routine

I suppose I’ve always been a creature of habit; of routine.  Like many – maybe even most – I have specific things I do when I get up in the morning, and before I go to bed at night.  I travel the same route to and from work most of the time, and usually go for the same spots on the subway and streetcar.  I  have a favourite area to sit in the movie theatre.  I even buy pretty much the same things at the grocery store.

Many of those routines and rituals are born of convenience and logic.  They are things I need to get done before I leave for work, or it’s the quickest way from Point A to Point B.  Things I do every day because they need to be done, and usually on a schedule that is also the same each day.

I’d be super easy to stalk, really.  I rarely deviate except out of necessity.

But there are so many more things I do that most people don’t know about, and that I barely catch myself doing, in part because they are habit and in part because they make no sense.

I breathe a certain way if I feel there are germs in the vicinity, because inside I feel like it helps keep me from getting sick.  It doesn’t but I feel like it does.  I say certain things to the animals before I leave the apartment, because I feel like it will keep them safe.  Maybe they also have a better understanding of what’s happening because they hear the same words at certain times, but while that’s a best case scenario, I mostly do it because I feel it’s like a protection spell to last until my return.  It’s not, but I feel like it is.  I try to make sure my right hand is the last one to touch them before we part, instead of my left.  I like things to be in odd numbers instead of even, from the time my clock displays when I turn off a light, to the number of seconds I count in my head when rinsing with mouthwash, to the number of treats I give Brody after a walk.

All of these things are so small, they are barely noticeable even to me.  They are not quite superstition, but their power exists in my inability to shake the certainty that something terrible will happen if I don’t do them.  And what’s worse is that the terrible thing will actually be all my fault.

On a logic level, I know that’s ludicrous.  But the feeling is so powerful that I’d honestly rather be safe than sorry.  I’d rather leave a bit late while I wait for the minute display on the clock to be an odd number than return home to find my apartment burned to the ground.  Logically I know that the odd-numbered minute does nothing to prevent or cause such a thing, but inside me, there is actual panic freezing me in place.  And while the physical manifestation of these little habits has changed over the years, the certainty that I would be to blame if something terrible happened if I didn’t do them has, I think, always been there.

Does that kind of pressure – having to remember to do all of these things in order to prevent something much worse from happening – cause much of my anxiety?  Or is it the anxiety of knowing so much of what happens in life is out of my control the reason that I started trying to invent small ways of retaining some sense of control?

Chicken or egg?  Either way, they are for certain related to one another.

For the most part, I see no reason to be concerned.  These little habits don’t hurt anyone, and so far they at least haven’t taken over my life to the point of being frozen inside of my own mind, and only able to move about the world in tiny increments.  I still live a pretty normal life from the outside. The panic has not yet crippled me.  There’s always the chance that it will, but I think – if it does – it’ll be a slow build and I will be able to see it coming.

Of course, whether or not I actually do anything to rein it back in is a different matter.

I remember as little kids, my brother and I would always get a hamburger happy meal when we went to McDonald’s.  It was a treat to go there, because there wasn’t one closer than a half hour’s drive away.  One time, our babysitters took us to what was then a new-ish drive-thru option, and we ordered hamburgers while they ordered cheeseburgers.  Naturally, the order got messed up but no one noticed until we’d pulled away.  We only got cheeseburgers.

With mild trepidation, my brother and I took a bite of the hamburger with cheese, then immediately realized the genius of having cheese included on a burger.  After that, we always ordered cheeseburgers.  Those kinds of habits are different, of course.  We just didn’t know yet how much we loved cheese.  Nothing bad was going to happen if I didn’t eat my regular hamburger, other than perhaps not loving what I ended up eating instead.  But it feels much the same inside.  There’s the same kind of uncertainty, but added to it is, like, actual fear.

Incidentally, remember how awesome happy meal toys used to be?  I’d totally go for much of that stuff even now!  They should offer retro/classic happy meals for adults, with toys from Tron and The Black Hole and the like.  I’d be all over that.  I remember getting a plastic “watch” that had a secret compartment where the watch face was. Of course, it wasn’t that secret because it was freaking huge, but still cool.  Made me feel like a spy, or something.

I took a course in, like, first or second year university- I can’t even remember what it was now – and the prof taught us the various stages of conflict that each of us must go through in order to grow as a person.  The first one happens before you are born – Trust vs Mistrust.  You have to feel safe enough to enter the world in a healthy and confident way, apparently. Something occurred to me that day, which has stayed with me and been reflected upon several times since.

On an emotional level, it’s entirely possible that I’m still inside the womb.

Edited to add:  It was9:13am when I pushed the “Publish” button on this post, but it switched to 9:14am as it was posting.  I’m going to try to be okay with that, because hitting the button was the only part within my control.