And all we needed was a net to break our fall

Posted: June 3, 2010 in personal

Another personal entry. Skip this if you’re bored by such.

One of my friends– and I can’t remember who, but I suspect it was someone who reads this blog, so apologies for not naming you and please speak up if it was you– told me recently that sometimes, when it comes to romantic partners, we choose people who we know will trigger us in very specific ways. This sounds masochistic, at first, but there’s a kinder way to interpret it: as my friend said, we do this because we want to be challenged; we want to grow. So we look for someone whose presence in our life will push us to do that.

I can’t stop thinking about this. I keep finding myself tripping over anxieties and insecurities I didn’t even know existed, lately. Like, oh, huh– that upsets me. Why does it upset me? Is it new, or is it something that I’ve dealt with before? Is it an isolated thing or part of a bigger problem? Have I picked other partners who triggered it in the past? Why?

I don’t think of myself as an insecure person, in general. I try to find what I think is the middle ground between dissatisfaction and complacency, because I want to recognize what’s gone right in my life and be pleased about what I’ve achieved, but I also don’t want to get lazy and stop feeling inspired to change, or to improve my situation or myself. Sometimes, in my darker moments, I swing all the way over to feeling like a failure, feeling like a worthless person; this is sometimes a sign that depression is sneaking up on me. But not always. Sometimes it’s a sign that I’m getting better, that I’m on the cusp of some real growth or progress, as though I’ve just taken the first step on a long path and have suddenly realized how far I still have to go. It’s not quite the same as hitting rock bottom; it happens after I’ve already made the decision to move forward. It means I’m shaking things up.

And lately I feel like all of my insides are in a blender set to Liquify.

I’m re-examining everything at the moment, because I don’t trust my instincts or my reactions. I have to be careful. My head’s full of emotional landmines, and most of them were planted so long ago, and I’ve been ignoring them for so long, that I’ve completely forgotten where they are or how to avoid them. And now suddenly I’m in a situation that’s forcing me to move forward whether I want to or not. I don’t think that’s an accident. I think I’ve done it on purpose. But I can’t just blunder forward mindlessly and expect not to have things blow up in my face. I have to think, strategize; I have to remember where the landmines are, and defuse them, carefully, one by one.

But, really, it’s terrifying. It’s terrifying to have my own vulnerabilities and insecurities laid bare, and not just for me to see or just for me to deal with. Other people are not pawns in my personal growth; they’re not obligated to stick by me no matter how I act, no matter how I treat them, no matter how difficult I make things for them or for our relationship. Sometimes they might choose to, anyway, and maybe they’ll walk with me and hold my hand while I find and defuse those landmines. Or maybe not. Certainly some haven’t. One particular person who I dated several years ago and was deeply in love with broke up with me very suddenly, without ever telling me why. To this day I have no explanation other than the one that I’ve imagined because it just feels true to me: the whole thing was just too much for him. He loved me, but not enough. The landmines were too treacherous. I don’t necessarily mean to imply, by that, that I was wholly in the wrong and he in the right; he was fairly immature, and completely unable to deal with his own emotions in anything but the most superficial way. He was a fair-weather boyfriend and never would have been able to stick it out through any real difficulty, and I know this because he never made even the tiniest effort to talk to me about anything or to even acknowledge the problem, let alone fix it. But I also can’t avoid the reality: I’m really fucking difficult to be with, sometimes.

I’ve recently started keeping a private journal again, and I’m using that to work through most of this. I can’t post everything here, because some of it’s too personal. And there are some things I need to say only to myself so I know I’m completely free from any possibility of judgment. I just lay them out like some exotic species of insect that I’m examining under a microscope; when it’s just me, brutal honesty doesn’t feel all that painful. And sometimes I’m surprised by how kind I can be to myself. Things have happened to me, things that I had no say in and that happened when I was young, things that sometimes make it hard for me to trust people or to believe that they won’t disappear. I’m not totally whole or healthy now, no. I’m not perfectly secure with sky-high self-esteem and a rock-solid sense of my own worth as a human being. I’m on shaky ground, sometimes. And that’s not my fault. But I can change it, maybe, if I can untangle it first.

I’m still wondering, as I write this, if I’m going to have the guts to post it. I probably won’t actually know until I hit Publish. Part of me is thinking, come on, no one wants to read this crap. And the other part is thinking, wait, no– if someone else wrote this, I’d want to read it! It’s a huge relief, sometimes, to know you’re not the only one. And, realistically, I know that I’m far from the only woman tortured by doubt and insecurity; that’s how we’re raised, after all. I’m always amazed by how gendered self-confidence is. I know so many men who are just completely and utterly secure in themselves, including some who really shouldn’t be, some who could really stand to be taken down a peg, who never doubt themselves for a second even when it’s clear that they should. Women like that exist, too– I’ve known a few in my time– but they’re so rare, comparatively, or at least according to my own very scientific studies which I have based on my own very scientific anecdata. (Honestly, I could probably find some stats backing this up after a mere five minutes with Professor Google, but I sort of doubt that anyone reading this blog would challenge me on this point.)

Anyway. I think I’ll post this, as an act of defiance if nothing else. I don’t have to keep it all inside; I can be That Guy, who knows– knows!– that everything he says is something that should be heard by someone. Then I can go back to my self-doubt and my landmines. But for now I’ll tell myself, and believe, that I’m doing the right thing. Just so I know how that feels.

  1. Yael says:

    Dear Steph,

    That was so honest and so beautiful. Thank you for sharing. And being brave enough to face your landmines.

    I think I may have been the person who said that we pick people who…challenge… us on the things that are most difficult for us– but I heard it from others first (including my therapist.)


  2. Stephanie says:

    Aw, thanks, I’m glad you liked the post. 🙂 I don’t know if facing all of this is due to bravery or not– I’ve definitely been avoiding it long enough. I think I’ve just realized that the cost of avoiding it is higher than I want to pay.

    And I thought it was you who said that! The word “challenge” certainly sounds a little less loaded than “trigger”, and I do recall now that that’s how you phrased it to me; I seem to have put my own interpretation on it based on how the experience has felt to me (the landmines thing really does sum it up pretty well). Either way, what you said really stuck with me, as you can tell! So, thank you. ❤

  3. Yael says:

    I’m glad it was helpful to you! 🙂 It’s kindof amazing to me how much my partner and I continue “challenge” each other… what this, again? But now we’ve gotten a lot better at realizing what’s going on– so it’s been a lot easier to defuse the bombs/landmines.

    I really like what you said about the cost of continuing to operate the way you have been just being too high– it’s a good way of putting it. That was my experience as well. Realizing that “this is just not working for me.” It led to my getting into therapy and, after much much resistance, getting on anti-depressants. Going through that process has helped me to become a much saner, happier person. Not that I’m totally done.. but I’m on the road.

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