Zero to reach operator

So, a recent writing prompt is about relationships, and it’s taken me a few days to complete it.

Relationships of all kinds, family, romantic, friendship, even work. Well, hell. This is the LAST thing I want to be thinking about right now, as I sit here on a very cloudy National Napping Day under my binkie with my dog and a second cup of coffee. I would rather get my COVID vaccine, or be stuck in the eye with a sharp stick. My preference would be the COVID shot, but I don’t have that choice just yet. But, that aside demonstrates my lack of enthusiasm for exploring the topic of relationships.

I. Suck. At. Relationships. Totally suck. I have never been able to discern the difference between users and give-and-take. I usually give way too much and get way too little. That happens, I suppose, but I tolerate it for a very long time. I train the user to perfect their craft, it seems. Don’t say I never gave ya nothin’, though. I sometimes wonder if my true resistance is that I don’t want to be treated as well as I think I do. Perhaps when people are TOO good to me, I have to screw it up, repel them somehow, run away. I wonder if that’s because I don’t feel that I can afford to trust people who talk a good game, seem to like me a great deal, love me even, accept my quirks, but still leave. That’s always been my experience…say you love me, then much later throw out boundaries – barriers, even – and leave. I suppose in my mind, I have driven them away.

Not sure who drives the escape vehicle, but regardless, there is somebody leaving. They change, and they leave. I suppose I change as well, but I rarely leave. You leave me before I leave you. Those are the rules. Not sure whose rule book that is, but it’s the one I’ve always had. I suppose it is more or less a power play, and a lot of what goes on for me is about power (or the lack thereof). This rule applies to romantic relationships, friendships, workplace, everything. My last job became so miserable, but I was determined they were going to fire me before I would leave. The one job I left voluntarily, which brought me here, ended disastrously because I took a leave of absence in case I needed to go back. I was supposed to formally resign a year later if I wasn’t going to return, but I didn’t do that, and they terminated me. I couldn’t bear the thought of saying that I resigned, for some inexplicable reason. I don’t really know why. Couldn’t say goodbye? I’m not sure. That confuses me terribly, and it cost me – didn’t get my terminal leave days paid out, or my retirement. What an idiot. And I say that with love and affection.

So I won’t leave, but reserve the right to be…abandoned. I have always figured I have an abandonment issue, but this is one with an odd twist. I wonder if there is some twisted wiring in my brain that says if you leave me, the relationship is over but I was powerless to control or prevent that. If I leave YOU, though, I have some control in the ending. Stupid thing, though, is that it still ends. I suppose if one is a control freak, maintaing any little scrap of control – no matter how nonsensical – is a win. That disappoints me in some ways, but maybe it is self-protective in some bizarre fashion…when your feel that life is handing you loss, you take a win however you can get it, no matter how small it is. Or maybe I’m just kinda nuts. I suspect that I have such mixed messages about what love is, about what it looks like when you love someone and they love you, about when enough is enough.

Now, that’s another related issue…when is enough enough? I don’t know. Discerning when enough is enough is a multi-faceted issue in my little world. Staying past the point of fun, or reward, or positive return is often considered loyalty. That is what is usually in my mind when relationships become challenging. I will stay past the point of comfort, past the point of reward, because that’s what you do when you are loyal. Maybe that’s what you do when your ego says that you can change them, fix them, make it work even when it shouldn’t. Maybe that’s what you do when you have abandoned yourself in favor of the relationship, in favor of the comfort and reward of another person. The funny thing, however, is that you are not respected for that, you’re not rewarded for that, your needs are not met when you do that. I think one of the informal names for this is co-dependency, and there is a huge power dynamic involved in that, and a huge not to my ego involved in that.

My ego is a fully self-aware part of my persona, sort of like the network in The Terminator. I learned, the way machines do, to anticipate which part of my brain lights up when I feel good, and so it began pointing me in the direction of more opportunities for that outcome. That’s not a bad thing in and of itself, unless that becomes the only consideration for engaging in people or situations. I will typically feel as though I have been used when I’m dealing with a narcissist, or a toxic sociopath, but if I am going ot be entirely honest, I am using them as well. It’s a choreographed stage play, everyone assume your positions, and recite the script. No ad-libbing! You know what you’re supposed to do, so let’s just get to it. If there is not a happy ending, don’t whine, this is just the way it’s written, and you can’t change it.

That’s the way I have this all twisted up in my mind…it’s a script. I’m just doing my duty, following the script, reciting my lines when I’m supposed to. Enter obligation from Stage Left. That’s the connection for me, I suppose…I have to continue doing what I am supposed to be doing, or … . Or what? That’s the big question at this point, I suppose. If I choose not to do what I am supposed to do, or what i feel obligated to do, what happens? Does the world end? Does the motherhship return and retrieve me? Do plants and animals wither and die? What happens? If I go off-script, what’s the worst that could happen?

Even writing this, I have to chuckle a bit, but then I want to weep. That’s a lot of pressure for a little person to carry, worrying that if you don’t do what is expected the world is going to crumble. It’s all on just you. Nobody else, just you. I can see that as such an ego-trip, one that was taught, but still an ego trip. I believe that’s where some of my oppositional defiance originates, because when people are trying to impress “a sense of urgency” on me, my typical response is to sit down and dig my heels in. Refuse to move. Like a donkey (like an ass). I sometimes really enjoy that, and then relish pointing out that nothing bad happened because I didn’t break my neck trying to get something done that was “urgent”. This frustrates the hell out of people, which can be sardonically humorous, but if they are writing your paycheck, it can also be largely counter-productive. What price glory?

So, the whole issue of “you can’t tell me what to do” takes on new direction…because on the one hand, I usually feel as though everyone can tell me what to do. Most of us are not able to dictate our terms of engagement, unless maybe you have enough money or a big enough gun. I have neither. So, a lot of people, places, systems get to tell me what to do and how to engage, and I don’t particularly care for it. But nobody asked for my approval on that. Fortunately for me, I know how far to go with the resistance, and have never been incarcerated or assaulted. I’m getting older, though, and not caring quite so much these days, so we’ll see. I’m mostly a coward about standing up to people in person, though, so maybe I’ll get out of here without getting my butt kicked in the streets. The point is, however, trying to get free is a fight that has all kinds of battlegrounds.

When I like you, I am gonna go all in. I want to take care of all your needs, like a little kid in class when the teacher drops the chalk. Or at least that’s how it was when I was a little kid in school. I would have to cop to that not being entirely unselfish. I definitely want to be seen as the hero, as the savior, as the helper…and have that gold star on my chest. [superhero theme music here]. You like music? Let me find that. You like Italian food? Let me make reservations for the best Italian restaurant. You’re upset? Let me drop everything I’m doing to comfort you, listen to you, tell you it’s all going to be OK. It’s not that I see any of that as inheritently negative, but there’s no balance. In going to extremes to make someone else feel good, I abandon myself. And the really amusing thing about making someone else feel good is…it’s not possible for me to do that. I can’t make anybody feel ANYTHING. I may do some very nice things for them, but ultimately, if the result is a good feeling for them, it’s because they chose to see it that way, they chose to be open and accepting of that. Not because I am powerful enough to wave a wand and cause them to feel anything. My feelings belong to me, but their feelings belong to them. No exceptions. In the past, I’ve gotten myself all hyped up on being god. That, in no uncertain terms, is simply a delusion; I am not god. Dammit.

I guess symbiosis is the goal of a relationship?

Published by annzimmerman

I am Louisiana born and bred, now living in Winston Salem, North Carolina. Fortunately for me, I was already living in NC before Hurricane Katrina decimated my beloved New Orleans. An only child, I now feel that I have no personal history since the hurricane destroyed the relics and artifacts of my childhood. As I have always heard, c'est la vie. My Louisiana roots show in my love of good coffee, good food, and good music. My soggy native soil has also shown me that resilience is hard-wired in my consciousness; when the chips are down (or drowned)...bring it on.

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