Sigh…it’s high time for that first fight, wouldn’t you say? Before you brace yourself for drama, you should know that our “fight” resembled a somber discussion more than a knock-down-drag-out shout fest. Short story: I fucked up. I did something unthinkingly, inadvertently, carelessly, and it was serious enough to him to warrant bringing it up. And it broke my damn heart. To know that I’d caused him to doubt my trustworthiness, to fear for our prospects.
So I got off the phone and did some written processing and sent it to him. And he replied back, I think you missed the point. Fuck. So he said that if I was going to go back to writing this out, I should consider exploring some different questions. I’ve included the questions and my responses below. It’s a therapy treasure trove. Have fun digging through my dysfunction.
What prevents me from sometimes thinking through the implications and consequences of my actions? How has this hurt me? How has this hurt others? What drives my impulsivity?
I do not adhere to any established decision-making methodology. The only thing preventing me from thinking through the consequences a decision is my impulsivity and my lack of disciplined intentionality.
This has hurt me because I’ve sometimes felt helpless to tackle my own recurrent issues with impulsivity, which primarily manifest in eating and spending.
It has hurt others because it conveys selfishness and a lack of consideration for their needs and feelings. I often gauge the value of my experiences based on how fun they are. I am drawn toward perceived enjoyment, and I push back against activities or experiences that won’t be fun.
In writing this, the irony of my situation is crystallized: I could more thoroughly enjoy fun experiences if I didn’t trample on my loved ones’ feelings in the process; this could be addressed by implementing decision making procedures and honing self-discipline strategies, both of which I rebel against because I see them as “not fun.”
Why are pictures/social media important to me? What do they add to my life? How have they hurt me and/or what boundaries do I have around them?
As a writer, Story is one of the things I place great value on. The act of sharing our stories connects us on an emotional, intellectual, and physiological level, and pictures are visual storytelling. The act of recording my family’s story is very important to me, but I found this increasingly challenging as I went from one child, to two, and so on. Taking pictures to mark a moment, then using social media as a (simple, accessible) means of recording snippets of my story and sharing them within a chosen community feels as natural as breathing. Looking to the past, especially as it pertains to my children’s growth, brings me joy. I am thankful that I took a picture, wrote a caption, posted an observation or milestone, and that gratitude prompts me to continue to document. There is also gratification to be found in posting to a community. Comments and likes feel like small affirmations, and while they pale in comparison to the hugs and kisses and ‘I love you’s my children bestow on me, they are not entirely meaningless and serve to further bolster connectedness among small communities that benefit from mutual support (parents, single parents, etc…).
Entering, engaging, and maintaining relationships within social media communities is an extension of using visual and written stories to connect us across distance and time. The inherent challenge of any community is that it’s full of people, and engaging in relationship with others involves risk and vulnerability. I’ve been hurt, rejected, called out, criticized, misunderstood, frustrated, offended, mortified, and stressed out — all because of interactions within these communities. I’ve also been encouraged, taught, counseled, empowered, loved, and supported. So I guess the answer to the question of how they have hurt me is that they haven’t in any way that’s significantly different than real-life relationships. In fact, there is relative safety in a social media relationship because certain risks are off the table, which brings me to my next point…
Boundaries are not my strong suit. I establish them on an as-needed basis, which means that I’m often in emotional triage mode: something happens, I realize that it was preventable, I communicate or establish a boundary. My inexperience (discomfort?) with planning (and by extension, anticipating necessary boundaries) has directly led to emotional, mental, and physical trauma. I’ve been the victim of attempted rape, sexual harrassment/misconduct by a direct supervisor, physical assault by a stranger, and sexual assault by an intimate partner. Not to mention the prolonged emotional trauma of remaining in my marriage when it lacked a foundation of trust. I like to look at myself as some kind of success story for maintaining the ability to trust in spite of my history, but sometimes I just see an idiot who’s been lucky. Shit could have been much worse for me, and tossing up a boundary in arrears wouldn’t have cut it.
Why do I avoid patterns and predictability? Why have I chosen to selectively adhere to certain processes and not others?
I think this relates back to my first response. But on a more personal note, I am the daughter of two highly disciplined individuals. My mom is a planner and an organizer with admirable self-discipline that I’ve never achieved myself. My dad is…well, my dad. He’s a tireless worker, extremely disciplined, and to call him organized is a significant understatement. I believe that the way that both my parents operate is strongly connected to their own childhoods, the frequent moves, the chaos at home, both with three siblings each. They sought order and control to compensate for missing it at home, and in a similar vein, the way I operate is a response to the way I was raised. My childhood was great, but I have always struggled with authority. Rebelling against planning, organization, processes, and patterns served the purpose of establishing my unique identity as a teen and young adult. I still have a stubborn rebellious streak, but I fear that my resistance to all things methodological in nature has backfired in my personal life.
Using writing as a means of processing mental and emotional strife plays to my strengths. It fulfills my need for artistic expression and reins in the disordered jumble of thoughts and feelings that desperately need to be sorted out. It’s my therapy and my outlet, and it has worked for me my entire life.
Switching gears, I think that I’m better at consistency and patterns than I give myself credit for — I have to be that way for my job, and I’m regularly praised for being organized and on top of things. That said, I know that for many years, I’ve longed for intentionality, a life in which incidences of “response” far outweigh “react.”
So, yeah, I’ve been digging through all my emotional shit today, and my conclusion to him was this: I’ve got work to do. I’m a mess.
And his reply was all I needed: We’ve got work to do. WE are a team.