A Little Bit of Reflection

So, I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting lately on my last relationship. It’s been just over a year since it ended, and each passing day has opened up my eyes just a little bit wider to the reality of the situation, now that I’m outside of it (and with the help of many supportive people who listen to all my stupidity and are willing to occasionally guide me away from it…xD) I can see things pretty clearly–recent situations have also helped me to “get” it.

As of now, I’ve remained on good terms with every single person that I was either romantically involved or interested in. Some of them took time as we each grew into better people, but I’ve always been of the idea that if someone was important to you once, and they had such an impact on you that you fell in love with them, that there must be something good enough about them that you can at least exchange friendly conversation over coffee if you were to ever run into them on the street. Some of the people I’ve been romantically interested in also have turned out to be awesome friends, whereas it would have never worked out in the long-term as a relationship. Keep in mind, this is true for me, but I realize it’s kind of weird and not for everyone–especially if the people in YOUR past are like the one I’m about to describe.

For the first time in my life, I’m looking at my last relationship and thinking that maybe it isn’t possible to be amicable with this person. I don’t believe that anyone I’ve ever met is 100% bad, but I do think that this one is bad enough in his core values, in who he really is, that he isn’t someone I would consider a good or decent person.

But he was important to you once, and had such an impact on you that you fell in love with him, right? That is true, but it turns out that all the things I loved about him were not true. Had I known this, I probably would not have fallen in love with him. But, I didn’t know that–I mean who would lie to a stranger about things? To impress them? To feel better about themselves? To entangle someone into your web of lies so that you could benefit somehow from it?

Oh man. I’m going to share a couple crazy stories to illustrate my point. They’re so ridiculous that they’re laughable (now), so by all means, laugh away…I won’t feel bad. xD

Before my ex and I started dating, we were friends at work. It was here that he learned all about me–that I was engaged (even though I was a little unsure about the whole thing), that I’d just moved from the mountains with my parents, where we’d left behind the house I grew up in and almost everything I’d known except for my job down in the city. I was fresh out of a tattoo apprenticeship, uncertain of my skills and my future, and excited for a fresh start. I now realize I was a perfect target for someone to swoop in and save the day. Not sure about your tattoo skills? Practice on me (I actually even PAID to tattoo him once…the shop wouldn’t let me do it for free, so I put $50 of my own money into the safe to cover the shop minimum)! You feel trapped in your relationship? Let’s do something crazy like a motorcycle ride! You feel like your fiance never listens to you? I will hang on your every word. One time, he even told me that he talked to the manager of the tattoo shop (who worked at a different store, this particular shop had 3 locations) to tell them how awesome he thought I was and that I should be allowed to work more days tattooing instead of doing receptionist work at the main location. I bought it hook, line, and sinker. I was so amazed at how supportive he was of my career, in stark contrast to my fiance’s skepticism, always asking me when I’d actually be making money tattooing, that it nearly brought me to tears.

———————–

Crazy story time: I told my ex that I was interested in learning to play the guitar. I knew a little, but wasn’t too bad–I also like to play the drums, but I couldn’t since we moved because we now lived in an apartment complex. So one day, he calls me up and tells me that he and his friends are messing around in his mom’s shed–he’s playing the guitar and singing, another friend is on the drums. Would I like to hear?

I’m enthralled. He rides a motorcycle, he loves my tattoo work, AND he happens to play guitar and sing? Heck yes I want to hear! My ex says that he’ll put his phone on speaker and place it in his pocket so I can hear. I start hearing With a Little Help from My Friends, the Joe Cocker version. I hear what sounds like him singing through a muffled-sounding microphone, as if from a pocket, with the occasional interruptions of “Hold on a second, let me readjust. Okay, start from the chorus.”

I also heard background singers, just like in the real song, which was a little suspicious. “That’s my friend’s girlfriend (the one playing drums) and his girlfriend. It sounds pretty good though, right?”

Of course it did…BECAUSE HE WAS PLAYING A FUCKING RECORDING OF THE SONG. ._. Over the next couple months once we actually dated, I would repeatedly ask my ex to play me a song on the guitar in person, and there was always an excuse. “It’s not tuned.” “Mine is. Here.” “I don’t have a pick.” “Here’s a pick.” Eventually he told me that he had injured his hand when he was younger (true), and that the injury made his hands hurt if he played too long. “That’s fine…you don’t have to play a whole song or anything, I just want to hear you play.”

Eventually he agreed, and he held the guitar face-up on his lap and started plinking at the strings.

“How are you going to play it like that? You can’t hold down any strings like that.”

“This is just the way I play. It helps my hand.”

At this point, I’m starting to get really suspicious and pushy. I asked him to play a G chord; he said he didn’t know the names of chords, just where to place his fingers. So I instructed him on where to place his fingers and told him that was the G chord; from there, why don’t you just play whatever chords you want? After a few irregular strums of this chord, he switched to some hand position that isn’t a thing, strummed once, then dramatically pulled his hand away. “Ouch, it’s starting to hurt!”

Weird that he could play an entire song in his mom’s shed that one time, but could never, ever play guitar again for even half a minute after, right? No, not really, not once you learn that someone is full of shit about being able to do something! But he told me he could play guitar because he knew I was interested in it, without understanding that my dad had been playing guitar for almost 30 years and that I had indeed picked up enough knowledge from trying to learn on my own to call his bluff.

This story is only one of literally thousands; once my ex told me that he wanted to be in the Army, but that since he had a GED and not a diploma, he normally was not eligible. There was a short amount of time that they were accepting GED applicants, and he had only a month to apply. After two weeks of contemplating, I had finally approached him, willing to talk about this enormous decision that would certainly impact our relationship, and he told me that the deadline had passed. “I lied about how long I had to think about it because I knew you’d say no. It’s too late now, and it doesn’t matter.” For years, he used this as an excuse to resent me and accuse me of holding him back from his dreams–come to find out much later (my guy now, who was a Marine, just loves this one…xD) that there is no deadline for fuck all from the Army! They routinely accept GED applicants…all the time. He could have signed up whenever he wanted; hell, he could do it right now if he wanted!

Or how about that time when he crashed his motorcycle going up a windy mountain road at night just a little too fast, and he later confessed to me that part of him had wanted to crash that night. Why on earth would you want to do that? Because I was still with my fiance at the time, and he wanted to see if I would come running to his rescue (which I did); if I would come help him at midnight because he was in trouble, I’d probably do anything for him.

You get the point. xD


TL;DR? I don’t think it’s possible for me to be friends with this particular ex of mine because all the things I thought I fell in love with were not real, he lied and manipulated me through our entire relationship in order to keep me around, wondering all the while why things had changed so much, and all of it was for his own benefit. He is not a good person of moral character.

Sometimes I feel like an idiot when I realize how clear the signs seem to be now, but I’m also grateful because I’ve learned a valuable lesson that I will never, ever forget, one that has strengthened me as a person and led me to the point in my life that I’m currently at. And that point is pretty awesome right now. =) But that doesn’t mean I need to have my ex in my life; no one in this world is owed anything, least of all someone who doesn’t even really care about how that life of yours turns out if they aren’t in it.

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The Struggles of Being an Anxious Introvert

I know I’ve said it many times before, but I’ll say it again: it is hard as fuck making friends as an adult. I used to think maybe it was just me, that there was something I was doing wrong that was making me unable to authentically share myself with other people outside of a relationship setting or with the exception of my childhood friends, but after consulting almighty Google, it turns out that I’m not the only one who has problems with it.

I blame the fact that as we get older and ‘wiser,’ our naivety disappears and we begin to see the potential people have to not only be good–but to be bad. Negative past experiences have shown us that rejection hurts a lot more than we’d like, and the best way to protect ourselves from that is to only allow others to wade around in the more shallow pools of our psyche. If someone rejects us based on what they see on the surface, it isn’t as painful because they aren’t rejecting our real selves. For some, a large number of rejections or one or two very home-hitting incidents damages their trust to the point that they anticipate rejection or being taken advantage of right out of the gate, before a new person can even get a chance to want to know you.

Introverts have it even a little tougher, because it’s difficult for them to want to go out into the world and meet people in the first place, which is of course, the obvious first step needed to make friends. Yes, unfortunately, you have to actually be AROUND people. Extroverts enjoy talking to other people and being the center of attention; it energizes them, where an introvert is drained by such experiences. The effort an introvert must expel just to establish enough of a baseline with a stranger to see whether or not they’d ever be compatible as friends at all is uncomfortable at best, and downright exhausting at worst. Introverts are careful about selecting who they spend their energy on, and sometimes this makes for a very picky initial process, increasing the struggle to find good “friend material.”

But let’s say you do somehow find other humans that you like to be around, who like to be around you as well, and you decide to cultivate the friendship. You thought finding people was the hard part?

Making friends as an adult has many similarities to cultivating a romantic relationship, without all the sexy bits–you get to know someone, find common interests, slowly let down your guard and let them know more about you, hoping that they’ll do the same. Trust slowly grows as this person proves themselves reliable and authentic, and a real connection is forged. Unfortunately, some of the same pitfalls exist in friendships as they do in relationships–people staying in bad ones because they fear being alone or because they’ve invested so much time and effort already, lack of communication out of fear of hurting the other person’s feelings, jealousy and entitlement, taking or being taken for granted. We all know relationships take hard work, and so do really good friendships. THAT SHIT BE HARD, YO.

But it gets even better…oh yes, for some out there, the obstacle course of navigating true friendship is placed in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean with stupid, unpredictable icebergs fucking EVERYWHERE, and your skills as a captain of social ability will truly be tested. Welcome to the bonus round: anxiety!

Picture this. You and a few friends are all hanging out together, eating lunch, when one of them announces that they are planning to see a concert, and everyone should go! It’ll be really fun, the tickets are cheap, we don’t often all get together at the same time…also the band sounds pretty awesome!

Hmm, that sounds really fun! I spend so much time at home because of my weird introverty nature, so going out and having a good time is long overdue! Count me in!

Granted, there will be a LOT of people there…and I do hate crowds. Loud noise…hmm. Maybe I shouldn’t go.

Anxiety: But if you don’t, your friends will probably think you’re lame. You’re going to feel really guilty if you don’t go…they’re all counting on you to join them. You’ll probably be the only one in the group who doesn’t make it and they won’t forget it. Maybe they’ll think you don’t like hanging out with them and they’ll stop inviting you to things.

…you’re right, that would suck. Plus, part of me really does want to go! I love hanging out with my friends! I hate people in general, but I like them, and I like music. So it’s settled, I’ll brave the crowds and have fun with my friends.

Anxiety: I wonder if they only invited you because they knew you didn’t like big, noisy events and they knew you’d tap out.

Anxiety: They don’t even like you that much, they might have just invited you because they feel sorry for you. Because they’re your only friends and all. But hey, it’ll be fun! Enjoy the side of shame while you pretend to fit in at the concert!

You’re a dick.

This is somewhat exaggerated, but you get the point…if you’re an anxious person like me, I’m sure you’re no stranger to the little voice of self-doubt that tries to sabotage your efforts to connect to other people. This little voice is also responsible for convincing anxious people that they’ve done something wrong when one of their friends is upset (not at them), that they are incapable of having meaningful relationships, that something is wrong with them, etc.

This insecurity manifests itself in our interactions with other people once we start to leave the surface area and wade into deeper waters–the stakes get higher after we have established that a person has value to us, and anxious people are less sneaky about hiding their fear of messing it up. Hello weird need for validation that pushes people away! Hello inappropriate and random shame for needing validation that shoves you into your house for days as you cope with your anxiety to keep it from irreparably ruining your relationships! Ugh…I’m telling you, so much hard work involved here.

So imagine wanting desperately to make friends, but disliking going out to meet people and being fearful that you’ll mess it up somehow regardless of the circumstances. This is the struggle of the anxious introvert…but do you try it anyway?

Hmmm, be alone for the rest of my life and talk to my cats and watch Game Grumps, or allow myself to be emotionally vulnerable and risk rejection, but potentially gain valuable connections with other human beings? Who maybe also like Game Grumps and cats? Decisions, decisions. xD