I hate confrontations. I seriously, big-time loathe them. I’ll do almost anything to avoid them, usually to my detriment. I don’t stand up for myself: I don’t share my feelings when I’ve been hurt or harmed. I’m determined to not rock the boat.
It’s not a policy that works well. For me, at any rate. It works fine for the people I don’t challenge. They’re never called to account for their behaviour and they never think twice about doing the same thing. Why would they? I’ve made it clear there are no real consequences for ill-treatment.
It’s because I’m afraid. I worry that standing up for myself, or disagreeing even, will lead to my rejection. I sacrifice everything to avoid being alone.
We’re social creatures: the threat of ostracism chills us to our marrow and we do what we can to avoid it. But some of us take it too far, accept too much. We’re willing to suffer harm rather than say what we think or draw a boundary. We’re willing to bury the pain and pretend we aren’t bleeding to avoid a tense scene. We live life afraid. It gets tiring. It gets old.
I’m not going to Mexico.
I’m not going to Mexico twice.
The first trip was set for March 3rd. A destination wedding featuring a week in the sun, which I love, in Cancun, which I love, with friends there to offer me a hand if I run into problems. Like suicidal ideation, something that’s come up on vacations I’ve taken in the past. [appendix] [What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger, April 5, 2019, From Famine to Feast.]
I paid the deposit. I joined the Facebook group chat. I planned, with the others, our first drinks and dance parties. I looked for a new bathing suit that didn’t make me want to cry. I put a celebration sticker on the calendar on the departure date. And realized as I looked at it that I was not going to be finished my radiation treatments before it was time to depart.
“Devastated,” sums it up. And pissed. Cancer is a downer. I vented my upset to a different group of friends who’d come by to cheer me up and in the middle of the chat we came to a decision. We’d do Mexico ourselves. We’d book for the beginning of April and have a post-cancer girls’ trip.
Thus, began the back and forth in our group chat. This trip to Mexico or that one? Dolphins or not? Are we interested in checking out ruins? After a week or so, things quieted down but the occasional suggestion still popped up. Shortly thereafter, I found a deal for a trip to Mazatlán I shared with the group. My phone rang about an hour later. It was, let’s call her Karen. I’m sorry, she said. We were looking online, and it was a great deal, so we decided to just book it because we need a vacation.
Half of us were suddenly out of a girls’ trip.
So much for my post-radiation party.
I was beyond upset and ended the call. I was honest at least: I’m proud of that. I didn’t simply hang up: I told Karen I didn’t want to speak to her just then. To be honest, I didn’t want to cry in front of someone who’d just stabbed me in the back. The trip we’d set to coincide with finishing radiation, the trip we’d planned to make up for the wedding cancer caused me to miss, was off: two of us out entirely because of selfishness and impatience.
I didn’t even know how to process what had happened. To simply cut us out, without even a call to inform me they were changing plans. To be utterly unwilling to wait three weeks.
It was a bad night. I was counting on that trip. I was counting on my friends. I felt – and still feel – betrayed. It felt so selfish and inconsiderate. I needed something to look forward to as I trudged to radiation every day.
It’s been a difficult few months. The depression has been awful, I’m losing another tooth, my parents are having health issues, my home life is complicated, and I have cancer. It’s low-grade cancer but still. And now the thing I was counting on as a reward has been yanked away. And I really wasn’t sure what to do about that or about the betrayal.
What have I done to date? I stood my ground. I’m pretty proud of that. I talked to Karen, I told her what I was feeling and why. I told her I was angry and hurt. It was terrifying. I was expecting an attack. I was expecting to be abandoned as a friend forthwith. But, I’m tired of being a doormat. So, I shared my truth. She prevaricated and tried to make excuses. And then, she apologized.
The apology was nice because it’s not how I expect things to go when I stand up for myself. It was good to stare fear down and prove it wrong. Unfortunately, the apology changes nothing. My Mexico trip is cancelled once again.
I didn’t hear from my other friend, who we’ll call Susan, for a full week. She chose not to contact me until I sent out a group text asking about some glasses I found. I got a two-line response saying “no” to the glasses, “I’m sorry” regarding Mexico, and a shrug emoji to tie the whole thing together. I consider her efforts a day late and a dollar short. So now I’ve got some thinking to do about the quality of our relationship. Whether we have a friendship or are merely friendly acquaintances: I suspect it’s the latter.
I’ll get over the disappointment. I’ll forgive and we’ll all move on in some fashion. But the friendships have been altered, my sense of trust damaged.
I realized some things following this depressing debacle.
First, it’s good to check in with a neutral party in cases of extreme emotion. Another point is view can be helpful. I’d started to wonder, as I thought about what had transpired, if I was overreacting? If maybe it was my fault in some way? If maybe I shouldn’t be upset because they hadn’t intended harm? Was I allowed to think their behaviour small and selfish?
The people I checked in with backed me up. Karen and Susan’s actions sucked. They co-opted the post-cancer-treatment girls’ trip we had planned for themselves, making alternative plans without ever talking to me because they were impatient. They didn’t even have the spine to let me know what they’d done. Their protestations after-the-fact, that they meant no harm, that we could do another trip later, felt hollow.
Having your feelings validated is a good thing. Checking in with others to confirm my feelings were valid, helped. It helped me hold my space when Karen called back to talk. It helped me express myself more clearly. It helped me challenge her justifications without backing down. It made me strong enough to say, “You know what? I’m angry and sad and hurt and you can’t fix that. I’m allowed to feel these things and I will feel them until I don’t. It doesn’t mean we aren’t friends. It means that I feel bad and you’ll just have to wait until I feel better.”
Challenge people who hurt you. Speak your truth. You’re allowed to feel what you feel. You’re allowed to talk about it.
I also realized this:
You can’t make external things your reason for living. I put too much weight on the trip, a thing “out there”. “Out there” is beyond your control and things happen. Any number of things could have prevented me from going. The promise of something good in the future can’t be the thing that’s holding your life together. That’s not being in control of your life in any way. You have to live in the now.
Fate doesn’t much care what you have planned or how much you want it, anyhow.