I hate confrontations in an incredibly, big-time way. 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 if I’ve been hurt. I’m determined not to 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. And because I don’t call them to account, 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 a destination wedding featuring a week in the sun, which I love, in Cancun, which I love, with a large group of friends, some of whom I’m very fond of indeed. [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 my first drink and song request. 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. It was only then that I realized I wouldn’t be finished with 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 ruins? After a week or so, things quieted down but the occasional suggestion still popped up. Like the deal for a trip to Mazatlán I shared . 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. We booked 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 needed to go. I didn’t want to cry in front of someone who’d hurt me. The trip we’d set to coincide with finishing radiation, the vacation we’d planned to make up for the one cancer caused me to miss, was off because people got impatient.
I didn’t know how to process what had happened. To not even tell me. To be so unwilling to wait three weeks.
It was a bad night: I was counting on that trip. I couldn’t believe they’d taken away the one thing I looked forward to as I headed to radiation every day.
It’s been a difficult few months. My depression has been awful, I’m losing another tooth, my parents have 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.
I wasn’t sure what to do with my feelings of 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.
I shared my truth. She prevaricated and tried to make excuses. And then, she apologized.
The apology was nice: 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 at least a 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 and “I’m sorry” regarding Mexico.
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, at least temporarily.
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 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 selfish?
The people I checked in with backed me up. Karen and Susan’s actions sucked. They cancelled the “post-cancer-treatment girls’ trip” and made alternative plans without even talking to me. At no point did they 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. It helped me hold my space when Karen called back to talk. It allowed me to express myself more clearly. 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 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. [i] 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. You have to live in the now.
Fate doesn’t much care what you have planned or how much you want it, anyhow.
[i] As it turns out, COVID19 happened. At least I wasn’t stuck with a two-week quarantine.