I’m a cow. I’m not saying I’m fat – the illness that came on a few weeks back has put any thoughts of surplus flesh to rest. I haven’t been this continuously nauseous since pregnancy and my son is in his twenties.
I’m a cow because I ruminate. I obsess over the thoughts that pop into my head without so much as a by-you-leave. They’re familiar thoughts – I chew on them over and over to an annoying degree.
They’re not good thoughts. I don’t ruminate about happy times. They’re also not based on reality.
I obsess over the estrangement with my daughter, though I believe I was right in holding a boundary.
I obsess over the behaviour of a “friend” who treats me badly most of the time.
I obsess about the motivations of someone I just met; I ascribe negative intentions because that’s what my brain likes to do sometimes. It’s trying to maintain my victim status. It tries to make everyone else the enemy.
Isolated people are easier to control and my neuroses aren’t currently in the driver’s seat. Mostly. They’re not happy about that and so they put up a fight. It’s easier to deal with when I’m awake. I counter my thoughts, I introduce reality, blah, blah, blah.
It gets tiring. I’d like to try a non-neurotic brain for a while just to see what it’s like. [i]
I hate waking up to negative thoughts already running. I’m instantly sucked into the drama and trauma. Most important in these ruminations is the “l’esprit de l’escalier.” The wit of the staircase is what some of my friends call shower arguments. It’s when you think of a fabulous response when you’re on the stairs leaving (or during your morning ablutions).
It would be nice, my brain thinks, to get my chance to offer up a witty and devastating response. It would be nice, my brain thinks, to re-engage so I can win.
There’s no winning in relationships though, or at least we shouldn’t approach them that way. Life is not a courtroom and we’re not lawyers and litigants.
Unless you are a lawyer, in which case, save it for work.
I stumbled across a quote the other day, and the first line is so good and so very true (I like adjectives and adverbs) – people move on after mistreating you.
I tend to project myself onto other people. I project my beliefs and feeling, and I project intentions and morals. It’s a bad and dangerous habit. It blinds me from seeing other people clearly and it can make me judgmental when they turn out to be not me.
We default to our own operating systems and assume they’re the best. I have no evidence to support that claim and no right to expect other people to be me. All I can do is institute boundaries.
I’m amazed at how boundaries are improving my life. I found them hard in the beginning – it’s hard to draw a line when you’ve spent your life as a people-pleasing doormat. First, you have to grow arms.
Initially, my boundaries were a smidge harsh and aggressive. They were less fence with some fluidity and more forty-foot-tall steal wall. The overreaction is normal, at least according to my therapists. And while I regret on the one hand the aggressive way I implemented things in the early days, I only regret the method. I’m softer with my approach now, but the boundaries remain the same.
A lot of people in my life don’t like them. They preferred it when I let them roll over me and treat me badly, not just with no consequence, but with active efforts on my part to make things better. To make myself and situations over so I’m in the wrong and I’m the one who needs to change.
I’m done with being treated badly. It’s a resolution that feels good. Boundaries are a necessity, ruminant thoughts less so. The trick is to address the things you’re thinking directly. Ask questions. For instance, is the person I just met really trying to screw me over? It’s unlikely, though my brain tries to convince me otherwise.
Boundaries open up the greys. Boundaries make you flexible. Without them, I tended towards rigidity and a child’s obsession with fairness. Life isn’t fair. I knew this, but mostly my brain wasn’t on board.
Boundaries have also been essential to my eating disorder recovery. Part of an eating disorder is a loss of self. The you that you want to be isn’t in charge, the eating disorder is. The eating disorder needs you to feel bad. Miserable people are easy to keep in line. I’m a harder sell now that I’m enforcing how other people are allowed to treat me. The eating disorder keeps trying, the voice isn’t dead and the weight loss my persistent nausea is causing is making it happy. I’m aware of the danger, but I don’t feel at risk.
Her voice doesn’t have the same imperative from on high that it once did. I no longer feel compelled to obey. I’m not “normal” yet, that’s for sure, but I’m not a slave to her anymore either.
A big part of that has been learning to let go of this, that, and the other. That doesn’t mean pushing things down and repressing or denying them. That way leads to much pain and illness. It means reminding myself that other people’s thoughts and actions are not my business.
The only life I need to run is my own. “Winning” these various conflicts would be nice, because who doesn’t want to get their licks in, but it’s become unnecessary.
Recognizing that I’m not responsible for what other people do is freedom.
[i] Neurotic – having, or caused by, or relating to neuroses.
Neuroses – any of various mental and emotional disorders that affect only part of a person’s personality, are less serious than
a psychosis, and involve unusual or extreme reactions (such as abnormal fears, depression, or anxiety) to stress and conflict.