As I mentioned, I met a friend in the morning and spent several hours catching up with her–ran into her daughter and fiancee and their dog, and met them for the first time–and generally had quite a nice day.
I was heading home finally around 4:30 and got an email from my friend.
“You seem to want to be left alone, so I am keeping away, but I wanted to say a few things.
First, we are cooking Chinese stir-fry tonight and hope you will join us–if you feel like it.
But the more important things are that I hope there is some way we can get through this without lasting acrimony, that I want to help out in the next phase because I do care about you, and that I would like to keep channels of communication open. If I know what you are weighing next, I could better know how to help.
I don’t think I have said things in exactly the right ways, but I wish it could be clearer that this isn’t meant to be personal; I just need the space.”
She has mentioned before she wanted to help out in the process of my moving where-ever I am going to move. I believe I said thank you.
She has asked me to eat dinner with them twice before and I have politely declined. First of all, it just feels incredibly awkward and second of all she has specifically mentioned she wants family time with her daughter. To me, dinner seems like family time, especially since the routine in the house has been to try to get some work done during the day, and rejoin over dinner. Boundaries are fine. Nothing wrong with ’em.
I sent back one line: I understand you need the space. I didn’t know what else to say. What I felt like saying is I work very hard at maintaining some kind of inner peace and being around you at this point is like descending into a vortex of despair and agony which I have no desire to spend more time in. I have one of my own.
It isn’t part of the email, but that’s the exchange when I am trapped with her in the kitchen, trying to make coffee. She’s just very anguished about it. I feel very much called upon to relieve her distress, and it’s not comfortable.
I wasn’t angry about the whole thing–sad, but not angry. It’s her right to do what she wants in her own house. I realize I am here at her pleasure. But I feel angry now.
I suppose this is my approach: it’s a difficult situation. Let’s be polite and cheerful about it so that it doesn’t feel worse than it is. It’s probably not the end of the world, and there’s no need to make it into that.
This is evidently not what she has in mind, and probably not what she will allow to have happen. She wants someone down in there with her in her emotional agony, and she’ll push until either she gets it or I have enough boundaries in place that she can’t.
I never believed in the concept of toxic people before, but I do now. I am struck by what a different standard I have for adults than I have for children. I walk right down in there with C and even to some extent with Wild Boy, try to bring my own calm to it, working like hell to have it to offer, but trying to see their agony for them. Trying to make sure I am imagining what they are going through so that they can see that their agony is real for me, which means I need to feel it. I am not so saintly with adults.
I had this idea that, with my past, I am the least mature, stable person in the universe. Not so. Seriously, I did not really believe functional people who have families and, although she is divorced now, long marriages and secure careers wound themselves like this.