Last night’s post included an exchange about an old friend I speak with occasionally and rarely see (she has lived in Hawaii the last 15 years and only rarely travels to the mainland). While I was genuinely irritated by the comments I mentioned, I was actually not really angry at the time of the post. It is so typical of many of our interactions that I just filed it away as our semi-annual conversation now completed.

Only I was at the gym this morning and started to get angry. Behind listening to music in my headphones, my cueing soundtrack playing on in my head, and my counting reps and sets, the conversation was replaying what was said. The more I thought about it, the more distracting it became. The more distracting it became, the angrier I got. At her, for sure, but also at myself for allowing this long established pattern of behavior in legacy friendships.

Bullying is still bullying even if your intent is to be helpful. I tend to be pretty laid back about most things, and for most of my life my own low self-esteem and hiding secrets from the whole world has kept me locked into acceptance of certain attitudes and behaviors toward me. Things I would never tolerate said to me about other people I am absolutely silent when it comes to being said about me. It must be part of why I am back with TM and trying to work on strengthening my spine in such areas. It is likely why he keeps pounding me on my trust issues.

So I am at the gym, trying to stay focused on my lighter day workout and find myself getting more distracted and more upset about the tone and timbre of the conversation every second that passed, to the point that I finish up and call her on my drive home from the gym. The conversation itself was not pretty – thank you commenters SAK and Vesta, but today I did my own bitch slapping – and 45 minutes later, when M returned from his run I am still snarling into the telephone. M knows this is not the time for a conversation and merely rolls his eyes and went to take a shower.

I am learning. I am growing up, standing up for myself, getting shit done. But sometimes it takes some sort of specific impetus to get me to deal directly when someone oversteps boundaries into something beyond appropriate.

My friend has a very strong personality and is bull in a china shop kind of blunt. Her defense this morning was she knows me and knows how weak I can be about taking care of myself, to which I replied she has no idea who I am right now, how strong and how capable I am and how I can completely kick her ass. That was definitely new for me and for us in terms of conversation.

I am dealing with issues on various fronts, one of which has been consistently lying down in the street and allowing friends to run me over once, then back up and do it again by way of non-supportive trash talk from the peanut gallery.

Most of the time I am pretty direct about what I think and how I feel, and I am always honest. That said, I am kind and have compassion, and if I ever come across as too harsh or too hard I hope someone tells me about it. But it’s becoming more and more apparent I am the whipping girl for several people I considered good friends for their own crap. It’s frustrating to me, because I am doing good things for myself and a small handful of folks just step up and pee on my parade.

It’s weird, strange, and unhappiness inducing.

The worst part is I am not yet powerful enough to not be influenced or not care about what people think. I am much better, but not able to let go of it completely, especially when it is those who have been part of my world for extended periods. Words float into my ear and through my head and feed the insecurities I am doing my best to slowly weaken and starve. I want very much to not be affected, but I still am.

Sorting it out here on the blog is part of my process. I wish I were braver and less susceptible to the thoughts and opinions of others, but I understand my current limitations. My susceptibility to the ideas and opinions of others is expanding and I am growing less tolerant and accepting of being told what I think and how I feel, but it’s hard. As much as I wish it would happen for me faster, it’s been a lifetime of being fearful and accepting less than I deserve in terms of humanity, respect, friendship. I know the difference. I try hard not to be mean or cruel or unkind to others and I should not tolerate it myself.

The discussion this morning truly was necessary and meaningful for me. I do not want to shed old friends, nor do I want to feel abandoned by or be accused of abandoning anyone else. While I am the common denominator between the friends and conflicts in my life right now, it’s difficult for me to understand why positive steps forward are so hard for anyone else. Friend and commenter SAK theorizes it is me upsetting the apple cart, that I am drifting from my preassigned role. Why is it so hard? I am healthier. I am happier. Work is not nipping at my heels or mentally exhausting me all the time. The newly toxic friends obviously do not appreciate the better version of me and I cannot fathom why, and while I hate doing it, limiting or eliminating exposure to their negativity seems the only recourse left to me.

I am on a good pathway right now, tiny little baby steps toward a larger goal of a more peaceful, happier, healthier life. If being protective of it means letting go of old friends who cannot see and break the pattern of our past friendship and create something richer and better for all parties involved, then I suppose there are limits to choices in how to proceed. I have retained these old friends because they meant much to me in times of darkness. But I have grown stronger and less inclined to accept my place in their world order. And while I feel like this is a great thing, perhaps I have grown out of my place in their lives.

My life has not been that dark and dreary for a while now. Every day I have opportunities to see the world in shades of color that have been lost in shadows and shades of gray for far too long. It’s not just better health, or getting physically stronger, or more confident in work, or in a good marriage and partnership with M, or even finding balance in managing my life and times. It’s recognizing and slowly accepting that I am okay, just as I am right now. That I am nice enough, smart enough, good enough to be successful and not have to feel indebted to someone or something for what I earn through hard work and persistence. I am earning back self-respect that I lost or had stolen.

The conversation this morning was difficult for me and hurtful in so many ways, but protecting my hard-won gains is worth having to be uncomfortable and real with an old friend. Detoxing, I have heard, is not an easy process.

Now I know for sure.

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