A dirty little secret has been brewing, and I have not yet discussed it openly on this blog. Well, until now, of course.
I have a growing sense of entitlement. Yep, me, glitter-bombing unicorn in the lives of a few harbors feelings of deserving things.
Nope, not talking about material stuff or a tiara and princess accoutrements. Nor am I speaking of adoration and worship for my exceptional unicorn-isms.
My sense of deserving is basic human dignity and respect. I deserve my ability to hold and voice my own opinions and to disagree without rancor or condemnation. I am entitled to the opportunity to finish a sentence without being interrupted and an expectation of politeness when socially appropriate. The basic respect and consideration afforded friends.
It is no secret I have struggled in the last year with a particular long-term friendship, and it is truly unfortunate it seems to have spread to a couple of others. My best efforts to have an honest, mostly unemotional conversation about the issues have come to unsatisfactory conclusions. When I have asked with specific examples (Why do you feel I am hyper-focused and critical of others not on the same page with regard to diet and exercise? Can you give me a specific example of putting someone down for not following my example to improve my overall health?), I have been met with defensive “you have changed” and “it’s all you talk about” and “you think you’re better than the rest of us” type responses. Frequently those comments are very hurtful; these are women who have known me the majority of my life. Most of the time I understand where the defensiveness and the hurtful words come from, because again, these ladies have been friends for many, many years. However, my direct attempts to understand what it is I may be doing that offends them so much are then distorted, taken out of context, and repeated to others in ways that are exceedingly painful to me.
I just don’t get it.
I know I have changed. In my mind, pursuing my better health goals makes as much sense as pursuit of happiness. I certainly have no desire to be miserable all the time until my final days, and the drugs, the weight, the slow and inevitable decline in my health until I died was not something I have always been prepared or ready to face. Before getting started last summer, I had my head firmly buried in the sand and was frantically trying to pull more sand over to keep it firmly planted.
Not everyone accepts change well, even in other friends. Even when the friend is happier, healthier, better self-esteem, burgeoning confidence. Friend and commenter SAK has been with me on this journey and we have had numerous discussions about the negative feedback and sabotage we receive from people we consider friends.
Through the years I have adopted a standard where most anything negative said to me about me is sort of absorbed and/or deflected. I had my role in relationships – to be the stable, dependable, non-controversial, non-competitive friend and supporter. Say anything negative or bad about my family, about my friends, I will never promise to be responsible in my backlash. Nearly everyone I interact with understood this unspoken rule and all was well in my little world.
When I began with trainer J and my quest to improve my health, it seems to have created a ripple in the status quo. Everything from questions about J’s competence (shut down super quickly with that overprotective and unpredictable backlash) to my potential overtraining to subtle efforts to sabotage my eating efforts suddenly abounded. Questions about how much weight I have lost, critiques about my figure, and of course the infamous comments about the size of my arms came from all sorts of unexpected sources. Mostly I have weathered it well, and I specifically returned to therapy to find better, healthier ways to improve my self-esteem, confidence, and ability to cope with the well-meaning who have a hard time with change.
If anyone deserves “blame” for my evolving deflection, stronger spine, and standing up for myself it is probably TM, for reminding me, teaching me to value myself and my efforts for self-improvement. I do not give him enough credit for coaching me to a stronger, healthier heart and mind. He told me, warned me about the dynamic that others in my midst that are less emotionally and mentally healthy will manifest as time passes. He coached me on how to react, how to maintain my composure, how to respond to not compromise my own forward progress.
And I cannot ever thank him enough.
With the few friends I have had to step back and away from, it is far from easy or uncomplicated. I am now 55 years old, these are women I have known since high school or college. But I will not be bullied, pushed around, or abused, and I take full responsibility for allowing them to treat me poorly or take advantage of my general nature for too many years. I have done nothing to deserve it, and their own messy emotions and shortcomings are not my problem or responsibility. For too many years I enabled and allowed them to periodically use me as their whipping girl to vent their pain, anger, frustration, or dissatisfaction with their lives or the disappointments that befall them.
I want to be a supportive friend, but I have a good understanding of my limitations. Those limitations do not include being unhappy, staying unhealthy, or listening to endless details and the same rants and raves about their own issues. My efforts at improving my health, both physically and emotionally, are threatening in some real ways. Suddenly I am competition for attention and praise? Because I blog about my life here – and the better health quest is a huge part of my life – does it make them feel worse about themselves? This blog is my place for sharing my own stuff, not an attempt on my part to be a prophet inspiring others to discover their own miracles of diet and exercise. Ask anyone – I am the most ordinary of ordinary people. I struggle to eat healthy, eat well, and I have had to engage my own OCD tendencies to ensure I stay focused and consistent on my exercise. The persistence to break through my own desire to maintain my comfort zone does not come easily or naturally to me; modifying my behaviors has been an uphill battle that I am winning. I have thought about that as well. Perhaps my desire to lock up negative girl and protect myself from her sphere of influence is the problem; maybe they dislike the calmer, happier, positive version of me.
Honestly, I think it’s okay to not like the evolving person, and people do change and add or subtract friends as life continues. However, I need to be clear about my intentions with regard to friends going forward. I deeply regret the need to exorcise you from my life, but from my perspective, continuing a dysfunctional relationship that makes me feel terrible about myself is unhealthy. I am all about better health these days.
In some ways this is among the most painful, and personal, posts I have written to date. The friends I speak of – they meant so much to me once, more like sisters than my actual biological sister through the years. And now it is time to let go, say goodbye, and hope someday we will reconcile and meet again under better, healthier circumstances.
Your brand of mental and emotional pain is not my problem, and no matter how compassionate and sympathetic I am toward you, it is never enough. I will no longer be the toxic waste dump for your shit-worthless feelings from insecurity, disappointment, or unrealized dreams.
You need not like my choices for life or the lifestyle changes I am pursuing, and by extension you need not support or encourage those changes. However, I will no longer accept your attempts to sabotage, minimize, mock, or dismiss my efforts. I never wanted or needed your praise or applause; I merely wanted you to like and accept me, warts and all. I deeply regret that has proved so impossible.
The blog is for me. The only goal I have here is to be truthful and honest about my thoughts and emotions and life. It is not something I do to shame you or make you feel insignificant or inferior or bad about yourself and your choices.
If you hate my blog so much, please stop reading. Now. Into the future. Here’s a thought – there are literally hundreds of thousands of other blogs, websites, and forums for you to pursue content that interests you.
I am a good person, and my battle to make peace and accept myself is ongoing. I have been a good friend to you for many years and through many mutual good times and bad. I certainly do not deserve your derision of and contempt for my efforts. The struggle is real and so are my feelings, emotions, and history.
Letting go is really hard. And turning away from the Baskin Robbins when I feel this level of sad is almost as challenging.
There is no universe where I am happy or optimistic or upbeat about this turn of events. Healthy choices are
not always rarely easy decisions for me. I feel gutted and yet relieved, the uncertainty of doing the right thing for me and making what feels right for me have weighed on my mind and conscience.
I feel lighter. And sad. And really wishing my resolve against Baskin Robbins was currently not this powerful.