Yesterday was a seriously confusing set of emotions for me. Very complex, very intertwined, and very pervasive. It left me feeling both invested in and totally invalidated, which is a strange and repulsive mixture. I don't recommend that you try it anytime soon.

Remember how I was all excited that BJ and I were doing lunch and shopping? Well, we did. We also had a lot of time to talk while doing those things, and it was during lunch (our first activity) that things started going downhill for me.

I have come to the conclusion that BJ is not actually a safe person.

This is hard for me to come to grips with, because I have always assumed that she was. Indeed, for a long time she has seemed to be, especially given the largely dysfunctional and toxic people that I was surrounded with. She has been a safe person for me for so long that to have that status shifted is, well... very unsettling. It's almost like an identity crisis of sorts.

I suppose I should clarify what I mean by "safe person", just to be on the safe side. (Heh.) A safe person is someone whom we can have a safe relationship with, versus someone who is toxic and unsafe. According to authors/Drs. Cloud and Townsend, this is how you can identify a safe person:

"So, what are safe relationships? A safe relationship is one that does three things:

  1. Draws us closer to God. (Matthew 22:37-38)
  2. Draws us closer to others. (Matthew 22:39)
  3. Helps us become the real person God created us to be. (Ephesians 2:10)
When John (Townsend) and I asked people to describe a “safe person” to us, they gave us these descriptions:
  • A person who accepts me just like I am.
  • A person who loves me no matter how I am being or what I do.
  • A person whose influence develops my ability to love and be responsible.
  • Someone who creates love and good works within me.
  • Someone who gives me an opportunity to grow.
  • Someone who increases love within me.
  • Someone I can be myself around.
  • Someone who allows me to be on the outside what I am on the inside.
  • Someone who helps me to deny myself for others and God.
  • Someone who allows me to become the “me” that God intended.
  • Someone who helps me become the “me” God sees in me.
  • Someone whose life touches mine and leaves me better for it.
  • Someone who touches my life and draws me closer to who God created me to be.
  • Someone who helps me be like Christ.
  • Someone who helps me love others more."
Okay, clearly these guys are Christians, and maybe I'm not looking for someone to blatantly Bible me into being a better person, but you get the idea.

You see, BJ's house was always a haven of refuge for me from my crazy home life. Even when I was "drifting into the world" as a teenager, I always felt unconditionally loved and accepted by her and her family. When I went away to SOULS, she expressed some concerns that I wasn't learning the whys and wherefores of things, but that I was conforming to peer pressure, and she was somewhat right. (She reminded me of this during our talk.)

In recent years (or year), however, it feels like... I dunno. It feels like I'm responsible for her emotional happiness and stability in some ways, though the cues are so subtle that I'd be hard pressed to put it into words. Honestly, I'm hard pressed to put any of this into words! I know, I know, me without words. Hard to believe, right? *sigh*

There are two driving issues here: one is my health, and the other is my spirituality/life choices.

BJ is a nurse, and somehow it feels like we always end up talking about my sicknesses, especially now that fibromyalgia has reared its ugly head. She can't seem to wrap her mind around why I'm so sick, and I keep getting those cliche phrases that I hate so much, such as "You're too young to be sick like this!" Today she mentioned multiple times that she doesn't understand why I got so ill so suddenly, why my health suddenly took such a nose dive. Heck, I don't understand it, either! It just happened. But I always, always get this creeping feeling like somehow it's my fault... like I did something or am not doing something right... but yesterday, she was so bold as to say that she thinks I got fibromyalgia because I left God. Wow. Really? Really? That's harsh, man.

The thing is, when I feel even subtly attacked, I find myself falling over myself to explain myself more and open up further depths of my soul to her, as if sharing more truth will somehow help her to understand and accept and stop blaming me and bringing out the guilt. (I wonder if her kids go through this, too?) It doesn't. It just complicates things further.

We were talking about my future as a massage therapist, and how C takes care of me so well, and I mentioned that there is a possibility that I may end up bedridden from fibromyalgia, as I know people in that boat. She immediately and vehemently protested this, insisting that I shouldn't focus on that, that I shouldn't even be considering or contemplating it. No matter how much I explained myself or insisted that I'm not choosing this outcome, but that it is indeed a reality that I must face and accept, she maintained her position that even acknowledging it is the same as choosing it, and I shouldn't even allow myself to think about that, and that I'm going to get better and that I'm underestimating what God can do... (as if he would heal me anyway, 'cause it's not like I haven't asked him a billion times before, back when we were on good terms, but I digress...) Basically, she completely dismissed my illness and insisted that I'm going to get over it. At least, that was my interpretation of the situation. As there are two sides to every story, I fully admit that I could have been completely misreading her.

I explained it like this-- if you have cancer, you have to face the fact that a possible outcome is death. That doesn't mean you're choosing it, or even that it's highly likely, but it's still a part of reality. She came back with a fiery and intense rebuttal of, "Only if you have terminal cancer is that the case. Any other kind of cancer, you have other options."

Look, it's not like I want to be this damn sick all the time. I miss hiking, and I miss cleaning my house. I miss doing more than two or three "things" in a day. (I struggled with fatigue already, but that was small potatoes compared to my life these days.) But I really, really resist the attempts to whitewash my reality and my future and exclude reality from my plans and my thoughts. She told me that I was spending too much time researching fibro online, basically saying that I was focusing on the negative aspects of my illness too much. Um, no. I get down in the mouth from time to time, but I'd like to think that I'm actually rather optimistic about being in severe pain every waking moment. I just felt so... dismissed. Invalidated. Disrespected, I guess. Like she was saying, "No, your interpretation of reality isn't correct. It's too pessimistic. Here, let me replace it with my own. This is the right one. Now, don't go back to your way of thinking! It'll only hurt you." I felt as though she was implying that, if I get sicker (or because I've gotten this sick in the first place, and because it came on so suddenly), that somehow it's my fault and that I was probably focusing too much on the negative and not wanting to get better well enough or something like that.

On that note, check out this funny cartoon! (One of my friends, M, showed it to me when I came home all distraught over my encounter with BJ, after I had explained the whole thing to them... or vented, more like.)

The second issue is my spirituality/life choices. I already mentioned how she thinks that I'm sick because I'm drifting from God, or at least that the two timings coincide quite suspiciously. (Because I got sick so suddenly, remember... because it's not like there are any illnesses out there with sudden onsets. Lord forbid I not be able to pinpoint the exact second I got ill and link it to a specific incident. Okay, sorry, sorry... sorry for the sarcasm.)

Basically, I'm not making choices with my life that she approves of, because I've left the path that she deems to be the path of life. She insists it's not about church, but that it's about God, but... I feel that the two are too synonymous in most people's minds to really make a difference. She's devastated because I'm living with my fiance before we're married, but the Bible doesn't say anything about that. The church does. I'm sure EGW probably does somewhere. But God doesn't. Sex before marriage? Yeah, there's stuff in there about that. I know that one, and I'm not going to go into my reasons for why I'm okay with it in certain situations right now. That's not what I need to talk about here. (Besides, there are other things that I'm okay with that God demands people be stoned for, so God and I... we have our differences above and beyond my anger issues with him.)

She told me that I broke her heart, just like her kids have broken her heart, because she/they (she and her husband) gave us everything, hoping that we'd learn to love the Lord and follow him but we've all walked away and she feels like a failure, and... also that I can never again break her heart or hurt her like I already have, because her heart is already broken so badly.

First of all, I resent being "gifted" with the ability to devastate someone like that with the choices that I'm making with my life. Do my choices affect others? Most definitely. Am I responsible for that? Partially yes, and partially no. Others (we're talking mature, responsible adults here, not dependents) also have a choice in how they will respond to my actions, whether they will let themselves be devastated by my choices or simply sad, maybe disappointed. I told her very clearly that I am not making rash decisions, that they are well thought out and wrestled with, and that I have total and complete peace within my own mind about the path that I'm pursuing. She hates that I'm marrying into atheism; I don't mind it. She says that it's going to affect me; I openly acknowledge that it already has, and I quietly acknowledge that I'm grateful for the dose of realism and cynicism. I stated that I am striving to live as authentic of a life as possible, and I am not interested in hiding who I am, where I am, and even why I am.

I just feel that, if I am not making the decisions she feels to be the right ones, then I'm a profound disappointment and I've crushed her soul. No one likes feeling that way, because it's not about my choices, it's about me and my self-worth. I am a disappointment, not my choices. I never, ever feel this way with my mom, with R, or with the S's. They have somehow mastered the art of loving, accepting, and enjoying me, even if they disagree with or are disappointed in the choices that I'm making. BJ has yet to learn this, and I begin to understand why I have felt this strange sense of alienation between her and her youngest son throughout the years. I didn't get why he had this strange, subtle resistance to his parents, especially his mom... but now I do. I feel it, too. You can't thrive in that kind of environment. It's stifling. Her mind is so closed that she can't comprehend that someone else's path might lie along a different track than the one she's taken. She found salvation such-and-such a way and in such-and-such a place; how could you possibly find it elsewhere? It doesn't exist. And if you are outside her understanding of "right", then you will break her heart. *sigh* I'm tired just thinking about it.

The thing is, as long as we kept things light and fluffy, we were fine. We enjoyed ourselves, and had a grand time. It's when things get beyond surface level that trouble brews. I realized last night that I have to draw some boundaries... I just can't let her in to the deeper parts of my life anymore.

I discussed this with C last night, and he told me that he was proud of me, and that I handled it well. I stood up for myself (I didn't go into all the details here, because they're not really important, but I did outline pretty much the whole conversation for him.), whereas a while back I would have quailed beneath her disapproval and cowtowed to her wishes. He pointed out that I'm much stronger than I used to be, even if I don't see it all the time.

Honestly, I am pretty proud of myself, too. I am a little daunted, though, by the task before me of setting boundaries with someone that I've been so open with for so long... but I have to. For both our sakes, I think.

Best part? In days past, I would have been so affected by her words that I would have doubted the decisions that I've made and begun the familiar dance of vacillation. This time, however... I never wavered. I know in my heart that I'm making the right decision for me, regardless of what anyone else thinks, and I'm going to go through with it.

That's not to say that our conversation didn't affect me, because it did. I went to the bathroom and cried. There were "a lot of feels", as my friends would put it. So many feels. Though I managed to tuck it away deep inside me for the duration of our day together, I was swirling in a muddle of torment that evening when I got home. I was able to talk about it with a couple of buddies and with C, so that made processing it a bit easier, and the emotions eased up as I realized what was really going on. I seem to always make the jump to assuming that I'm in the wrong. Always. If something's going on, it's probably my fault.

But the guys helped me to see that such is not always the case. As M pointed out, it seems that the situation was all about her-- her broken heart, her disappointment, the fact that she gave everything and I "betrayed her", so to speak... her confusion about my illness...

Everyone else agrees with me about the whole "facing reality and all the potential outcomes of my illness" situation, by the way. They feel that she is trying to avoid or alter reality... but really, do you blame her? Someone that she's loved and nurtured for over twenty years is suddenly super sick, and talking about how they may end up bedridden someday from this sickness. Wouldn't you panic, too? I mean, who wants that for anyone that they love? I can see why she would deny that possibility and insist that I focus only on the potential for healing. I can see that. I just don't think it's appropriate or helpful.

While I could see her concern and care for me and her sympathy for my pain in her actions throughout the day (not letting me lift things, being considerate of walking distances and having me wait at the front of stores so she could pick me up in the car),  I still don't feel that same support from her that I do from J, or from C, or from my mom, R, and the kids... or even from the guys, for that matter. I don't know what it is, but I just can't consider her to be a part of my support system. She supports me with her actions, but she tears me apart with her words. There is no verbal expression of sympathy or concern for my pain or illnesses, just sighs of sadness and, "Oh, C..." (which, of course, totally mimics disappointment and makes me feel like I've done something wrong in being sick...).

Okay. I'm done. I've waded through this enough. I love the woman, but she's not safe for me anymore. I have to close off that harbor and not anchor there any longer. I can sail through and visit, but I can't unload on the docks.

This is either going to be much, much harder than I think, or much easier than I'm anticipating. We'll see how it goes.

4 thoughts:

  • Optimistic Existentialist | March 11, 2013 at 11:08 AM

    This must be hard but sounds as if you're making the right choice. Very introspective and thought-provoking as always my new friend.

  • Invictus | March 11, 2013 at 1:16 PM

    Ah, well, anyone can make it sound as though they're making the right choice. Such is the beauty of rationalization! lol But I am settled in my mind that I am making the right decision. Thank you for the encouragement.

  • Jolene | March 14, 2013 at 10:04 PM

    I am sad. I'm so sorry. That's a hard reality to come to, especially when they're close friends that you thought you could trust. I've been going through my share of broken trusts and unsafe friends. She definitely fits in the "unsafe" category, sad to say. :(

  • Invictus | March 15, 2013 at 9:56 AM

    Yeah... I know you understand. Thanks for the sympathies :) May we always be safe for one another!!

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