I try to avoid negativity and anger on my blog. After all, it’s published online for all to see, possibly forever. But to be truthful and straightforward–and to recognize the physically and spiritually difficult trip I am leaving for in two weeks–I will respect the crappy feelings as well as the good ones. So if you are–understandably–not in the mood to read a rant, do not feel bad about moving on. This rant is for comparison for when I return in August. It is a time capsule of sorts, here to look back on once I have found some distance.
Recently, I’ve found that the same people who tell you constantly to “take better care of yourself” are the ones that will also go out of their way to point out why you aren’t working hard enough. I’ve spent the past four years in a work and family-related “assistant role.” I’m the “dependable one,” the one that doesn’t get angry, the one that reads all the details and explains them to others with a smile, the one that orders the food, sets up the wedding, puts everything in place. I am thanked constantly for it–which I find very kind. And yet you know what would be kinder? A hand when I ask for one. Since last summer, I’ve been mysteriously sick. I have bouts of terrible stomach problems, landing me in bed with no energy, barely able to eat for a week. My joints hurt most of the time, my muscles involuntarily twitch–luckily not enough for anyone to see if you don’t look closely enough. I am tired and foggy, and feel most days like I am moving through a physical and mental swamp. I have asked for space but am rarely, truly given it. I am told to rest and then called to assist an hour later.
Because when the “helpful girl” admits to being chronically sick, or additionally just sick and tired of being the only go-to person in a community–the contradictory people come out of the woodwork. Now that I have admitted “weakness” by speaking about my health issues and expressing a passion to move on to a different career, they descend, pleasured to find a scapegoat for anything that can be pinned on the “girl who helps everyone, but messes things up because she desires a life change.” They are the finger-pointers, and only in the privacy of their quiet moments do their fingers really just point back at themselves. Common phrases include, “Maybe you’re not eating healthy enough.” “Why haven’t you seen the specialist I suggested–that’s why you’re sick.” “You disrespect your anxiety because you won’t take anti-depressants.” “You probably just need to stay more positive.” “Everything will be fine, just keep doing all the stuff your’e doing. Oh, and take it easy, you’ll make yourself sicker.” Or there are the career-related ones: “Some of us can’t choose our careers over having a family.” “You might as well give that artistic thing a try when you’re young so you can come back to this when you want to have kids.” “How does your husband feel about this?”
I know these are projections of their own issues; I know all the logical reasons why this shouldn’t get out of my skin. And yet all of the practical, psychologically friendly pep talks I’ve given myself in the past several months have done nothing to keep my anger, frustration, and bitterness at bay. I do not like who I am right now. I don’t like how I respond to people’s needs, coworkers questions, or family expectations. I knew my anger had over-boiled when the other day, while walking into Trader Joe’s, I became resentful toward the automatic door for not opening right away when I walked my cart up to it. It’s a shock to everyone who has named me the “calm dependable girl.” Because right now, I am not that. I almost yelled at a door in public.
At the same time, this weird wave in my life has shown me that my frustration has significant outside sources, and is not something I’m imagining, or need to “just find a way to get over.” Yes, I need to build up my defenses against the occasional misunderstanding, but no, I will not carry on to simply be the girl who everyone thanks for cleaning up the work they don’t want to do themselves. I was recently told that I should expect less of people so that I would not be as disappointed when they did not treat me with respect. What a terrible way to view those around us–that we should expect less of everyone? Not take their word as truth? Assume that they will not come through?
I am writing this rant as a reminder for myself when I return in August from the Camino. I am angry and tired. I don’t sleep a full night because I wake up feeling sick, tense, and angry. I wish I was better at blocking out the anger around me, especially when it is wrongly directed in my direction, but I will also not settle for expecting less of people. I will continue to expect that those in my life will strive to be true to their word and kind to those around them, because I am striving to do the same. I am not a saint, I am no indestructible event planner, and I am not (nor should I be) expected to do everything with a smile on my face. Yes, I may continue to be disappointed by others–and in this state, I may disappoint them–but I will not lose faith in humanity just because I’ve hit a patch in my life when I feel walked on.
Here’s hoping I look back on this with some peace in a few months. Until then, I’ll be home sick today, hoping I can eat again.