Thursday, March 03, 2005

Old Habits Die Hard (But Die Already, Would Ya?) 

When I was growing up, I was a very good girl. That's not to say that I didn't act up or do silly things, but much more often than not, I was a very good girl. I learned early on that if I was a happy,smart and mature girl, that I would get praised, but otherwise I was a bad kid and if I was a bad kid, then people wouldn't like me and would leave me. These people could be my family, my friends, or just people that I encountered casually in my everyday life. Therefore, it was very much etched into my brain that if I wasn't always the happy, smart and mature girl, then I would be alone.

My childhood growing up was not the best. My Dad was verbally abusive, smoked pot incessantly and rarely worked. My Mom was distant, incredibly unhappy, and was scared of and mad at the world. There were times when we were homeless. There were times when we didn't know where the next meal was coming from. My sister and I did not get the opportunity to grow up together due to some really bad judgments on my Mom's part. My Father touched me inappropriately. When my parents finally divorced when I was 13, my Father was in and out of my life like a very unstable yo-yo. There would be long periods of him being gone and my not knowing where he was, followed by his showing up and wanting to make up for all the birthdays and holidays that he missed completely in one fell swoop. Just when I was happy to have him back in my life, the verbal abuse would commence again. What was really interesting was when he found God and then he was able to use the Bible to substantiate all of the verbal abuse he spewed at me.

Meanwhile, I put on the mask of being a happy, smart and mature girl.

The happy, smart and mature girl grew up and tried to become a happy, smart and mature woman. Sometimes I was successful at portraying that, sometimes I wasn't. However I learned that if I made people laugh and did everything I could for everyone else at the expense of myself, often people would overlook the times that I was unsuccessful at being the happy, smart and mature woman. If I smile and act like what's going on in my life is no big deal, then hopefully other people will, too.

The happy, smart and mature woman that I was trying so hard to be was dealt a few blows that really cracked the veneer of my facade. My Mom was diagnosed with lung cancer that had metasasized to the brain and I quit my job to try to take care of her until she died. I moved to Atlanta and became involved in a friendship that was very co-dependent. I became friends with my Dad and was really starting to enjoy hanging out with him, when he passed away. My friend that I was co-dependent with moved away. I lost my job that I worked at for 7 years.

Through all of the above things I've mentioned, I tried so hard to be happy, smart and mature. I rationalized all the bad things that happened by saying things like, "Everything happens for a reason!" and "If I hadn't of gone through those things, I wouldn't have learned whatever lesson I was supposed to learn!" and "That which does not kill you makes you stronger."

The paradox is that all of those things are true, and at the same time, all of those things are total bullshit. However it took my getting in therapy and getting on some medication to finally realize that it's OK not to be happy all the time. It's OK to ask for and get what you need. It's OK to go through an unhappy or unpleasant situation and say, "You know what? That really SUCKED and I'm UPSET!!!" There will be people that won't be able to handle that and they might leave. However that is not a reflection on me. Those have all been really tough lessons for me to learn and put into practice and it's still hard not to fall back into picking up the mask of being the happy girl.

The perfect example of this has been recently. I have really been working hard on trying to get a job since after the holidays. I had an interview with a company I really liked, and they haven't called and seem annoyed when I them call to follow up. I went through testing and a tough interview for another job and was called back in for a simple typing test. On the day of the test, I woke up with a fever. I called to reschedule and they advised me that was not going to happen. I got a temporary job working for a retail store helping them set up a new store. I worked my ass off and worked diligently at making a good impression. I had an interview to become a permanent member of the store team, and was not chosen. Meanwhile, I send out resumes daily and I have papered other retail places with applications and so far this has been with no results. To add insult to injury, I have been sick - sick enough to really need to go to the Doctor, but with no insurance and no money, that is not an option.

What do I do? I act like everything is OK. That all of the recent disappointments are not that bad. When talking with friends who are almost as anxious as I am for me to get a job, I easily slip into, "It's OK - something else will come along and it's no big deal." or "Yes, It sounds like I'm coughing up a lung, but I'll be alright."

Well, it is a big deal and it's not alright, damn it. 13+ months of unemployment has been really demoralizing. I am trying so hard not to feel like a total failure, but sometimes it's REALLY hard. I'm trying so hard to pick myself up and dust myself off, but it's tough when you are running a fever and can barely breathe.

Now, before someone goes and calls some crisis intervention line on my behalf, know that although I'm currently "unmasked," I'm OK. My health is getting better and I'm making strides to try yet another plan on my path to employment. However, I'm also needing to exercise the "muscle" that knows that it's OK to be upset, pissed off and sick and tired of being sick and tired. If I don't, then those negative feelings will come back to haunt me in a far worse way than just "feeling what I feel when I feel it" would.

If you have read this far, thank you for allowing me to use this forum to let off some steam. I know that I'm going to wake up tomorrow morning feeling better as a result. In the meantime, I hope you will keep me in your thoughts and prayers that the right and perfect job will be found soon and that my health gets increasingly better.


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