Saturday, June 9, 2007

I Never Said "No"

I hear you are not supposed to call an ex, or other people you have strong opinions about, when you're intoxicated--the 'don't drink and dial' rule. My intoxicant is rage, and I am not at fault if someone dials my number when I'm white, hot angry.

I should have known that I wouldn't have a nice, quiet weekend Friday morning, when I finally let my boss know that his decisions were ridiculous and that his vaunted communication skills only made everyone feel hostile. Once I get to the point of telling people I disagree with that much how I feel about them, the aftermath just won't be pretty. Which is why I warned my husband of the fallout, my way of protecting him from any unintended consequences.

I should have known the real explosion was yet to come, when I finally went to bed with a headache that was practically choking me; and when I finally opened my eyes, resentfully because after less than six hours of sleep, the headache had grown larger. I realized I was a small keg of dynamite in the form of a woman, waiting for a spark.

That's when my mother called. My flat tone had not changed since the last time we had spoken, and even though I warned her and she knew the source of my discontent She. Just. Couldn't. Let. It. Go. Unfortunately, this is a curse of the women in my family, myself included. When we know someone is unhappy we have to try and 'fix' it. No matter that we may be the problem, or the problem may not have a solution. We just have to keep picking until something happens. And this morning, something did happen.

It all started innocently enough, talking about her travel plans and her friends. But things started quickly going downhill when she mentioned a situation that my brother hadn't handled well.

I'd like to say I reacted primarily because I was defending my brother, but the question I put to her had little to do with him. "If the mother of a family accepts a bad situation and suffers for it, then the daughter tolerates the bad situation and suffers the consequences, do you really think it's a good idea for them to be advising someone else to follow in their crooked footsteps?" And that was just the beginning. I launched into my angry discourse of how I had never been allowed to make decisions, had obeyed what everyone around me had told me--not just ignoring my own ideas, intelligence and instincts but doubting their validity at every turn. I told her how everyone's 'help' and advice had put me where I am--miserable with my job, and constantly reminded of what a disappointment and failure I have been.

Her response when she could get a word in edgewise? "You're lost. You don't know what you're talking about. Stop blaming everyone for decisions you made. I let you go when you were 18 and you could have done anything you wanted to. Anything. You could have become an addict and gotten 10 abortions but you didn't, you chose to listen to your parents' guidance. You know why? Because you're good. You did this to yourself. And by the way, everyone loves you. People back home, people think you're so good, you're untouchable."

Never has a perceived virtue been used as damnation; never has there been a better argument against virtue. I was stunned into silence, and even angrier. I would never be able to get out of this hell because I was damned to 'goodness'. My mother has no greater pride than how highly people back home think of me. And nothing confuses me more. They think I'm dignified and 'good' because on my rare trips home, I sit there politely and say little. I don't tell them I find their hypocrisy rank; I don't tell them I have gay friends; I don't tell them my choice to demure from drinking has little to do with virtue, and greatly to do with lack of taste for the stuff; nor do I say that I rarely dance because I am self-conscience of my jerking motions but desperately want to be there making as much a scene as the next girl And so on. The reality is, if people back home really knew anything of me, they would probably see me as anyone else who knows me , the wallflower few notice or pay much attention to. I never correct their perception, because their idea of my virtue is my only alternative to oblivion.

When I could finally hear over the sound of blood rushing to my head, she was saying, "You could have said no to your father, or me or anyone else who was telling you what to do. You could have been like X or Y who did what they wanted to. But you didn't. You never even said no. So stop blaming everyone else for your decisions."

With that, the whole argument was over. She was right in a way. People cross boundaries and interfere in others' lives everyday. Parents intervene and advise their children, because that's what they think is best. Smart people say 'no' and put their foot down. I could have cut the string that stretched over continents and oceans, keeping me in line years ago--but I didn't. I could have taken a risk and jumped into my dreams with both feet, but I couldn't. I allowed that string to become a rope, and then a noose that would choke me.

I should have just said 'no'.


keenEddie said...

Much of this sounds like a similar situation I'd found myself in with my own mother. Some details are different, of course; but I did realize that I'd been living among emotional vampires for far too long.

So, I packed up my stuff, burned all bridges and moved from NY to Sydney, Australia.

Manny said...

Sounds to me like you should get raging headaches more often. For a long time I learned to put my emotions, needs, and wants aside. Now that I've become a selfish prick, I have waaaay more fun.

Anonymous said...

Selfishness leads you to a happier life and being an inconsiderate asshole rewards you with better sex. I wish I could exaggerate, but this is a scientific fact!

saarikaa said...

It seems like you're ready to step out of your comfort, your mom is right. stop blaming everyone, INCLUDING YOURSELF, and start doing what you like. one little step at a time. Start with dancing and don't care who's watching. and don't forget along the way, there'll be times that you'll miss the feeling of safety and comfort that you get from pretending to be in agreement with others.