Two little occurrences today, both messed up a perfect summer day for me. First one: A guy I casually know notices me at my usual swimming spot, briefly greets me and right after the initial exchange of courtesies goes into a major venting parade about the hardships he feels he faces. Phrases like “destiny’s punishing me”, “I’m cursed” and the likes were mentioned. They brutally reminded me of my own rants and venting when I was in the pits. It almost felt as if I was listening to myself, a version of self from a not too long while ago. To be honest: It was ugly. Felt ugly, sounded ugly, looked ugly. I tried to not buy into it or get drawn into any drama, while tiptoeing the fine line between appearing polite and getting drawn in all the way to the deep end of it. At the time, I thought I had control in letting it roll off of me. It wasn’t until later that I noticed it had drained me quite a bit. At the very least, it had turned an already difficult day – from not having gotten much sleep and being forced out of bed at 5 am after another night of 4 hours of poor sleep – into a near yucky one.
As I heard myself speak and monitored my feelings, the prevalent thought was: If this is how I was while in the pits, holy Moly I deserve to be shot on the spot! Toxicity, bitterness, cussing, slang words were the main ingredients on the other guy’s part. At some point I did push the emergency stop button, though, and openly admitted that I had not gotten enough sleep and had come here for a little late snooze and recreation. Seemed to sit o.k. with the guy for the time being. But I hadn’t been aware that this “conversation” would be resumed later on. And continue in much the same way. I couldn’t help but notice that he was projecting all the qualities he objected to in the other person – some neighbour he’s in the clinch with – while demonstrating those very qualities himself in the most pronounced way. It wasn’t pretty to look at or get “involved” in. And all that time, I almost obsessed over thinking: “This is how you were in your worst times, this is what others had to put up with?” Even while I was in such shape, I had some understanding for those who turned away. For who needs other people’s problems in addition to their own, right? Who in the world would volunteer to carry someone else’s load when they have theirs and probably that of their ancestors on their backs already? Or is that being selfish, i.e. wanting to be merry and a carefree camper? I’m confused. I’m really confused. For – his story sounded so much like mine. The similarities were striking. And yet all I could feel and think of was this urge to disappear in a parallel universe – I was so uncomfortable.
Which has me ask myself: Where is the fine line between compassion and enabling someone? What is help and when is it becoming an extra in someone else’s drama? When is it caring and when needless buying into others’ shit? To what extent is it self-protection and to what degree being selfish – and potentially cold?
Ugh. This didn’t go down well with me. And then after I return from my bike lap, I get a text message from a different person I met only about two weeks ago. Same thing: Wanting to vent. What is it about me that gives some people the idea I was their personal therapist? Why do I seem to attract and inherit other people’s unresolved issues? Maybe I am selfish, after all. A selfish prick like so many more. It might be for this very reason why I’ve never really warmed up to the idea of self help groups in hospitals. They always seemed to focus too much on the negative, on the disempowering, on the losses, the flaws. While there is something to be said about grief and loss and the proper processing of those, there’s again a fine line between that and wallowing in self-pity. I don’t seem to know where that line is. In not appearing totally cold, let me say that I now understand much better how much pressure and potential neediness can come from unresolved “issues” or damage. From emotional injuries that were never given the proper attention, let alone opportunities to heal. I get that.
And maybe, maybe – these two incidents were telling me something about me and my perceived “progress”, after all – which might explain my somewhat strong and very unlikeable response to them. Maybe I have not progressed one bit, as both things apparently pushed my own buttons – and hard. But when I look deeply into my heart – I’m afraid, I really don’t care this much about myself and my emotional sanity any more. All I still want – but this with a vengeance! – is to be an equal part of something, of some group of peers. And fun. I want to have some easy, innocent fun. Like this summer weather. Swimming and riding my bike, maybe a casual conversation barring all this deep shit that seems to consume almost everyone in this day and age, as if the whole range of personal disorders had become a pandemic or something. WTF?
deadsick people. All the time. They’re everywhere. They see only what they want to see.” (The Sixth Sense 1999 – IMDb.)