There are things in life we all ignore. There are things in life we all avoid. We don’t speak about them, try not to think about them and basically do everything in our power to deny the power that these things can have over each of us. Sometimes these things resemble something disgusting, or scary, or just not in the realm of our own understanding. But holding them in, not confronting the moments that are set up to destroy us, will eventually cause us to fall in the same manner we always feared.
I, like most people, have my demons. I have my fears. And I have those things in my life that can cause irrevocable damage to the person that I try and be. I don’t speak about them and despite my willingness to forget them, they stay with me long after my soul has been damaged by them.
I don’t mean to be vague; it’s purely by accident, but I dread the topic of this post with so much of me that I believe that delaying actually saying it all out loud will some how help me to forget. But I am not forgetting. I am instead stuck in a gear that is making it impossible for me to find my own center, my own peace.
A couple of months ago my family and I lived in an apartment complex. Downstairs was a woman, younger than me, who had multiple children, little education, and an unmistakable aura of malice. I tried to befriend her, but I simply couldn’t. I couldn’t find common ground with her. I couldn’t find a way to communicate with her. And I hated how she treated my children when they were playing outside the building where she often sat.
I should say out loud that I avoid conflict. I avoid conflict like it’s the Spanish plague. So when this woman was so ridiculous in how she treated my children, especially my son, I didn’t know how to handle it. I am not a person who would confront anyone, but especially not one that had that horribleness about her. I don’t even watch reality TV because I don’t like the confrontations that seem to be the oil in the wheel. So I avoided her and I encouraged my children to do the same. I didn’t talk to her, didn’t look at her, didn’t acknowledge her. Certainly not in a purposefully rude way, just in a way I thought was most likely going to avoid the eventual fight. I should have known it wouldn’t work with this woman.
To make a long story short, one after she and her husband back me and my seven year old daughter in the parking lot and screamed obscenities and horrible accusations about me and my children. And I took it. I took it. I took it and didn’t fight back. I didn’t tell her how I felt about her, I didn’t disparage her life and her family. For all the things that she yelled at me, I didn’t respond. And that in itself is crushing.
While making sure that my daughter was a safe distance from this woman and her husband, I didn’t defend my children. While this poison was being spewed, I didn’t stand up. And there is a part of me that hates myself for it. Despite knowing what I am perfectly capable of, in this instance, I was the weakling. And it makes me so ashamed that I have no idea how to reconcile any of it. How do I come to terms with the confrontation that literally terrifies me and the sure knowledge that at the one time I should have stood up, I didn’t.
I didn’t defend my children and put this woman and her husband in their place; instead I cowered. I was less that day. And while intellectually I realize that anything that I might have said would have not only fallen on deaf ears but might have endangered my child further, it still feels like the worst neglect I ever brought to the light. I was a coward no matter how you look at it.
I could tell you some of my fear of confrontations is directly related to the sure knowledge I have that my temper and my disease make me a dangerous person. I could tell you I don’t trust myself in a temper. I could tell you that I know walking away is the smarter thing to do, but the truth is all I feel is great disappointment in myself and a very real fear of these people. And while I believe in things like karma, the truth is we all know that nothing will happen to this couple. They will go on living their lives and I will go on being fearful of even seeing them in a restaurant.
We have moved out of that apartment but not far enough that I won’t run into them. I have upped my medication so much of the anxiety can be controlled. My children are happier and I hold onto that. But that woman and her venom has not yet left me. It has left a mark and I think it affects me to this day.
I spend hours fantasizing about what I should have said, or what I would say if I ran into them now. I spend too much time thinking and hoping for all these horrible things to happen to that family; because they dared to frighten my child. But the truth is, none of this is productive. None of this will change anything. None of this will allow me to not fear running to the store for milk one night. I am not ashamed of the thoughts I have about those people; I don’t believe that thoughts alone can be destructive to someone else. But I also simply want to be done with this whole episode. I want to move on. And I can’t find the pathway to end.
It is frustrating that I have knowingly allowed someone to have any kind of power over me. It is frustrating knowing that despite my thoughts, I won’t actually act upon any of the thoughts I have because they too have children, and while children may grow into their parents, they begin this life innocent. It is frustrating knowing that no matter how many times I write about this topic, it won’t leave me. It is a load stone around my throat and I can’t unclasp it.
I live my life trying to be better than what this disease makes me. I live my life with the sure knowledge that this disease can not only destroy me but could destroy others as well. I live my life trying not to create huge monsters that have never existed. I live my life desperately trying to be someone I can find in the mirrors. I live my life trying to ignore all the pain, all the hurt, all the insanity in an attempt to find not only levity but a kind of calm that will allow me to exist.
I don’t know why this one thing, this one event, has caused me so much turmoil. I don’t know why I can’t let this thing go no matter how much I wish otherwise. I don’t know why I can’t find those grown up panties and pull them on. Even getting this on paper doesn’t seem to change the hold this incident has over me. And I often wonder which will break first, me or my temper. And neither of those possibilities, the loss of either of me or my temper will be safe for anyone involved.
I don’t have sage advice about these situations and what you should do. Occasionally I believe that a single shot of a good alcohol helps, but at this point it would take more bottles than my body could handle and a trip to the store that I am too nervous to make. So instead, I will move forward and acknowledge that on the day this woman came after me I was less than I thought I could be, and at the end of the day, although she doesn’t know it, that horrible woman won.