I used to love a good fight. I could present a fantastic argument; even when I was young, my parents used to say I should be a lawyer. (Yes, I know, it's never too late.) After college when I was in my twenties in Chicago, I would strike up a conversation with a complete stranger at a bar just to debate, oh, the atrocity of the Exxon Valdez oil spill. (Seriously, once a guy told me he worked for Exxon, and I spent an hour enumerating the reasons he would rot in hell for working for the man.) Back in those days, O.J. Simpson provided a lot of fodder for heated discussion, as well. And, of course, protecting the environment, which wasn't nearly as popular then as it is now. When I think about it, I didn't love to argue as much as I loved to be right. (In your twenties, you know everything, am I right?) I just couldn't fathom that people had different opinions, and I felt I was doing them a favor by setting them straight. Yes, I was great fun to be around then, particularly since quite a bit of drinking was usually involved.
I bring this up today because I don't feel like I have any fight left in me. Being an unemployed, divorced, forty-two year old mother of my own moody b—, er brat, what the hell do I know? I realized in my thirties that I didn't know shit, and I struggled mightily in my quest for knowledge. I hoped my forties would bring acceptance around this issue, and to some extent it has. But rather than get my dander up when challenged, I now sigh with resignation. We've all heard about the "fight or flight" instinct; I've swung to the other end of the spectrum. I hunker down, run away, avoid conflict and, if possible, take a nap. I hate arguing.
To say that I'm moody is putting it mildly, however, and I happen to be in a relationship with someone who is equally moody but hasn't yet had his spirit broken. When we disagree, my natural response is to think, "Well, this clearly isn't going to work out." And then I fantasize about a future with just me and Grace ("You and me against the world, sometimes I think it's you and me against the world..."), which is hilarious because she's the one who caused all this in the first place, with all that perspective crap. Is Grace happy, healthy and safe? Okay then. Is Grace behaving like Drew Barrymore in "The Firestarter?" THAT'S where I need to focus my energy, not on whether there is a discrepancy in the odometer reading of my new (old) car. Combine that with almost constant physical pain, and I'm having trouble picking my battles, and waging them with a modicum of maturity.
There has to be a happy medium, and I keep turning to the serenity poem. (I'm agnostic.) But it turns out that this tidbit of wisdom has very little to offer when it comes to relationships. It does not address, for example, what one should do when confronted with a close friend who is driving you crazy with criticism, judgement, abandonment or just a bad attitude. So I withdraw. It seems the safest option, when there are battles being fought on so many fronts right now. (Oh, and I blog, which is a thinly veiled cry for validation and support from complete strangers. Hmmmm.) But too much withdrawal will most certainly leave me in a worse place: alone.
I'm seeing a woman next Friday who is a "Personal Development Coach, Clinical/Medical Hynotherapist & Trauma Specialist." I was referred to her by my awesome chiropractor (see ad at left), and can I tell you how much I would not want to be this poor woman? The visual I have is me sitting across from her and explaining the last year of my life, and having her furrow her brow, shake her head and write down the name and number of someone who may be more able to handle my situation.
Disclaimer: I know there are millions of people worse off than I am. I cry for them almost every day and try to remain grateful that I have food, housing, friends, family and, of course, beer.