Saturday, May 21, 2005

Just Call Me Cleopatra...and Join Me In Denial.

I like to think I'm a realist. Like many people, I can certainly see the mistakes of others quite clearly. I'm certainly not afraid to tell people how I see their lives and choices. (Yes, I do have friends...why do you ask?)

But when I look at my own life, I can see a fairly long list of times where I've been in complete denial. If I am being at all honest I can say that denial is my number one coping skill.....for better or worse.

I think it goes back to childhood and situations I could not change. As some point it became easier to just pretend the bad thing -- whatever that was -- was not happening. Or that things were not as bad as they seemed.

Traditionally, it is only in retrospect that I can pronounce something a crappy situation or see how dire my situation was in the past. When I do think of some of the things I went through I'm amazed. I can only credit a determination not to give up and complete denial as the reasons I made it through.

When I was younger -- early twenties -- I moved in with my best friend and her mother. I'd had a rough time of things and the only conditions of my staying there was paying rent and counseling to deal with my past. Okay. Well, my friends mother said she knew an agency that would counsel me for very little -- her best friend ran the place.

After a while it should have been clear that the living arrangements were not working out. My friend tended to blame her indescretions on me and her mother began to look at me in a less than favorable light. Still, I denied it and refused to see the writing on the wall. As was my pattern, I told myself that if I tried hard enough things would be fine. I blew off statements with an edge as my paranoia.

They were Jewish and took my friend's(who eventually became my "lovah" and then husband)gift of a mini-Christmas Tree as a sign of disrespect. He also gave me cookies and one of those International Foods Coffees (celebrate the moments of your life,) and all sorts of cookies. Since I'd been there the mom and my friend would mark various items as theirs...and I was good with this.

I wanted to share all my goodies with them 'cept I wanted the coffee for me. So I put my name on it. I walked 5 miles home from work in winter the nest night to find that they'd retaliated by marking everything in the house...including aspirin and toilet paper...with their names.

Now denial or not, even I knew this was not good. I actually did not say anything until my friend's mom went up for bed and then I asked my best friend...the person I'd been loyal to through a lost of crazy days, what was going on. I'd waited because I was confused and wanted to talk to my friend privately, but this was used against me to call me sneaky.

The next day I was giving until February first to get out. I was working a crappy telemarketing job and did not know where I would go. I had my friend (future "lovah"/hubby)but I did not want to move in with the guy out of no choice.

I was told I was a "taker," and not a "giver." I have many faults, but I'll tell you true: when I give my love and loyalty to someone I give them everything I have. ('Cept my frickin' coffee!)Of all the things she could have accused me of, nothing could be less accurate.

In the intervening weeks it became quite clear that they were somehow privy to information that I'd only told my counselor. They keep dropping comments until it was clear that they had seen my records...or heard it all from someone who'd spied for them.

I am a very clean person, but they'd leave me notes about not putting my feet on their couch. They gave a whole list of insane rules to a young woman who was just trying to keep her head above water and make a life for herself.

I was on utter denial of how much this hurt me. And how I was still hurting from my (first) estrangement from my mother.

I found an ad for a woman who had a room for rent in her house for $55.00 dollars a month...she lived about half a mile away from where I was staying. My friend and her mom refused to let me have some of my stuff until the phone bill showed up...the bill that I'd always paid my share of...classic. Even after I gave them my money it was hard to get my stuff. AND I found out from my grandmother that they had a little TV which was mine and I did not know had been sent to me.

So in late January I walked with a garbage bag of clothes -- many of them with mysterious bleach stains that my friend and her mom swore they knew nothing about -- and a bottle of champagne. (For the life of me I do not recall where I got that bottle) to my new dwelling.

Now I love animals and am good with them but my new landlady had two aggressive, protective Dobies. They would not let me in the door unless someone told them it was okay. There were a couple nights I had to sit on the porch until someone let me in. (Denial, denial.)

I spent my first several days there locked in my room 'cept for when I was working. I holed up in there eating chips and reading The Stand., denying there was any reason to be depressed. I considered crawling out the window of my room to avoid the dogs.

As the weeks went on I finally got the dogs to like me based on the fact that I fed them a lot...out of my own pocket. The woman was a -- um, what do you call it? -- crack whore. Well, escort was how she referred to it. Her best friend was a 300 lb co-whore. They were always leaving co-whore's kids with me -- not asking, just slipping out.

The woman, D-, would come to my job and ask for rent whether it was quite due or not. If I told her I could did not have it at work, she'd ask me if I had any money hidden, and assure me I could trust her.

She got her phone disconnected and used mine. Her special men friends would call MY phone and demand to speak to her. She ran my bill up so high my credit rating took a beating for years. She also stole my birth certificate...and I really don't want to know what happened there.

There were other people who lived in the house...her teen daughter and her ex-husband. The ex was there because the ho tried to kill her daughter and it was either that or lose custody. (There was a son who lived with a grandmother.)

Did I mention denial?

One of the Dobies became more vicious due to medical issues she would not treat. I ended up passing a bad check at the vet -- one of her checks -- because I could not see the poor thing suffer. I got a friend of mine to drive me and the dog and Zeus spent the whole time growing a couple inches from our faces. It took the vets two tranq shots to get him to lose consciousness and they were not touching him any other way.

A big treat for me was going to the Big Lots across the street or on payday springing for a corned beef sandwich. I could cry now thinking about how I made a ceremony over a sandwich. It was a change from Ramen Noodles and Mac and Cheese. (I'd learned you could eat for a week on $7.00)

Well, D- failed to pay the mortgage and got us all evicted. I felt I had no choice and I called my mother to find out my dog had died a couple days before. She let me move in with eventually went bad again. (We'll just call that another story.)

The funny part was that some of the things that my friend and mom gave me and made me feel like they were so wonderfully charitable were things my mother had secretly given them to give to me. They failed to mention that.

It was only in retrospect that I could be pissed or sad over any of this...I was just too busy trying to survive. I think it was the utter denial that allowed me not to give up. The fact that I was unable to see how sad it was to be giddy over a sandwich was how I put one foot in front of the other.

And there was learning and growth. Even though things fell apart with my mother again eventually, the daughter that moved back in with her was different. I paid rent and worked 2 jobs and had matured. Although things became bad between us again I knew I could be strong.

The sad part is that because of the strength I found I became unwilling to sell my soul for her approval. Don't get me wrong... I was not a perfect daughter and she s not completely at fault in the problems we had -- I'm not claiming that, but I came to a point where I could not prostrate myself before her and beg for her love again. I wanted to be her daughter but not at the cost of my dignity and self-esteem. I made a decision that she would have to make some effort to make amends with me. I would meet her more than half way, but she had to take a step in my direction. I'm still waiting for that step.

Now people who are paying attention might point out I should have just moved in with my friend of the Coffee and Christmas Tree in the first place. Yep. That damned hindsight.

Want to know the kicker? I've run into my friend and her mother twice and both times my friend did not recognize me. The first time was at an animal adoption event I was working. My friend began to ask me questions and I look at her mother and see her eyes freakin' knows me, but the woman who called me her sister does not. I excused myself and I assume her mother pointed out to her what she missed. Another time was at a restaurant.

It made me think of that scene in Roots where Sandy Duncan did not recognize Lesie Uggams...who was supposedly her best friend back in the day.

At least Leslie Uggams got to spit in her drink!
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