Sunday, September 12, 2010

a crack in the illusion

Periodically I find myself in new friend bliss. I connect with another person and boom—a beautiful relationship is born. There's that initial excitement, thrill, appreciation, discovery. I excel at creating bubbles around these burgeoning friendships, both to protect them from fraying as well as having that shiny sheen keep reality at bay.

But, that's impossible.

Cracks always appear in the illusion. And there I am with duct tape, band aids, super glue, desperately patching things, trying as hard as I can to keep it all together. To keep that fantasy alive.

To not acknowledge what's really going on right in front of me.

I tend to be drawn to people who've suffered greatly, people I'm sure that I can help, fix, rehabilitate, save. There was the contractor who spent the thousands of dollars I'd paid over months to build cabinets in my living room on crack. That explained the frequent disappearances, sleeping on my floor in the middle of the afternoon, the manic energy and desperate crashes. The trainer I'd gotten legal help for who blew his entire settlement on who knows what but but never bothered paying back all the people, including me, who'd helped him through a nasty car accident and difficult recovery. The media guru who only wanted to help me grow to the next level and then disappeared, quickly, when I didn't end up famous. The music teacher I designed countless logos and flyers for, recommended to friends, found song writing gigs for, whose self-destructive tendencies were insurmountable. The well renowned illustrator I listened to, supporting enthusiastically, for hours (and hours and hours), who permanently blew me off when I got a Barnes and Noble book signing and he hadn't had one yet.

And yet, I don't give up.

I can't give up.

I'm compelled, driven, obsessed about making these relationship work.

Because, if I stand back and see what's really going on I'd have to face who these people really are. And who I really am.

Why can't I revel in the love and security I have in my life? I am blessed, truly. I've been married for 22 years to an amazing man I'm still happy to see every day. We have two remarkable kids who've saved me from my self-destructive tendencies, who challenge me and keep me grounded in the here and now. A puppy who is karmic joy. A perfectly lovely apartment in the west village. My parents are alive and I know that they're there for me no matter what. The same goes for my brother and sister. I have friends who are smart, funny, talented, creative. A yoga practice that is my home away from home. I just discovered how much I love to fly down the highway on my bike.

I get to write books. I've had experiences I'd never dreamed of. I've learned, and stretched, and discovered and I'm on the verge of new things I've never done before.

And still, I seek out these destructive situations that break my heart. Cause such pain.

Make me feel like such a loser.

I let these people color who I am. Turn my life from very full to arid empty. I search endlessly for that last drop of water that gives me hope all will be ok in the end but it never is.

Then I lie on my bathroom floor and sob. Distraught that I couldn't make things better. That someone's life is still spiraling out of control and there's nothing I can do.

One day I'm hoping I can know, from the deepest parts of who I am, that I can't fix anyone else. And perhaps, instead of sending all that energy outward, I could nurture myself with it.

I can't begin to imagine what I could accomplish if I could channel this destructive energy in a different way. I suppose though, even being able to see this much might keep me from finding myself here again.


Anonymous said...

Interesting post. I don't really understand the list of damaged people including the media guru. Why was this person damaged? Sounds more like you just added that person as a personal dig. A good therapist could help you work through the reasons you choose to be "friends" with damaged people. Most likely you're repeating a pattern you learned in your family of origin. Elissa, I've enjoyed reading your blog, but when you write posts like this all I can think is that you're unable to deal with your problems on your own, and must vent them to the world as a form of therapy. But then I'm sure you are aware of this. It's almost like your personal brand, isn't it? This post will be the last I read. Sorry, but everyone has stuff they're working through in their own lives. People who've let them down, issues with their own behavior that keep them stuck in a bad cycle, frustrations and disappointments. I don't want to read about this stuff in a blog post unless there's something useful or insightful you add that makes me think "ah, yes, there's a new way to approach this problem". Your posts never get to this place. It's all just a form of narcissistic emoting. My advice is to stop posting these kind of things to your blog, and hire a good therapist to help you work through this stuff. In the end, if you really want to understand why you do what you do. Time better spent.

Jeremy said...

It is unfortunately a truism that people generally don't change. It is one of those things we must accept in life: the person we know now will be the same as the person we know in times to come. We either have to accept who they are or end up disappointing ourselves when they stay that way.

Elissa Stein said...

Awareness is just about the most profound first step out of destructive behavior there is. For me, that's huge. Positive. Honest. There are no quick fixes in life—but people able to recognize what they're doing and work towards a more constructive path is inspiring. Sorry it's not to you.

Ponet said...

I believe you're very brave. You shed without the fear of judgment, which looms from those that want to control every letter you put down. In any relationship, it's about responsibility, and when we betray, let down, or disappoint, more than likely we've delivered a mirror of character. It's very arrogant not to admit this. Sometimes you just meet people to let you know who you really are in your heart, and unfortunately some are just heartless.

Amy Oscar said...

All of us have our mysteries. All of us have our own ways of working through them. As a writer, I know that the journal - and/or the blog - is often the 'friend' that i turn to to sort through mine.

Bravo, Elissa, for your candor, your courage. Your work has such a fierce, fiery insistence on getting to the heart of your mystery.To my mind, that's healthy and brave. Your blog posts make me consider the inner workings of my own life; and they always leave me thinking.

There are readers who can deal with it and readers who can't. As for Anonymous' comment: It's completely inappropriate to say such things here when they could be said privately - in an email.
There is no need to scold a writer, on her own blog, for expressing her own experience.

Deer Baby said...

I'm a first time reader and I totally get it. I use my blog as an outlet too. I still have therapy but why should the two be mutually exclusive? I think once we stop questioning who we are, why we're like it and how we can change (if we want to) it's over.
Personally this is the sort of exploring I like - especially as you are obviously successful but you are still working things out.

People who hide behind anonymous comments get my goat. Why say it anyway and secondly, at least have the guts to put your name to it.