Hello dears, do hurry and come in and have a seat. The gnats are fierce out there and they seemingly want in out of the heat and humidity as much I do when I've been outdoors. I tried to water plants the other morning and ended up beating the air about my ears trying to get the things out of my ears. Ugh. I knocked my glasses askew and then bumped them off so that they flew across the yard. I retrieved them and laid them on the porch railing. I'm not completely able to see without them but doggone it I can't afford to wreck them while I fight off gnats either.
I walked down to the mailbox later to put in some outgoing mail and ended hiking up the neck of my tee shirt so that I could cover my ears. That was a help. It made me think that a scarf wrapped about my head might be the solution when working in the yard. If you wonder why I'm not using any sort of repellant it's merely because I have had an abundance of purchases and birthdays (with three still to go this month) and our leeway has given out in the budget. Gnats are not life threatening, just tiny irritations. I will say however, if anyone were to be minded to try torture I'd start with mosquitoes and gnats. Forget the old tricks of slivers of bamboo under nails or those torture stretching rack things (which John always thought looked rather therapeutic, lol, he always says it looks like it would pull kinks out of your back rather nicely). Just shut me out in the yard with a thick cloud of tiny buzzing insects all about and I'd probably spill state secrets if I knew any!
Well that got me thinking about all sorts of things. Tiny irritations are enough to break a person if they keep right on being permanently irritating but most things of that nature we do build up some tolerance for in the end, now don't we? I expect the first 24 hours would be the hardest and thereafter I'd be coping a bit better. It's the way we're made that makes the first onslaught so hard and then we learn to just deal with it.
But what about those tangled webs? I am really talking dense spider webs of relationship patterns.
Two years ago, when I was laid up in the hospital, there were three people conspicuously missing in well wishes and support. I can tell you honestly that of the three there was not one good reason why any one of them couldn't have been there for a visit at least once. Of the three, one made a phone call to let me know that my illness was an inconvenience to their personal life plans. In no manner could these three be bothered to go our of their way to actually wish me well. It was very sobering. It brought home to me the number of days I'd devoted time and energy to these people in trying to build solid relationships and how often I'd accepted less than nice behavior in return. Honestly, petty as it may sound to some of you, there's nothing quite like not knowing if you're going to live through the next 24 hours and noting that of the people who reach out, three in conspicuously important relationships with you are silent. I get all the 'Well some people don't know how to tell you how they feel..." etc. I do understand that some are just reluctant to be near illness. I get that. This was not the case in either of these three situations. They've done this plenty for many people in their lives.
So yes, it took some deep and serious thought. I had to let go of bitterness and fully forgive. It's a bit like trying to rid yourself of mice or some other particularly pesky destroying thing. You think it's all eradicated and you start finding evidence elsewhere in your life that you aren't done yet. It's painful and it gets wearying but you have to continue to do all you can or it takes over, and it does mean to take over. Bitterness and strife and unforgiving attitudes do nothing at all to harm those who inflicted the pain but it is physically and spiritually poison to the one who decides to live in it. It's a bit like playing in poop and then wondering what stinks and why you're infected.
Well as it turned out, of those three relationships, one is exactly as it was before. It's in name only, truly. It was I who held on to the relationship and I was all alone in holding on. I live in a small town, a small southern town at that. There's a pattern for introductory conversation. Southerners want to establish relationship with people. They start by asking "Who are your people?" because families in small towns and rural counties intertwine throughout the years. My cousin marries yours, or your aunt happens to be my great grandmother or even the looser connections, my butcher is your brother in law's first cousin. It all counts as connection. In a rural Southern area we 'claim' folks as kin even if the relationship is diluted by several generations and branches off multiple times. In this particular close blood relationship where DNA is beyond evident, to have someone look at me and say, "I've known 'x' for thirty years and never knew you were family..." it pretty much sums up how close we aren't and never will be.
Of the second relationship I've never seen the person again. Nor heard another word. It was as though I really had died as far as these first two relationships are concerned, as though who I am today is a ghost to them, an embarrassment of vapor that will not pass on to the other side.
And then there is the third relationship. It's not a relationship I want to completely write off. It too is a close blood relationship. I want to tell you it's because I respect this person but that's not really all of the truth. I do have respect for some of the things done, for the relationship itself, but if it were not blood relation I would absolutely walk away. I've been asked before, "If this were a stranger named Smith would it matter? Would you let Stranger Smith treat you in such a way?"
I'd say it was a matter of admiration of the individual , because I do admire some of the things this person has done in life. But that too isn't completely true. There are a lot of things this person has done to destroy relationships between others and succeeded quite well in doing. There are a lot of petty jealousies and hurts that have garnered retaliations that were embarrassing and painful and extremely hurtful. There are a lot of resentments that one is expected to make up for, even while being assured that you never can make up for them. It is a relationship in which one is expected to sacrifice all other relationships because no other shall have any importance compared to this one and if you so much as hint that another is at least equal, we're right back to the retaliatory behavior. That may mean physical as well as verbal abuse or it can mean being cut off completely until you are deemed necessary once more.
That is not to say that I hadn't realized long ago that I needed hard boundaries with this person. I created many and after that late spring 2015 crisis I realized that my boundaries needed to be still tighter and built with greater fortification. I won't tell you it isn't hard. I long to do certain things but I can't because if I do, the walls are breached immediately. It's that insidious a relationship between us.
What brought all this to head over the past week has been an ongoing physical deterioration of the individual. It is a concern. I made a suggestion of something helpful and perfectly reasonable and offered to attend to it immediately. I was told no, as I have been told no to every reasonable suggestion that would help. Seven days later, I get a phone call and it was suggested that now the suggestion is valid and it would be a good time for me to tend to it.
Only it wasn't a good time to go ahead. I discovered in questioning that I'd have to travel many miles, and attempt to contact several people to get key items that were necessary to perform the act and none of the preliminary work that might have been done had been. It wasn't that it was just an inconvenience at that moment but what would have taken an hour at best the week before would require at least a full day of my time at that moment. I had not been feeling well and I said apologetically that I couldn't do it. I suggested an alternative that required much less time on any one person's part or merely asking the person who lives with them to tend to it.
Not only did I feel guilty in saying no, I could hear the disappointment that I wasn't willing to just drop everything at that moment and do as told as I would have done in the past. It was obvious I was not playing the game and it was considered not fair play on my part. I struggled with all sorts of things as I said, spiritually and mentally and emotionally and thought I'd ought to just give in when John put his foot down and said "No. Absolutely no." Unreasonably, I felt even more torn and resented his thinking he had the right to say no.
So to insure that I didn't, my body immediately reacted to the stress. I've had a bout of a painful condition that isn't life threatening but does drain my energy and leave me unable to attend to my household. It also insures I don't leave my home. I've laid about and been depressed and been sharp and irritable. My mental anguish had become physical and I knew I literally needed to heal in more ways than one.
And so this week I ran smack into my own fortifications and it hurt like running headlong into a stone wall should. It made me mad and sad. It left me confused and questioning my own wisdom and my Christianity and the very core beliefs that I not only espouse but try to live by. It hurts to say that this person is my enemy but it's truth. Because you see, however much I've built up my walls, this person knows full well that I am weak somewhere and is seeking that weak area where I break. I've called this person my torturer in the past and it's truth. The behavior that drove me to build my walls has not changed one whit. The manipulations have changed slightly, a reaction to the changes I wrought in distancing myself from certain behaviors two years ago. But the enemy still lies in wait.
I cried out to God asking why this is so, asked how I can cope and asked what I should do. "Give me a sign, just one sign, that tells me how to proceed! Please!" And the answer came, but it was hard to understand at first. "Heap coals on your enemy's head." Heaping coals on his head does not mean to set fire to this person, which sounds harsh enough to be mildly satisfying in nature, but is actually a charitable act. A pastor explained in a sermon we heard this past weekend: In the old testament days, when cold days came, beggars who had no money for wood would walk the streets with a flat pan on their heads and beg for embers. People would drop a live coal onto the pan as the beggar walked past their window. He took his coals, went home and cooked his meal and warmed his home. So I am to be charitable, not vengeful.
In the New Testament, Paul instructs us to do all we do with love, because he says that all we do without love is meaningless. Had I no love at all, it wouldn't matter how this relationship goes on would it? I wouldn't struggle so hard to forgive, to try to forget and to wipe away every bit of bitterness. I had no choosing in the loss of the two other relationships. In each instance, I was dropped out of that person's life by none but themselves. I didn't remove myself. I simply stopped being pushy about being given a place in their lives. But in this last relationship, I am entangled in a web. I continue to hold onto a stubborn hope that things will change. I seem to feel that if this relationship too is a failure it makes me a failure. The truth is, I haven't chutzpah enough to cut it off completely because I am certain it would make me a horrible, terrible person.
It's not all untangled to my satisfaction but it's the best understanding I have at this time. And so I struggle to determine just how I must act within my safe boundary and do what I can without creating an opening that does me harm. No, it's not easy, not one little bit. I don't have a very good sense of balance at the best of times. In situations like this, I have none. It's hard. I don't really understand why our relationships with some must be so difficult and painful and with others it's easy travel. I don't understand it at all, but I know it is so. That I do.
The past few mornings I've been watching a deer graze on the front lawn. There is nothing more peaceful than a deer when it feels perfectly safe. This doe grazed like any cattle does and was out the same time each morning. I'd grown rather used to looking out the window at her as she ate, her tail flicking gently. As she walked across the yard, she was never in a hurry but just slowly walked across. I was pretty sure she had a fawn somewhere near. It's common that at least one doe raises a fawn here on our property.
I missed the doe on Tuesday morning. I missed her Wednesday, as well. And then Maddie took off from her breakfast Wednesday and ran into the brush and barked and came back with a fawn's leg bone in her mouth. The aroma told me the fawn had been dead for some time. Maddie didn't kill it. I suspect the coyote that treks across the place from one pasture to the other had discovered the fawn and killed it and Maddie just stumbled on the remains. I found myself weeping hard. It seemed too much this physical ailment and the tangled webs I'd been fighting my way through and the spiritual seeking that had felt like beating at skies of bronze, to have the one peaceful thing I found shattered, as well. It was as though the evil world had intruded on my last frontier of peace.
I wanted to run away and hide until all my worries went away. They never do go away though do they? And it's not in my nature to hide anyway. I tend to face my troubles head on, much as I'd rather not. I can't protect myself in any way except to be strong. Even when being strong is the hardest thing I know to do. I have to face the hard things as well as the soft easy things. There is no safe place that will go untouched by some form of disaster or pain. I can only choose my best path, not the easiest one, but the best one.
John has borne the brunt of my not feeling well and being snippy. He's well aware of what a struggle this relationship is for me and has been. I had to stop resenting him and recall that because I was damaged in other relationships before him, in this relationship I have been nurtured and pushed to grow in equal measure. His interest is not what makes his path easiest but what makes for a healthy happy relationship for the two of us. He's learned the same as I that peace at any cost is never ever peace. It's bondage. Peace is standing firm assured that your best is not necessarily what another wants but what is right and true, even when it's hard.
No happy sunny post this week. No easy chat. If the vague references frustrate you then I'm sorry. I have never wanted to harm anyone with my blog posts and even though I'm assured that not one of the three mentioned here reads this blog or cares to, I'd rather not have them lose their privacy or anonymity. Yet, I did want to share that difficult relationships require more of us than those which are easy. I wanted to share because someone else out there is struggling hard as I have. Perhaps you aren't aware that the troublesome relationship has been affecting your marriage or your relationships with others. I wanted to share too because I find writing therapeutic. On page, I can edit and worm out those other thoughts that get caught in the webs and confuse things still more.