I have spent much of the last year addicted to a site where Moms ask for and give advice. I am not going to say which one or post a link to it, because, trust me, it is a gateway drug to full-on internet addiction. Earlier this week, after an especially restless night, I put up a post asking for advice on….something that had been troubling me. Because I was exhausted, it wasn’t written with the care I usually put forth in any kind of writing.
The first commenter, offended by my post, said she looked back and suggested the issue was my fault, stating that I did many wrong things. The following commenters took her word for it, and though they were not rude, they were not helpful either. If they had looked back, they might have seen the post where I wrote about my effort to stay polite in the face of this outrageous emotional abuse. They might have found the first commenter’s answers revealed that she was extremely hostile to working Moms. But they didn’t, and so, I had a stack of responses suggesting I examine my behavior.
As I am apt to do when anyone tells me anything is my fault, I did look back. I looked back at everything I had said and done about this issue. On the website, I looked back and re-read, seeking my “many wrong things” and the anger I had been told I felt. And I didn’t think I sounded angry at any point. In fact, to me, the post that set it all off sounded pathetic – whiney even. And though one of my sons recently gave me a nice 2-year tutorial in whining, whiny is not something I want to be. I also realized that, in the past year, I had written about the same issue three times. For me, with something like this, that means I spent at least three months thinking about it. Three months in twelve. 25% of this year of my life. Oh….no.
Did I really want to put so much energy into something that benefited me in no way? Did I want to turn it around & around & around in my head when, intellectually, I knew that the issue was no way, no how my fault?
And though not unkind, my desire to fix the problem, to find something I could do, was self-absorbed and controlling. Those were things I did not want to be either. In fact, those were the qualities that, in another (more mean-spirited) person, triggered my angst in the first place! So, I decided to go cold turkey on both the website and the unnecessary self-excoriation examination.
It’s not as easy as it sounds.
I asked the moderators of the website to delete my account, something they don’t seem to want to do. They unsubscribed me from email, which isn’t what I asked for. So, when I found myself answering a question on that site this morning, I logged out. I don’t remember my password. But I discovered, even logged out, I can still look around the site and read…everything. *sigh*
Some might think that my desire to leave that site meant the rude commenter won – but really, I don’t want to compete with her or anyone else. I received an apology from one commenter who looked back, after the fact, at what I had previously written. That was nice, but it didn’t change what I needed to do. After all, this is a forum in which I did not have to take part. Why put myself out there in such a vulnerable way when, inevitably, someone who enjoys being cruel will come along? This activity did not feed or clothe my family and had no potential to do so. If anyone on the site was family, I didn’t know it. And though most people were nice, what did that get me? Oh yeh, it got me addicted. Really, it was time to stop….
As for the emotional abuse issue – it’s rarely part of my life. What I spent 3 months thinking about was part of my life for days. That’s right – a few days. And though it may happen again, the more I think about it, the more it will hurt me. If I stop thinking about it, stop caring about it, the unkind person and unkind behavior will lose power over me…completely. What happens to the “issue” is this: it becomes small. Which is what it is – small smallness in big fat smallsality. It’s not about putting on a smiley face a few days a year while I endure nasty behavior – it’s about not caring about that behavior at all. If I walk through a rainforest, a monkey might sling feces on me. But it makes no sense to spend time being upset with the monkey. I still got to walk through the rainforest. Feces wash off – I don’t need to keep them. And the monkey is just a monkey doing what monkeys do, after all.
For now, every time I find myself thinking about that issue, wanting to talk about it, wanting to write details about it, I think, “King Charlie is a good name for a rabbit.” So far, that’s working pretty well. It usually puts a smile on my face. And at the very least, it makes me think of the now-defunct TV show “Reaper.” If that fails, I’ll sing myself “The Monkey Song” which my oldest son and I made up when he was 3 (and which I can’t seem to upload right now).
I had a few thoughts after this experience:
1) If someone is being emotionally abused, you don’t tell him/her any version of “this is your fault” – no matter who the abuser is. It doesn’t matter if the abuser is famous, powerful, or pretty. Really, that’s just…horrible.
2) I think we need to turn the tide on abusers – all kinds of abusers – including those who browbeat and verbally abuse strangers. Sure, it’s good for adults to know how to stand up for ourselves, but is it really so hard to say “Wow, that’s rude/nasty/unfair” when someone is hurting others?
3) When we (okay when I) spend lots of time on anything that that has no benefit to me, emotional or otherwise, it’s time to step back.
4) We should never take another person’s word for it when it comes to evaluating others – unless we know that person to be fair-minded and kind (or, you know, if it’s your hiring manager so you have to).
5) Reaper was pretty funny.
So what do you think? Do you think adults who don’t “stand up for themselves” are to blame when others hurt or take advantage of them? Or do you think the onus is on the ones doing the hurting? Do you find yourself going back to something over and over – whether a website or a set of thoughts – that steals time you could spend writing, working, playing with your kids, or enjoying the company of friends? What do you do about it?
As for me, for now, with the thoughts, with the wrong-headed self-blame, my plan is working. With the web-site, I may need a sponsor….