Thursday, March 17, 2011

Faking It

Generally speaking, I'm not a very good liar. I don't fool much of anyone, not even when I'm lying to myself. I'd like to think that I once pulled one over on someone, somewhere, but the likelihood of that is pretty laughable. It's for this exact reason that I've never bought into the idea of "faking it 'til you make it." If you know I'm not fooling you, and I know I'm not fooling you, then it all just feels silly and embarrassing. I'd be much closer to my comfort zone if I just acknowledged what was really going on and we both moved forward from there. This is true in all areas of my life - in the workplace, in my everyday interactions, and in my closest relationships.

Unfortunately, that technique isn't working for me anymore - at least not in one particular situation. There is a guy who enters and leaves my life at his whim, and for many convoluted and sad reasons, I let him continue to do this. Every time he shows up I know how it will end, and every time he disappears he leaves a trail of emotional upheaval that leaves me barely functioning for days. The wondering whether I would ever hear from him again was agony, and so about five months ago I decided to be proactive: after not having heard from him for several months, I sent him an email asking him to please never contact me again. I told him that I needed to know that he was gone for good so that I could move on with my life. This move didn't come from a place of strength; in fact, it was my last-ditch attempt to regain a little control over my emotional life. Anyone could read between the lines and easily see that I was sad and deeply hurt by him.

Those feelings faded over the last five months, but apparently they never went away entirely because when he popped back up a couple nights ago, all the while acknowledging that I asked him to stay away but saying that he just couldn't help himself that night, I got sucked right back in. I was exactly where I had been months ago - grateful to have his attention, missing the times when we used to talk more, and making decisions I knew I would regret later. I had more self-awareness this time around - for the first time, I recognized the emotionally fucked up cycle as it was happening - but I still couldn't stop it. It came as no surprise to me when I woke up this morning and felt completely devastated - again.

I spent most of the first half of the day barely holding it together. I had things to do - appointments, breakfast with a friend, errands that needed to be run - and if I dwelt on how I was feeling for more than a few moments, I quickly started to unravel. It wasn't until that afternoon that I got a chance to talk through everything with someone, and based on that person's reaction, I realized that I actually should have been quite angry at him. It had never really occurred to me that anger was the appropriate emotional response; self-loathing and embarrassment came much more naturally to me. Once I realized that yes, I actually should be angry with him but I just couldn't quite get there yet, I decided to do the one thing I hadn't tried: I decided to fake the anger I knew I should be feeling.

I went home and sent him another email. The essence of it wasn't much different from the one I sent five months before - I asked him to never contact me again because it wasn't good for me - but the way I said it was quite different. I told him in no uncertain terms to stay away. Whereas before I had ignored the repeated selfishness of his behavior, now I called him out for disregarding my wishes when he knew what it would do to me. I didn't sound sad or emotionally devastated this time. I sounded angry.

The truth is that I'm not really angry. I understand why I should be angry, and if this happened to a friend of mine I would certainly be angry at him for her, but right now I feel more emotionally raw and vulnerable than anything else. But that's how I've felt for the last year, and it clearly hasn't worked for me. So instead, I'm going to pretend to be angry. When I discuss this with my friends, I will talk about it as if I'm angry. When I think about it, I will force myself to remember all the reasons I should be angry. I don't want to become embittered or dwell on it for the rest of my life, nor do I want to disregard the underlying issues that turned me into a human doormat, but right now, to get through these immediate circumstances, I'm going to fake some anger. I will pretend to be the person I need to be in the hope that eventually I become her.  

I fully expect that I'm going to feel ridiculous. I'm not going to believe the words I'm saying and I won't really be feeling the emotions that I know I should. I don't know whether I'll ever come around to actually feeling angry, but for now I'm going to do the one thing I swore I never would: I'm going to fake it.

5 comments:

Marilyn Jean said...

I don't do a very good job of defending myself either. I am Wonder Woman for everyone but me. The self-loathing you mentioned is very real to me. I sometimes have bouts of depression when the self-loathing almost paralyzes me. The feelings feel real, even if they are not really factually valid. Good luck with your strategy. It would be easy to give you advice but I know from MY experience that I have to feel what I am saying on my behalf.

Blessings and peace,
Marilyn Jean

Chris Yerkes said...

I think you're doing a very healthy thing--though you might not feel it inside yet. I think there's some measure of giving ourselves permission to be angry. I'm the type who wants to please people, so that I will be liked. That natural urge prevents me from responding to someone's inappropriate behavior in the way he deserves. What that person did by contacting you is wrong, and I love how you've defended yourself.

LT said...

I've done the "fake it 'till you make it" thing several times before. It's never easy. But give yourself credit for your strength- it takes a strong person to choose to do what is healthiest for them- even if it means faking it to get to the point of believing it.

Katherine said...

For the record, I'm angry at that guy, and I'm not faking it. I'm glad to hear, though, that you're sticking up for yourself in this way. It isn't easy. I'm proud of you, too. If you need a little firecracker punch, you know where to find me. Love you.

Julie said...

I'm angry at the guy. You are entirely too wonderful to be treated yucky.

I will have to say, I'm a member of the Fake It Club. Because sometimes, I just wear myself out being Angry Julie. And since I have to fake it at work too, it's kind of carried over. It helps, to an extent.

You be whomever you need to be to deal. Life is a bitch, and we only have one to live. You are loved and adored, Miss Thing.

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