The world of therapy is backwards…I should know this being a therapist myself. But there’s something twisted about considering it progress to recognize your shortcomings or admit a problem. Shouldn’t the progress be that I no longer have that problem? Sure – eventually I know that’s the goal. But still, it’s hard to swallow that I should be proud that I realize this sad fact…I am difficult to love. Yup, I feel good about myself now! Time to sit back and relax…
But it’s true – despite my good intentions, available ear and kind words, I can be quite demanding – even if it’s mostly just in my head. This is one of the curses of being a perfectionist – the unreasonable standards I set for myself occasionally extend to those I love as well. Not all of them – I’m much easier on others than myself as most of us are – some strange twist of “Treat others as kindly as you treat yourself” – really, if some days I spoke and treated others the way that I treat myself, I surely would be behind bars. So, I’m definitely more forgiving other others and tend not to impose all of the rigidity on to my loved ones.
However, still…difficult to love.
Basically, I would like you to read my mind and know exactly what I need so that I don’t have to ask, which allows me to avoid feeling too needy. I want you to know when I need a pep talk or company and when I need my space. I want you to miss me and call and stay in touch, but not too much lest I feel suffocated. I want you to care about the details of my life and be interested, but only when I feel like talking about them; otherwise I’ll conclude you’re prying and controlling. I want you to tell me what you think and give me advice on what to do, but I want you to agree with me and think that I’m right in the decision I end up making. And if I make a decision that’s not what you recommended, I want you to end up convinced that I was right all along and then support me 100%... sounding very appealing, no? any one ready to sign up?
And so I’m constantly amazed when people are willing to stick by me, to love me even when I’m crabby, to roll their eyes at my defensiveness and sigh at my compulsive straightening up but still want to spend time with me. I have days where I don’t even want to spend time with me. But then I remember that I stick by the people I love too – even when their messy, lumpy parts bump into mine. And ironically, it’s often those ideosyncracies (a nice way of saying ‘annoying traits’) that I come to love because it’s what sets a person apart from the masses. Sure there might be thousands of 30 year old wanna-be writers right now, but can they all offer neatly lined up yogurts in the fridge and a library addiction? Perhaps the pool just got a bit smaller!
These are the things I try to remind myself as I contemplate this difficult to love business. Sometimes I can remember them and sometimes not. But assuming that the first step to change is recognizing the problem, then I can consider myself in good shape.
Still, knowledge and insight is not the same thing as change. I am an expert at describing all of the issues and problems and ways I would like to make my life better; which is all fine and dandy, but eventually it’s time to just get off the couch and start doing the changing. And some days, the couch is just really comfy. However, this I also know (again, know it, but do I do it remains to be seen…): I can have the plushest couch in the world, but if I never find a voice, practice being more flexible, learn to recognize what I need and want and then ask for it, there could come a day when the couch is my closest friend…and that would be a very small life and one that I want no part of.
So today, I’m sitting in a chair…