Let me be upfront about this: this post relates to a relatively recent break up. Obviously I am not one to shy away from sharing feelings on this blog but this somehow feels more visceral and personal than ever so tread lightly (oh and hello, I know you are going to read this post eventually, and I’m sorry for the bad publicity). Here goes: 

I want to say that I have stopped feeling guilty. But the truth is that I still catch myself wrecked with it, constantly in its grip, in everything that I do.

It is still inexplicable to me what happened to us, or why, and so far no theory that I’ve thrown against it has made even a little bit of sense. But what has fallen out is a lot of residual hang-ups that are starting to come to light.

Some of these hangups are simply exaggerations of my natural tendencies, such as an oversensitivity to fighting and an intensified flight instinct. But the most deep-seated issue that I’m struggling with is a particularly firm belief that has somehow been wired into my brain (that I think was not there before): that I am, and always will be, a disappointment.

This leads to some odd behaviours. There’s the rabid aversion to expectations. A fear of any kind of display of self-appreciation. And perhaps the most insidious – that I am  now deathly afraid to make promises about my own future behavior.

It seems I’ve learned that I will always be a let-down. And this means that (unless I prevent making absolutely any promises or commitments that imply that I should or will do something), I will always create more situations for myself to feel guilty, simply by failing to comply. In other words, I’m always going to fuck it up, so I may as well try to save face pre-emptively (by refusing to commit to absolutely anything).

I’ve also noticed that I’m pathologically opposed to allowing anyone to do anything nice for me, for fear, I suppose, of it being seen as entry into some sort of reciprocity contract my end of which I will inevitably fail to uphold.

Basically all of it makes me seem like an indifferent, insecure, stone-cold bitch to my friends, coworkers, etc., because it cuts out an essential part of making human connections – the vulnerability to (inter/personal) failure.

I don’t think this belief is necessarily something that my ex explicitly or intentionally caused through any kind of mean or callous behaviour. Frankly I think it’s due to the fact that I was frequently a disappointment. I was to him and he was to me. Somehow the things we thought we were didn’t line up with the things we were in real life to each other. Again, I have not even started to understand why. But the point is that (I think) this constant letting each other down interacted badly with my existing over-sensitivity to people’s approval of me (or lack thereof), and it has left me mildly scrambled.

There was a line on a recent episode of Girls (of all things) that reflected exactly the level of commitment I am willing to take on literally any issue in my life at this moment:

“You know that I would never disappoint you on purpose, right?”

So that’s the best anyone is going to get out of me for a while… But know that it comes from a place of trying to be a good person. Not a stone-cold bitch.

xo. V

About Varia

Traveler, writer.
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4 Responses to residuals

  1. lapeddi says:

    I think I understand, a little bit, how you feel. There’s a number of things in my life I also feel I’m failing at and, even though I know it’s worth rolling up my sleeves and trying to do better next time, I also feel like the shame of that original failure will never wash away, so why even try? And thus the guilty spiraling out begins. Now I know your situation is different, and even more so because of that, I would like to refute this post’s core assumption: that you are, and always will be, a disappointment. At least, it is not true in the context you are talking about =P
    This might just be the lamest metaphor humanity ever conceived, but here it goes. Relationships are a round of Tetris. There’s a lot of pieces that need to fit together, they rain down one after the other, and if you start messing two or three of them up, the mismatches will keep piling up until you hit the fucking ceiling and the house explodes. It really is a matching game. And finding your perfect (or even good enough) match is not easy. Sometimes everything looks like it’s matching wonderfully and there’s no reason why this shouldn’t work, but then somehow it doesn’t. See all the couples who get married convinced they met “the one” and end up in divorce. I really don’t think they saw it coming. And when that happens, it’s nobody’s fault. Yes, maybe someone yelled too much, or was colder than they should have, or disinterested, or displayed some “wrong” behavior of sorts. But the core reason why that happened is one: they didn’t match. And that’s no one’s fault. It just is.
    You haven’t been and will not always be a disappointment. Maybe you feel guilty about certain behaviors, but what they came from wasn’t your fault. And perhaps you feel like it’s bound to happen again, because so far you haven’t met someone who makes you feel otherwise, and perhaps you never will meet someone that’s right for you. Well, even if that’s the case, you should never ever feel guilty about ending relationships that weren’t working. If the bridge won’t hold, all you can do is take it down. I feel like I’m talking like a Martha Stewart of relationships of sorts, and frankly I hate that. But I’m not good at saying positive things without sounding lame.
    Anyway. I’m not saying all these things because you’re my friend and I want you to feel better or even worse because I want to be the heroic friend who lifts you out of your misery. Well, let’s be honest, in part I do. But I know it’s not that simple. For the most part, however, I genuinely, honestly, scientifically believe that you are wrong about that. And all I can do is wish that you realize that soon enough.

    • Varia says:

      Thanks so much for this 🙂 you’re right that it’s a matching game and sometimes things just don’t fit, but it’s still frustrating to not be able to figure out why 😉 But I really do feel better reading this. Thank you thank you 🙂

  2. Laura-Beth McDonald says:

    This is so well-written Varia. You are a talented writer and I’m moved by the honesty in this piece.

    I used to feel the same way in many senses. Disappointment, failure, not good enough etc. As cheesy as this sounds, all that changed when I read a book about using your innate skills to further your life. It’s so funny, but for years I was fighting to become better at the things I lacked. Pushing myself tirelessly to become a better team player, more compassionate, a better listener etc. And when I measured myself against those skills I always fell short. That is, until I read this book and starting focusing 100% of my energy on the things I was already good at.

    Now I see myself as an expert leader, a wonderful relationship builder, an expert public speaker… And when someone tells me I need to be a better “team player,” I thank them politely and instantly discard the thought. I will never be a good team player, but I am one hell of a leader.

    Back to your post. My advice to you is to look closely at your measurements. Are you measuring yourself at things you don’t truly care about and things you have never been passionate about? Statistically, it’s unlikely you are bad at everything. I can think of many things I know you are good and excel at (but my opinion doesn’t matter). This is not a “pep talk” of any sorts (I am not the type to give such a thing — see above) but a scientific approach to uncovering where you excel. Look deeply at your life and pick out the elements you are passionate and engaged with. Measure yourself against those metrics non-judgmentally.

    (Okay maybe I’ll insert a mini-pep talk for good measure and balance.)

    You are fiercely independent and brave. As a young woman you picked up your life and moved wherever you wanted to start something new. Considering there are probably millions of people in the world too afraid to quit their shitty jobs or make even a single change due to fear — I’d say you definitely are not a failure in this category.

    You have pursued your intellectual passion. 99% of adults do not work in their fields and do not pursue what they are passionate about. In this category you excel.

    You do not give up easily. You and the aforementioned ex gave your relationship every. single. fucking. shot. Literally. You tried so many different ways to make things work and I only see that as a positive. Your relationship didn’t fail at all. You both made an educated decision to end something. Period. But you gave everything you had and I know for certain in your next relationship you’ll do the same. Just because the outcome wasn’t what you hoped for, doesn’t make the process a failure. Most women would have thrown the towel in after a month of struggle. It’s something I myself am working on.

    In conclusion, the concept of being “well rounded” is useful for 5 year old children but highly inefficient for adults. You have certain skills and traits where you advance and excel easily and willingly. Focus on those and discard the rest. 🙂 XO

    • Varia says:

      Hey LB –
      I remember you talking about this technique once before and I thought it was fucking brilliant. I’m really bad at picking out my own strengths but I did at the time note that I wanted to try it and then didn’t so… I will try to try again.

      Thank you so much for what you said about my relationship as well. You are right that we gave it a lot of love and energy and persistence, and that it didn’t work out is probably not because we didn’t try hard enough. That really helps.

      Although I am starting to feel that I went wrong somewhere with this post — everyone who has responded to it seems to think that I’m grappling with some sort of bottomless sadness. I’m actually not sad in the way the post appears to imply; I was merely trying to get across the pre-emptive guilt I feel whenever I am compelled to say anything that sounds like a promise. I suppose I did write it on a day that was quite low, so I guess that’s what comes across.

      Anyway, thank you so much for the advice and for the kind words. You are wise as ever and I miss you so much. ❤

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