Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Drama-Free Zone



When I was in my late 20’s, an ex co-worker and I became good friends. She was maybe six or seven years older than me and therefore was at a different stage in her life. Because I considered her a good friend, I thought it was my duty to tell her whenever I heard negative comments made about her. I thought I was being a great friend, showing how much I care by cluing her in to the nasty accusations her boss would make about her. I would see my friend (I will call her Amelia) get upset and I would feel so bad for her.

One day, as Amelia was walking into the office, I stopped her in the hallway to give her the latest gossip I had heard. But before I could even get the words out, Amelia asked me not to tell her anything anymore. She didn’t want to know anything else ever again. WHAT?! I was flabbergasted, embarrassed, and a bit insulted. Didn’t she appreciate what a good friend I was being? Didn’t she realize that I was telling her for her own good? But I respected her wishes and kept that story and all future stories to myself.

Amelia doesn’t know that she taught me a great lesson that day. What she did has always stayed with me and it has only been in the recent years that I have had the courage to do the same thing. When someone comes to report gossip about me, I ask them not to tell me anything anymore.

Think about it…How do you feel after you hear about negative things that have been said about you? How do you react? Does your face get hot? Does your heart race? Do you clench your jaw or grit your teeth? Do your neck muscles tighten? Do you get a headache? That’s what happens to me anytime I hear gossip about myself. It’s really awful...and that’s just the physical reaction. Of course there are also the emotions that trigger, which are not just a passing thing for me. The “symptoms” of having been exposed to negativity linger in me for a long time. The comments about me play like a broken record in my head. Unfortunately, I don’t just dismiss them easily.

We wrongly believe that by telling our loved ones the terrible things that were said about them that we are helping or proving to them our loyalty, but in reality we are feeding them poison. Our intentions may be good, but the outcome is toxic. Before we open our mouths, we need to ask ourselves “What will she gain by knowing this? How is this going to make her life better?” Because honestly, I can attest that I didn’t gain anything positive by knowing hurtful things that have been said about me. All I ever gained were headaches, heartache, anger, tears, cynicism, bitterness, rage, and some more anger.

Also on my mind today is drama, which goes hand in hand with gossip. Iyanla Vanzant says the ego is to blame for the drama in our lives. She writes: “Human beings, particularly those of us with a deep attachment to the ego, the voice of separation, have a tendency to be very dramatic…When I think back to the most challenging experiences of my life, those moments when everything I thought I knew and believed were being tested, I must admit that the greatest difficulty I encountered was trying to control the rampant thoughts that seized my mind…I now recognize that in those most difficult moments my thinking became resistant, fearful and dramatic. I conjured up my own suffering…Feeling sorry for myself, blaming others, not wanting to go through the trials of whatever the situation was at the time, I expected the worst and more often than not, that is what I got – – the worst possible scenario I could imagine. And, since it was in my mind, I experienced it in my life. It seemed real. It felt real…It was a very dramatic manifestation of my own thinking.”

For years I have heard about how we create our own drama but I never understood it. I always thought that there was just no way I was creating the drama in my life. That shit was just popping up left and right on its own, without any of my own doing. What I didn’t realize though until a couple of years ago is that how I react to the drama that presents itself is up to me! A-HA! I learned that I could choose not to engage. I don’t have to attend every argument I’m invited to. (I think that’s Iyanla’s quote too and I love it.) I could ask well-meaning friends and relatives not to share gossip about me anymore. I could stop partaking in gossip-sharing. I could refrain from making negative comments about others (or at least try my best). I could choose to not give the negativity power in my life anymore. By disengaging from my past habits and behavior, I could break the vicious cycle I was in and I could become “unstuck” and free of drama. (By the way, so easy to think, so hard to do.)
*****
Living with Felicia and my dad turned out to be one of the most miserable times of my life. I hated my life back then. I used to write in my journal those exact words…”I hate my life.” I moved in with them in February 1991 and I was there until July or August 1992. I had been hating my life since 1986, after my mom died and I would continue hating my life a lot of the time (not all of the time THANK GOD) until 2004 when I finally had the baby of my dreams in my arms.

May 6, 1991 Journal entry:
“I can’t say with adequate words how good DJ is to me. He is THE BEST! He’s so thoughtful, so caring, so kind, so sweet. I love him to pieces…I can be so cold though at times. He says I’m made of stone. And I know he’s right because I haven’t given him any other impression. But most of me is actually tender, sweet, and loving on the inside. But on the outside I’m a bitch to a lot of people but most of all to him. But I shouldn’t be! Shit, he’s my best friend. But why do I do it to him? I DON’T KNOW! I know he’s sincere with me, he’s devoted; he’s true to me; so why all this anger and violence I have in me? And why is he the only one I take it out on? God, I’m so violent...And I want to stop. I have to stop but I can’t. I lose my temper so easily and once I lose it, it’s lost for a while. Then any little thing instigates my violence. God, I’m so crazy. I really do want to make things better. I truly do want to change and I try and try and try but every time things are going well, for the oddest reason, something happens that causes me to explode, and I lose it and then I’m back to square one…It’s just absolutely crazy for me to be so psycho…For the first time ever, last night before I went to sleep, I asked God to help me change and make things better. Tonight I shall pray again, and I will continue praying forever for the strength I need to fight this anger inside of me.”

DJ and I find the old stories of my crazy outbursts hilarious now but at the time not so much. Wasn’t everything so much more dramatic when you were in your 20’s? Everything seemed like the world was over and your life was ruined. Ruined, I said! Now combine the natural drama of being a 20-something with a 20-something whose mother died and whose father isn’t who she wants him to be and who lives in her step-monster’s dungeon and you get a ticking time-bomb.

To give you an idea of the ticking time-bomb…here are some “funny” anecdotes from that period of my life.

A group of us (DJ’s cousins and brother) were leaving Denny’s late one night in DJ’s lowered mini-truck. I got angry at DJ for something he said to me. He didn’t seem upset that I was upset. How dare he not be apologetic, I thought. So I told him to pull over on Beach Blvd. and he obliged.  I got out of the truck and started walking in the opposite direction of traffic. DJ’s cousins and brother who were riding in the back of his truck flipped open the back window of the shell and yelled at me to get back in as the truck zoomed away and made a U-turn up ahead. I walked  up and down Beach Blvd. while DJ looped around and around, pulling over, waiting for me to get in. But I refused each time. After the fourth or fifth attempt to reason with me, DJ’s brother and cousin jumped out of the back of the truck, ran over, picked me up, and threw me in the back of the truck with them.



Riding in DJ's truck - 1991
I got those gold hoops from my sis for my 21st bday
6/15/91 - Magic Mountain
Look, how cool. Someone took a pic of us while we were fighting.
I can tell how mad he was by the red cheeks. And I've got my mad face.

I would often get angry with DJ for stupidities I can no longer recall and many times the night would end with me crying out pathetically “Just take me home!!”… AND HE WOULD! As he would start driving toward my home, I would panic and think “Wait. What? This isn’t what I really want!” What I really wanted was for him to fight for me. Beg me to stay. Refuse to take me home. But my pride was bigger than my ability to be vulnerable and honest and real with him. When the truck would pull up to my house, I would step out with my head held up high showing him that I didn’t care. (And one time I vividly remember kicking his car door as hard as I could without breaking my toes.) Once inside, I would sob feeling stupid and abandoned and alone.

There was the time that we were driving down the 22 freeway with his cousin in the cab of the truck (bench seat). I got angry at DJ for something and popped him on the side of the head. He was outraged at what I had done – and in front of his cousin, no less. He pulled off the freeway and into a gas station. He said he was going to call someone to come pick me up (Remember, there were only payphones back then.)  I got even angrier. How dare he want to get rid of ME!? He’s the one who effed up by saying what he said/doing what he did. So, to show him who was boss, I took his ashtray full of change and dumped it out the window. Hmph…try making a phone call now, buddy!

There was the time that we were in my room (the ugly wall-to-wall wood-paneling cabin room) and he accidentally chipped the corner of a ceramic plaque of my hand-prints that I had made in preschool. I started crying. He felt awful and assured me he could fix it with a little Crazy Glue. It was just a small chip. But I became raging mad, grabbed the plaque, and hit it against the bedpost as hard as I could and yelled “TRY TO FIX IT NOW, DJ!” as I watched it crumble into a million pieces. God, I was so stupid. I still regret that one, big time!

12/31/91 - New Year's Party
Summer 1991 at the Drive-In



















These are just some of the bad stories that come to mind from my time living in that hell-hole. Thankfully, DJ was patient and tolerant. He loved me with such passion that he put up with all of my drama and crazy antics. He didn’t run away. He stuck it out with me because I think he knew the real me was buried deep down under the stone I had become.

The stories are funny to us now, but at the time it was serious business. I really was violent. Psycho I tell you. Some of my anger was due to the loss of my mother and my poor relationship with my dad and all of the other injustices I felt that I was living with (e.g. being kicked out and unwelcome in my aunt and uncle’s home, being despised by my cousins who had been like sisters to me, etc.). I also believe though that some of my anger was fueled by gossip and hearing negative things that were said about me by my own family members and by DJ’s family. My dad would tell me things Felicia was saying about me or rather how she was complaining about me (like that I wasn’t cleaning the bathroom as often as she wanted me to, or that I wasn’t saying hello when I arrived, etc.) My siblings were sharing with me what my dad was saying about me. DJ’s relatives were telling me what other relatives were saying about me and then those relatives would tell me what the other relatives said. It was never-ending and I marinated in that toxicity for a very long time.

*****
It’s really no surprise that I became such an angry, resentful, cynical, judgmental person. Try hearing over and over how much you are disliked or how awful you are in someone else’s opinion and see what it does to you? Try to imagine what it would do to your feelings of self-love and self-worth to know that you are being criticized all the time. Picture how it would affect your love of life and how it would impact your ability to be happy. And while you are imagining all this, try to think of the times you have unintentionally contributed to someone’s misery by telling them about negative comments made about them. And now picture not doing that anymore! Seriously, you need to stop doing that! Because you have no idea how many other people are doing it too. You may be one of many. And just because you aren’t easily affected by what others think of you, doesn’t mean your loved one isn’t.

And going back to drama…Iyanla Vanzant writes: “Drama calls for a villain and a victim, conflict and control, a winner and a loser. Most dramas make really great entertainment but they can also limit the spiritual growth and healing possibilities for those involved. ..Moving into a new year, a new time of possibility and opportunity, I am committed to make my life a drama-free zone. This means that I will need to train my mind to seek first the lesson, learning and healing available by sending my ego to the corner when a challenge first shows its face. Not an easy task for sure but I have walked through enough plagues in my life to make me willing to do a new thing. “

That has been my commitment in 2014 – to find the lessons when drama rears its ugly head; to learn from my past; to heal old wounds; and to put my ego in check. Trust me when I say that if I can manifest a drama-free zone so can you.


2/8/92 - Our first trip to Disneyland together


Parking was just FIVE dollars!


1992 - El Toro Air Show

P.S. I don't know what's going on with all my spacing and fonts. I accidentally changed my template and now I can't get it back to normal. I apologize for the inconsistencies. They are making me very irritated because I am very anal about that kind of stuff. But I swear I won't break or throw anything.

2 comments:

  1. What a thoughtful post. This just happened to me the other day. My mom told my cousin's wife that she felt like she never talked to me (this is a problem because of abuse in my childhood, etc. and because my cousin's wife, who is also a very old friend, is worried about her own children not talking to her when they grow up). My cousin's wife told me twice what my mom said and I started crying. I feel such guilt about being a bad daughter, but at the same time, emotionally I can't handle my mom much these days, despite the fact that she's grown into a cute old lady and we should be nice to cute old ladies. I told my mom not to complain to my cousin's wife. I should tell my cousin's wife not to report such complaints to me. I'm clear on my own opinion of myself and don't need family gossip making me feel bad.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you Ellen. First, I'm sorry to hear of the abuse. Second, I'm sorry to hear you dealt with hearing gossip about yourself. It's been very healing to set boundaries with those around me and to respectfully ask them to keep the gossip about me to themselves. Of course, positive comments are always welcome. ;)

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