Friday, January 22, 2010

Supply and Demand

At times during the past year, I have noted [with humor and goodwill] that a lot of the people I was surrounding myself with were a little crazy. I also noted that one of the things we had in common was that we had all endured some pretty scathing life experiences. To some extent, I think that it is sometimes easier to relate to people who have some scars too than it is to relate to people whose lives have been relatively serene. Particularly people who think that they somehow deserve their serene lives. It really pisses me off when I get a sense from the Serene that perhaps my misfortunes in life are MY fault, simply because I am a part of the equation. The Serene shy away from the broken because they think we (The Broken) are somehow diseased or contagious. And that's not the way it works. We are all standing over here together because we understand each other and because we know that the bad things in life can come to anyone at anytime. We have stared mortality in the eye, and we are comfortable with the knowledge that we will die, and we try to appreciate the time we have.

But this past week, I have had some very interesting and some very painful learning and growing experiences. I don't feel comfortable sharing all of the particulars. The particulars are melodramatic, and I really hate melodrama. So, I'll skip those, and instead share some of the lessons I've learned. I described my week to my running partner yesterday, and I told her at the start, "Your script is to say at appropriate intervals, 'Jen, you are an IDIOT,' and 'Jen, have you learned NOTHING from hanging around me?'"

"I don't really feel comfortable being the external voice to the voices in your head, so I am not going to say those things."

"Oh, I bet you will."

She finally said them to me just to appease me and get them over with, but I had the general sense that she didn't mean them.

She should have.

I think maybe some of my problems in life can best be summed up by the following two things I was brought up to believe:

1) I should be a nice person. My therapist used to ask me all the time why I thought I always had to be nice. I would look at her like she had two heads. Of course I'm supposed to be nice! That's like the golden rule, right? Nice?

2) I should not burn bridges.

So, let's take a look at Jen's life and some of the idiot choices/philosophies with which Jen has woken up and each day and pursued her life:

I tend to try to level the playing field I am on, so if I am one of the people who Has and I meet people who Don't Have, I feel almost a spiritual obligation to level the playing field by giving. I always say that I have been a mother since I was 7 years old. I am a nurturer, a giver. I give, and others take. These are our roles. And I have always been comfortable with these roles.

Lesson Learned: Unless your name is Sam, Christian, or Tommy, I am not your fucking mother (with exceptions for E). And perhaps instead of leveling the playing field, I should just go find a new field in which things are already level.

I have also at times gone out of my way to be forgiving and to give the benefit of the doubt. Over and over and over, with the same stupid people who shit all over me-- in part because 1) I should be nice and 2) I shouldn't burn bridges.

Lesson Learned: Some bridges should be laced with dynamite and exploded so there is nothing left. People may or may not deserve ONE second chance. But I pretty much don't owe anything to anyone except the three people, named above, whom I birthed. And I certainly don't owe things to other people at my expense.

I have also, in the name of 1) and 2) and the above philosophy about leveling the playing field, been aware that people were taking advantage of me and thought, "This is okay. I am a giver; they are takers. We all have our roles. And if I love more than I am loved, it is okay, because I am a limitless fountain of love. I have enough love to buoy all of us up."

[Jen. You are an Idiot.]

Lesson Learned: I actually am NOT a limitless fountain of love. Let's not kid ourselves: People who have a great capacity for love probably have an equal capacity for meanness and hatred. I certainly do. I try to keep it under wraps, but maybe I don't always have to do that. More balance would certainly protect me from some of the agony I have endured this week. I have no desire or plans to repeat this week. Ever. I will take steps to avoid it.

The problem is, unlike my gas tank in my car that dings and puts a light on to show me that I am almost at empty, my own personal love tank doesn't provide warnings that it is low. And last week, it was abruptly and completely EMPTY. I realized that I was all used up. Nobody had put love back into the tank [that is an exaggeration of course; some people do put love back into my tank or I wouldn't be sitting here writing this right now], so the tank was then empty.

Here's the thing. It's pretty simple, actually. I understood and received good marks in High School Economics, but I failed to apply these principles to everything that I should have. Supply and demand. When the supply is too great, the demand for it drops, and certainly its value does. This includes love. There is little difference between the cliched and folkloric high school girl who gives away her sexual favors too easily and is demeaned or devalued because of it and a person who gives unconditional positive regard to people apart from those she gave birth to. Nobody else deserves that. Too much love is never valued or appreciated. It is just always there, like sunshine. We take it for granted, we don't like too much intensity or to be burned by it, but dammit, tomorrow morning, it better fucking be there.

This was brought home to me in absolutely stunning ways this week, and then quite simply. Christian had figured something out the other day, and, because he is one of the three people to whom it is appropriate to show unconditional positive regard, and also just because I love him and he's a neat kid, I said, "Yay!"

"You always say ,'Yay,'" he retorted and went on his merry way.

If you are always the person who says yay, then no matter how sincere you think you are, how much value does that, "Yay" have?

Not a lot.

I am the woman you see who smiles at strangers as she is pushing her cart through the grocery store, and this is such a simple thing that sometimes I am genuinely baffled by people who don't smile back. I mean, is it that hard? Blah blah blah, muscles it takes to smile versus frown, blah blah blah. But on the other hand, why should they? Maybe we should smile when we are happy instead of just giving it away like an idiot [Jen. You are an IDIOT] for no reason. I'm not an animal in the wild trying to save my life or mate with these people. I don't have to fucking smile at them.

Does this sound bitter?

Yeah, and you know what? I can be a little bitter right now. I can make my berries taste bitter to protect myself. Plants get to do it, and so do I.

This past week I realized that I had been ruthlessly manipulated, lied to, and used, and that being popular has a pretty stiff penalty attached to it. Someone else can do it for awhile. I am retiring. Carol said at the end of our run, "We need new friends. We need to find new friends."

I was horrified: "NO! No more friends! We can be friends with each other, but I am certainly not looking for NEW ones!"

So, if I seem a little snippy or a little meaner, if you ask me for a favor and I tell you NO for the first time in your fucking life [and mine], well, take it as a sign of improved mental health on my part. Or, say, standards. Or the fact that my fucking tank is empty, and if you want anything else from me, you're going to have to make a contribution to MY tank.

Level that playing field, motherfucker.


  1. You nailed a lot of things on the head here. I just picked up Raj Patel's The Value of Nothing and read the first chapter last night. We might need to rethink some of our old-school (literally) economics lessons...

    As to capacity for love - I don't think that our emotions themselves are limited, only the time & energy we have to express them. What you seem to have identified is a lack of reciprocity in refilling your tank, and in that regard there most definitely IS a finite supply.

    There's the equally interesting question of whether we should always be engaged with nothing but love in our hearts and if that creates an imbalance in our lives that makes us less human. I guess for me it is so much of a struggle to do that in a world with so much hatred and hostility it isn't a problem (possibly if I moved far enough from the city and disconnected my Internet newsfeeds I'd be able to attain bliss, but at what real cost?)

    P.S. Idiots don't learn lessons, so you do negate that point by explaining them ;)

  2. geez. sounds like someone was a meanie! To you, I mean. Keep on runnin'!

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  4. Hell to the YES.

    EXCELLENT post. I'm inspired.

  5. Yes.

    I had a similar realization shortly after Karl died, tho I wasn't able to express it nearly as well as you just did. We only have so much time, and so much energy, and yes, so much love to give.

    If the other side of that bridge isn't loving you back, light it up, and let it burn.

  6. I remember when your motto was, "My name is Jen 'I am not a doormat' Creer. Sounds like it's being reinstated! Hope everything goes better with that bridge burned! Boundaries are a good thing. And saying no can be very cathartic.

  7. @Katie, yeah, what ever happened to that girl?

  8. Oh, I'm pretty sure she's still in there. And she's coming out!