Tag: trouble dealing with conflict

How Avoiding Conflict Can Create Greater Conflict

I’m a total basket case right now.  My mom is super stressed about the move and is pestering me to do more packing and freaking out that the biggest U-haul isn’t going to be big enough and her favorite stand-by worry – how will everything fit into the new house?  Even though we’ve gotten rid of tons of stuff and some huge pieces of furniture and 2 more are spoken for and my craft room is 75% lighter than it was.  Meanwhile, Philip is back in California to start his new job which leaves me with the kid and the pets and my workcheck didn’t come when it usually does so here it is June 3rd and the only reason I don’t have minus 79 dollars in my account is because Philip’s old bosses owed him a small last check and I went and begged them to cut it early.  Which they did.

Meanwhile I’m drinking way too much and eating so much cheese you could start a cheese festival in my kitchen.  I know I said I wasn’t going to, that now I was going to start counting calories and all that, and I did.  For a day.  Then my brain just freaked the hell out and said that trying to work on self discipline while living in a town that’s gotten even more stressful to live in since that post I wrote is a bad idea.  During a cross state line move?  During the last couple weeks of my kid’s school year when things have been difficult and the teachers are not pleased and Max has been getting a lot more stressed… during a time when I get to do this parenting gig on my own for a few weeks… and be packing shit up, and be working at the same time?  I think I jumped the gun there.  I’m just anxious to start cleaning up my diet and my health but I need to be in a less stressful environment to start this in.

So yeah, I was fooling myself.

So I went to the Saturday Market yesterday and I can’t lie – going out in public is even less fun than it used to be since I aired my grievances about this community.  The thing is, most of the people I was complaining about in that post are people whose lives I’m already not a part of.  I see them accidentally IF I see them at all.  Since I’m not in their circles of friends or even acquaintances it’s not like I know what their reactions were to what I said.  And I certainly haven’t been seeking them out in their various online haunts because why would I seek out confirmation that they’re all pissed off and don’t like me more than ever before?  So going around in public means I may run into any of them and it may not be pleasant.

And I did.  I ran into the daughter of one of the people who hurt me and she did everything possible to avoid having to acknowledge that I was standing right there next to her.  I tried to make eye contact because I’m not ashamed of anything I said in my post and I wasn’t the person being an asshole in the first place. But she couldn’t look me in the face.

I also heard that my post made some waves in a different circle as well.  Apparently it was shared around and I have no idea what got everyone riled up because this group already knew how I felt and this was an OLD story – a story I already shared publicly a couple of years ago.  I didn’t ask for any details because there’s nothing that group of people can possibly say that I’d want to know about.  What I AM interested to know is why the fuck they’re still reading my blog in the first place?!  I don’t read theirs.*  Since I had my falling out with them I don’t read their blogs or try to seek their presence online because the way I figure it is that if they don’t like me in real life and didn’t let me in their inner circle and if in the end we had a big falling out – I don’t think they would really like me keeping tabs on them.  Not that they’d know necessarily**.  But I kind of figure that not reading about their private lives (or trying to) is respecting their wish to not have me in their lives.  Why the hell would they read anything I write?  What can they gain from it?  Fodder to keep disliking me?  Because it’s a sure thing I’m eventually going to say something about homeschooling or something else that will rile them and all their friends too.  Are they looking for reasons to be riled?

In the end it doesn’t really matter what they do or don’t do.  I just find it strange.  On the other hand it does kind of make me want to write a big huge post on homeschooling just to give them something really juicy to get upset about.  Oh! oh!  Or I could launch into a huge post about vaccinations or maybe I could write a scathing post about Libertarian delusions or about circumcision!  The possibilities for riling this group of people up (and many other separate but similar groups in McMinnville) is limitless.  If I was looking for trouble, this group of people make it tantalizingly easy.

But the truth is, I’m not interested in riling people up.  I never do it ON PURPOSE.  It’s the price I pay for being honest about how I feel in a public forum and it’s a price many writers pay.  Some people think I enjoy stirring shit up.  I don’t.  It just so happens that my opinions about things which I choose not to keep secret riles people up.  I am not going to change my opinions just to keep everyone calm and happy and comfortable.  Generally speaking, when I’m out in the real world I try to temper how I present my opinions and I have gone overboard trying to be respectful of people who are not respectful of me.  But my blog is MY place to say what I want and anyone who comes here knows that I say what I’m thinking and I don’t sugar coat it here.  It’s the one place I can just be myself.  All the time.  Anyone who comes here is, in a sense, visiting ME.  Don’t like me?  Don’t visit me where I am being myself and being honest.

And in my honesty I think I can say that I have been as hard on myself and my own idiocy and shortcomings and bad behaviors as I am on other people.  I have admitted publicly to nearly every negative aspect of my personality that has been revealed to me in my interactions with people.  I don’t see many other people doing the same.  In this at least I take some pride.  I share my opinions publicly and pay the full price for it.  I acknowledge at all times that I’m making choices and sometimes I make choices and don’t like the results.  But I take responsibility for making them, for having had the choice to do otherwise or take another path.  My thoughts also evolve.  My opinions, though strong, are not immutable.  I am open to seeing new points and admitting when I see that I’ve been too closed off or even completely wrong.  That is also something I take pride in – I am constantly working on maintaining the flexibility of my mind.

Right now I don’t really want to go out in public until I move.  It is completely cowardly of me.  I did look animosity in the face at the Saturday Market but it’s not like it didn’t take a great act of strength not to turn immediately and run and pretend, like she did, that we hadn’t seen each other.  I did want to run and pretend and that bothers me.  I have no reason to be ashamed of how I feel or that I said it all out loud.  I knew I’d be cutting more social ties but I didn’t expect to feel hurt all over again.  I expected not to care.  I expected a little discomfort and a greater degree of loneliness in my last couple months in McMinnville.  But I didn’t expect those people I called out to have the power to hurt me even more.  But they do.  And it makes me so ashamed of myself for being so weak, for caring so much about people who don’t care at all for me.  To have always cared so much and been so easily hurt means I’m a weak-ass person with super thin skin.  Why am I not more tough?

So it feels like a curse to be a writer with the compulsion to share my stories and perspectives out loud with the world, to work so hard at maintaining honesty with both myself and with everyone else – but to also want people to like me and to be hurt so easily by the thoughtlessness (and sometimes the meanness) of those around me.  What I thought about yesterday is how much I hate conflict.  No one realizes it because I seem to always be barreling straight into conflict and actually CAUSING conflict.  I admit that that’s how it seems.  Telling anyone that I hate conflict and will do almost anything to avoid it is like trying to convince people that I am innately very shy.  I have learned, over the years, how to appear NOT shy to protect myself and to deal with all the painful social situations in which being shy will only add to the painfulness.

What I realized is that my avoidance of conflict leads to greater conflict.  I tend to keep my hurt feelings to myself for long periods of time.  Rather than tell a person directly that they’ve hurt my feelings I empathize with them and try to smooth out whatever difficulty we’re having with subtle hints that maybe they’re being thoughtless of my feelings.  This almost never works.

It’s like this – if we’re friends and we’re having coffee together and you go into an explanation of how circumcising boys is an evil act of mutilation and I know that you know that I chose to circumcise my son, I now feel personally attacked.  You could have chosen a much more neutral way of stating that same opinion but in choosing such vitriolic language I now feel like you think I’m an evil child mutilating criminal.  How can we be friends if you think this of me?  My approach then is to subtly present an alternative view point.  I will probably also try to make sure you realize that I am one of those parents with a circumcised boy.

I feel hurt but I won’t admit it to you because that would make me weak and stupid.  I won’t even admit it to myself right away.  So every time this subject comes up you will pound a little more hurt into me and I will make excuses for you.  You just don’t realize how intolerant and mean you sound.  You just don’t realize that being friends means that even if we have different viewpoints we will try to understand each other with kindness and tolerance because that’s what friends do.  I will not share my hurt because I don’t want any conflict which if I confront you will create an uncomfortable situation between us.

It doesn’t occur to me until months later that I’m still hurting and you keep hurting me and I keep taking it and trying to gently inspire you to take my feelings into consideration and I am very very tolerant of your vitriol because obviously it’s up to me to be tolerant of you since I’m the one with hurt feelings – the person who is hurt is just weak and needs to fix themselves.  Confrontation solves nothing.  Right?

Wrong.  I am only realizing how wrong this approach is.  I could have saved myself years of pain and feelings of anger at how I’d been treated if I could have just been honest in the first place and said “When you say that people who circumcise their sons are evil child mutilating parents you are telling ME that I’M an evil child mutilating parent.  Is that really how you feel about me?”  This way you have to either temper your opinions to be more thoughtful and less hurtful and actually acknowledge my hurt feelings or you have to come right out and say “Yes, I do think you’re an evil child mutilating person.” in which case we are NOT friends because no one can be friends with a person they think is evil or bad.

Instead I slog along trying to put band aids on my feelings and making excuses for other people until eventually I just can’t stand it any more.  One day I wake up and I realize that I have been allowing people to walk all over me because I don’t want to have any conflict and I get really fucking pissed off.  At myself, yes, but also at the people who hurt me either out of constant thoughtlessness or out of actual desire to hit me with their darts.  So I explode.  I reach my limit and it all comes out and it’s much worse now because I’m really angry and I’m actually still hurting because apparently I’m a very thin skinned beast and I hate myself and you for almost the same reason.

This isn’t working for me at all.  This aspect of my personality really wasn’t revealed until living in McMinnville because mostly I haven’t had problems with my friends hurting my feelings so often or thinking that my beliefs or choices are evil because AT A FUNDAMENTAL LEVEL MY REAL FRIENDS THINK I’M A GOOD PERSON WITH GOOD MORALS AND NO ONE CAN ACTUALLY BE FRIENDS WITH PEOPLE WHOSE CHOICES THEY THINK MAKE THEM ABUSIVE OR EVIL.  My close friends and I don’t always agree about things and sometimes we annoy each other and need to take a breather but I always know that they will still love me and want me in their life even if we don’t agree about everything.  That’s priceless.  If I’m insensitive to them about something and they seem hurt I NOTICE and I apologize and I work on being more sensitive to them because I love and value them.  They do the same for me.  We might bicker but we work things out and we rejoice when rough patches are smoothed out and it works because we have each others’ backs in this life.

My behavior with regard to dealing with conflict is typical of children who grew up in abusive situations.  I’m scared of conflict and in trying to avoid the million little normal conflicts in life I unintentionally create much more explosive conflicts later.  People think I do it on purpose.  I don’t.  People think I enjoy pissing people off.  I don’t.  People think I am a shit disturber for FUN.  I’m not.

What I have to do is work on confronting people at the moment they’re being hurtful or being assholes or just being thoughtless.  I have to work on not being subtle about it.  I have to be direct even when I feel like I’d rather die than accuse someone of hurting my feelings.  Even when I am terrified of them saying “Oh yeah?  Well I think you’re an evil person for voting for Obama.  And also you’re just too fat for me to like.”  At the core I want people to like me.  I care.  I’m the typical outcast girl who pretends not to care what anyone thinks but really does because not being liked doesn’t feel good to me.  Especially not being liked by people I like.  I need to learn to just nip things in the bud and face things directly.  And when someone tells me “Yes, I think you’re hurting your child by sending him to public school” I need to say “Then you don’t respect me or my choices and we can’t hang out because I find that hurtful.” and not lash out with unnecessary meanness and definitely not try even harder to make them change their minds about me.  Because they won’t.

Philip pointed out to me that while I’m the only person in this town apparently willing to publicly say how I feel about those individuals I spotlighted, I am definitely NOT the only person who has had those same experiences with them or who shares my opinions of their general character and behaviors.  I will never out them because maybe they have a lot more to lose than I did (like, they still have to live here) but I think it’s worth noting that those people who made an enemy of me have made other enemies as well for the same reasons.

So if my enemies are reading this – take note that it isn’t just one person you’ve been hurting.  It isn’t just me.  I’m just the only vocal one.  If you’re coming here and reading this (why?  why? why?) then would you please look at yourselves and your interactions just as I’m looking at mine?  We are all culpable for our interactions with each other.  Just as I have admitted that in our interactions I have not reacted well and in some instances been hurtful in retaliation you are also responsible for how you behaved to me and you are responsible for how you behave with others.  I’m taking responsibility for my part.  Take responsibility for yours.  Not to me, obviously, but inside yourself and with the people still in your life who are looking to you for kindness, for tolerance, and for empathy.

Also – I really would like it if all you people who don’t like me in real life would stop reading my blog.  I can’t stop you, of course.  But I really do think it’s ridiculous.  It’s like you don’t want me in your life but you keep knocking at my front door***.

For now I suppose I’ll still force myself to go out in public and look in all the faces of the people who don’t like me and have hurt me and just hold my head up high because there are a lot of other people in this world (and even in this godforsaken town) who actually DO have my back, who like me, who enjoy my company and who have treated me very well.  I must give those people my energy now and make sure I let them know how much I appreciate their friendship and support.  Especially those people who have continued to be friends with me and show me kindness and warmth even though they are also friends with people who don’t like me.  I can’t begin to say how much I respect people who stick with you even when their friends don’t.

So.  For 28 more days I’ll do my best not to hide myself more than usual.

But would it be entirely wrong of me to shop at Roth’s now instead of Harvest Fresh?

*Full disclosure – I did read one post because I never did close my flickr ties with one person in this circle and something really stressful happened in her life which I found out from her flickr pictures – so I did want to know the end of that story.  But I haven’t been back since.  I just sent her good wishes whether she wants them or not.

**Who are we really kidding here?  This is a small town and I don’t seek out information about my social enemies and yet it STILL gets brought to my attention.  Small towns = no secrets.

***Just because you don’t comment and I can’t see you doesn’t mean I don’t know that you’re still coming here.  Yesterday wasn’t the first time I heard that you’re still reading my blog.  See the footnote above.