Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Land Mines

Just after I got divorced (well, actually about five months afterwards), friend Juliet told me that I should watch for land mines. "Land Mines" being defined as "canalized ways of thinking that worked for you in the past but now will throw a monkey wrench into your life."


The man I was married to had a crazy mother. I don't mean Collected Precious Moments Figurines crazy; I mean Threatened to Shoot Us On Our Wedding Day And Never Really Improved crazy. I was probably the only bride in recent local history who chose her wedding dress with an eye to how well it would hide a flak vest.

Looking back, I think that probably should've been a clue.


TMIWMT went crazy, slowly, over the nine years of our marriage. Part of that was very likely my fault--I made demands on him that, had he had fewer stresses or a less-nutso family, he could've probably handled. I couldn't see that, though, and so kept pushing and pulling and yelling and generally making his life harder and harder until he couldn't see any way out besides fucking around on me. For him to do that means that he must've been miserable beyond expressing. I know I was.

So. Crazy mother who makes crazy demands, like "come over this very minute and clean my house, which means taking a shovel to the piles of rotten food all over and the dead rats and so on". Crazy schedule trying to start a variety of small businesses over the years and keep them going. Craziness in that he went to California and ended up working for another crazy person and staying away for better than a year.

Given that this was the first significant relationship of my adult life, and given that it lasted twelve years, you can see what I'm up against in the Land Mine department.


Pal Keith can probably attest to the fact that when somebody gradually goes nuts, you don't notice right away. Instead, if you love them, you try to make them saner by changing your behavior and your reactions. (Parenthetical note: this is why the saying, "You can't change a person, but you can change your reaction to them" is so damning. It ought to be "You can't change a person, so run the hell away if they're nuts.")

Everything will eventually, if you're involved with a real nutcase, become your fault. Note here that I'm not talking about abusive relationships; that's a whole different kettle of fish. Abuse, be it emotional or physical or both, involves one person purposefully destroying another person's sense of self in order to gain and maintain control of them.

Being involved with a nutcase involves a person pushing aside their own ideas of what's sane and second-guessing their reactions in order to try to make things normal. Eventually this becomes second nature. Then you're really screwed.

Where I am now is screwed

Man A. and I reconciled a couple of weeks ago. I like him. A lot.

Tonight he's over at his mother's house, fixing some stuff she can't fix and doing a couple of quickie remodeling jobs. I'd like to see him Friday, but he's not sure how work is going to be, so I might not get to.

Work. Mother. Work. Mother. Work. Mother.

You can see the land mines here, right? Thought you could.

A normal person would say, "Gosh, what a nice guy Man A. is. He's helping his mom out, his nice, sane, normal, charming mom..." (I've met her and know this for the truth) "...and isn't that responsible and caring of him? Isn't it nice that he comes from such a close-knit family?" A normal person would understand that occasionally work is crazy-making, especially when you cook for a living.

Unfortunately, I am not normal. I am canalized to believe that Mother and Work equal Abuse and Desertion.

So I've been cleaning the apartment for the last two hours, talking out loud to myself in an attempt to defuse these particular land mines.

1. I get frightened when Man A. doesn't want to see me right now or can't drop everything to do so. This is totally unreasonable on my part. For God's sake, he's a grown man with a family and so on. Besides that, if he were clingy and remora-like, I would be flipped out by *that*.

2. But there's still a little, irritating part of me that curls up into a ball and rocks back and forth when he says we might not see each other this week. That's the part of me that spent fifteen months asking her husband when he would come home, and another seven years keeping dinner warm for him when he worked late.

3. If I could cut that whimpering part of me out and throw it away, I would. In a second. Because that's the part of me that's scared of everything, and being afraid makes me treat people unfairly and illogically.

4. Unfortunately, you can't cut tumors out of your soul as easily as you can cut them out of your body. So that whimpering bit is staying for now, and I'm not really sure how to deal with it, other than by making very sure that I treat Man A. well, without the whimpering bit's influence. Or with as little of it as I can manage, at any rate.

These are land mines. Clearing a field of land mines, especially when it's your entire life, pretty much, is hard.

Do they sell special boots for this?

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