There is a particular person in my life who has caused much grief over the years. (It is not my father....FYI) Our relationship has been extremely difficult for me. I will call her Ms. P.
Ms. P and I differ completely in the ways we parent and lead others. Over the years, Ms. P has had opportunities to work with my children and I have had opportunities to work with hers. Because of our differing leadership styles, each of us has probably managed the other person's children in a way the mother did not appreciate and there were other interactions not involving the children, that I found particularly irritating and insensitive.
For years, I did a fairly decent job of hiding my annoyance and being kind anyway. A couple of instances pushed me too far and I over-reacted letting her know of my annoyance. Then I tried to talk with her and patch things up, tell her I was sorry and ask her to forgive me.
Over the years, I recognized Ms. P is difficult to speak with about anything. She makes a decision and that is it...that's how it is. Because of this, I quit trying to reason with her or even explain things if I knew her opinion was different than mine. Many people who live here just let her have her way because they do not have the emotional energy to stand up to her if they disagree. For years, I just tried to stay out of her way.
I had another friend who seemed to just love Ms. P. They had an amazing relationship. I could not understand it. I used to marvel at my friend's ability to love so completely. I wanted to be like her. I secretly wondered how she did it!
When our (Ms. P and I) paths would cross, I could be pleasant and we would just chat about the normal stuff---how are your kids, what have you been up to, surface conversations, etc...
Now I will detour for a moment. I have an emotional line---probably from growing up the way I did. When someone is being unkind or abusive to me, I will take it, and take it, and take it until someone backs me into the corner or crosses the line. At that point, my claws come out. I am going to get out of that corner, even if I have to go through you to do it. Most of my friends do not even know I have that line. There are very few people who have ever pushed me that far.
I learned about the line in my teens and in college, I saw first hand that I was capable of shredding another person with my words when I was pushed beyond the line. Now, as a disclaimer, I have needed to learn to communicate better so others get a 'heads up' that I am not OK with their behavior. I have also learned that there are certain personality types which push me to the line. And, that those personality types are the least capable of managing one of my shredding episodes.
Those I struggle with most, are those who struggle with their self-esteem and try to cover that by either controlling everything or appear to know everything in a given situation. I seem to have a 'fake-o-meter' and I can read right through it. In college, I did not realize this was their condition and so I did not restrain my mouth. As I have matured, I have done a much better job and can honestly tell you that I have not shredded anyone since moving here---about 15 years ago. I have done a better job at understanding how the personality affects me, recognizing my approach of the line, leaving before I hit the line, and reframing the interaction to control my attitude and opinion of the person, situation, etc...That is the history of my emotional baggage. I developed the claw defense to keep me safe.
Then one day, it happened. Ms. P crossed the line. What was it exactly, you want to know? Well, she started messing with my children. It was one thing when her attitude and insistence affected me, my husband, and others. It was a different thing when it started negatively affecting my children---that was the line. I am not going to go into the details, because they are not necessary for the story.
I also know from my previous experiences that talking to Ms. P would do no good and actually, I was annoyed enough with her that I knew a conversation with her might push me over the line in the moment and I would say something I would regret. I decided instead just to shut-down any conversations that began so that I did not say something nasty. I did not do it all the time, but if I was recently annoyed over another Ms. P incident, I shut it down. Now, mind you, I did not think I was being unkind or rude. I was just in no place to fake the conversation or exchange pleasantries when I was so perturbed with her.
Unfortunately, Ms. P's behavior was not a one-time occurrence, nor was it limited to only one child. I have never discussed these instances with her because I never saw the point. There would be no benefit and it was only potentially riddled with problems. Each time, after my annoyance subsided and I managed to patch up my kiddos, I just prayed to be able to let go of the situation. I prayed to be kind to Ms. P. I prayed to understand her. But I also no longer trusted her with my children or any family information, thus there wasn't much to talk about.
Unbeknownst to Ms. P, she was not the only one causing drama at my house. We were having difficulties with other people being unkind to my children. Now, I understand that the problem could be my children and not the adults, but as we would ask the kids to recount the incidents and we would drill them about their behavior, and we would seek other opinions from those who had witnessed the issues, our children seemed to behave appropriately in the situation. We would counsel them further as to how to appropriately manage their situations, encourage them to pray for guidance and revelation, and remind them of the doctrinal principles they needed to follow and help them to see things from the other people's perspective. It was a really crazy time in our lives. I share this only to let you know that there was other stress going on and I was particularly protective of my little crew. In honesty, I am sure this played a role in my comments to Ms. P. The other people hurting my children pretty much just ignored us---but not Ms. P. She wanted to publicly pretend that everything was just fine. I don't play games and I do not pretend, which is probably why I decided to handle the Ms. P situation differently.
Recently, I have learned some interesting things about my interactions with Ms. P. But I will save those for my next post. Stay tuned.....