I’ve always thought I look and act more like my mom but lately, I’m not so sure.

I learned from my father how to close myself up in quiet. How to act as though it doesn’t matter. It being anything. It being whatever I need it to be in that moment. Whenever I feel depressed, I feel most like him.

I hate that this is true, but it is. In the last years of his life, my father was not one to engage in argument even if an argument was warranted. I’d do my best to instigate one because a reaction was better than all that non-reaction, all that sitting and staring into the dark, all that anger masked as complacency. When you’re a workaholic who is forced to retire early because you are going blind, it’s hard to hold on to a sense of yourself when the parameters with which you defined yourself have disappeared. I understand the anger. I actually respect it. But the complacency? The sitting there waiting for something outside of yourself to change? The giving up? That. That I don’t get.

Maybe that’s why I’ve always plowed through life, tackling problems head on, ceaselessly. Maybe that’s why I am quick to think that throwing up my hands and saying “I’m done!” with people who run on the treadmill of life rather than take to the streets, with people who say “this is good enough” when it’s not even close to good or enough. I’m unforgiving when it comes to laziness and lack of motivation and tend to harbor resentment when I lend my support but see no change. I am not proud of this cruel personal truth.

I spent many years (also known as my twenties) finding people to bolster, to carry, to inspire. There were many who fell prey to my rescue complex and for a while I mistakenly felt like I was being helpful. I become somewhat of a dictator when shit gets hard and people fall apart. If I could make money off of being a fixer, I’d be rich. I’m great at telling you what to do. I’m not so bad at telling me what to do but I only listen half the time. I have an extremely difficult time standing by watching someone I care about falter, hem, haw, breakdown. I know they need to for their own sake but for my sake? I can’t watch. I haven’t learned how to be supportive without being a bully. This is a fault of mine. A very big fault. I realize that most of the time 40% of my anger is directed at a dead man. I’m still mad at my dad for succumbing to failure. For choosing to wallow rather than live. For giving up.

I’d like to think I can change though lately it seems my default reaction vacillates between firecracker anger and caged silence. It takes all of my willpower to keep my mouth shut and not give directives masked as advice. I have to constantly remind myself that “that is not my life” and let them find their own answers. Sometimes I will say nothing rather than say the wrong thing. It’s very uncomfortable, this not knowing how to react. It feels counter-intuitive and yet, I know I need to stop telling people what to do. And because I am a master at beating myself up, I’ve been walking around feeling like who I am and who I’ve been is wrong.

Feeling wrong all the time is exhausting.


33 thoughts on “Failing

  1. Learning that your way isn’t always the right way for everyone is a tough one. It’s something I have to tell myself every time I feel myself getting angry with the other person. I comfort myself by knowing that we’re all different, we all have different hang ups and therefore all react differently and need different things. Hang on in there 🙂

  2. I feel you. I know it’s hard to stand by seeing someone else making a huge mistake (in our eyes) and not be able to intervene. But I’m trying to accept that this mistake might be a vital lesson for this other person’s life, which will make him/her grow.
    A lot of things in life have to be learned by experience – as hurtful it might be sometimes.

    Don’t beat yourself up for who you are. I know a lot of people appreciate the “YOU” they got to know.

  3. Nobody is as good about beating myself up than me, so I know how uncontrollable it feels to be in this particular situation.

    I’m not sure I’ve used this statement before, but I’ll say it again for emphasis; “We are our own worst enemy”

    If there’s a way to silence that negative voice in my head, I’d sure like to know how to do it.

    Hugs to you anyway sizz!

  4. Hi,

    I think we’ve met? I’m your twin! I’m always trying to help and get mad for not being taken seriously. I don’t practice what I preach but I’m chockful of advice.

    Sigh…I need to shut up and just listen.

  5. Since starting to read your blog months ago, I’m realizing that you and I are very much alike. It’s sort or weird to read my thoughts on your blog. 🙂 Anyway, I understand where you are coming from. I’ve been on the giving and receiving end of this and it’s not easy. What I want to tell you is this: you are not wrong. You are passionate, wise and you care about this world and the people in it. Those are all very “right” things to be… and now I’m going to stop myself from giving advice and just let you be. See? I’m making strides! 😉 Hugs for you!

  6. I know how you feel. It’s something I battle, too.

    I apologize in advance for sounding like a broken record… but I suggest reading “Codependent No More” by Melody Beattie. I read the book during therapy, and it really helped me let go of trying to rescue people, saying NO, and removing anger and guilt for things (people) I couldn’t control.

    And by me suggesting this to you, I’m being codependent 😉 So long as my old therapist isn’t reading this, it’s ok 😀

  7. I needed to read this today – this post reminds me that I SHOULD and CAN say no about a certain situation I can’t save or should try to save. Not everything is my problem to fix or salvage nor is it yours either.

  8. It’s so maddening thinking that we might be making all the wrong choices/continuing the bad behavior of our parents. This could be a post for me in itself so I’ll be brief.

    I think voicing your feelings and paying attention to how you act is really all you need to do. You see yourself behaving in ways you don’t want to. You’ll be able to make the effort to change. I also think everyone who sees friends making poor choices fight down saying something. They fight letting the other person just make their own mistakes. Don’t be so hard on yourself though. You’re wonderful.

  9. That last line is very true. How much easier when we just accept ourselves and not have the mental baggage of second guessing everything we say and do. You are absolutely fine just the way you are. You are doing the best you can with the knowledge you have at this time. Repeat as often as necessary.

  10. I think there is a fine line between telling people what to do, offering constructive advice and saying nothing. You seem to think it’s all or nothing. And I might suggest that your insights are likely valuable to the “offending” party. You just need to figure out a way to have a conversation instead of direct. Offer insights, instead of direction. Ask questions, instead of mandates. And maybe the recipients will be open to hearing what you have to say.

  11. I agree with your readers above – “Codependent No More” is a great book. It’s hard, when you hold yourself to certain standards, not to hold other people to them too.

    As my therapist used to say, “Keep your own side of the street clean.” Instead of worrying about what everyone else is doing, look at yourself – ask yourself why you’re reacting certain ways. Nilsa is right – your advice is valuable. Don’t stop doling it out, maybe just try to find ways to not take it personally if people don’t heed it. Try to detach so that if their crap blows over to your side of the street, you can just sweep it away and not feel bad about the mess.

  12. Interesting post – I sometimes bully my sister when she gets discouraged so easily as I feel she needs to hang on and be a fighter – yet I hate sounding so bitchy and think I come off as actually being rude sometimes as opposed to helpful….Hang in there – you’re in my thoughts!

  13. I contend with this, too. Learning that your way isn’t the only right way is really tough. Especially if you’re lucky to be someone whose way has worked for them for so long. But the more I try to let go and see it, the more I see that there are also other right ways for me. I wish I’d see that more, but I’m working on it.

  14. Anger is the common denominator.Depression(and silence) is anger turned Inward.Acting out is how you respond viscerally to frustration–but it IS a response! Remember what you just said, about trying to get your father to respond in a fight?

    I know about cruel truths, and I don;t blame you. I know about all that judgement stuff–but here’s where the rubber meets the road:
    You have been overwhelmed and frustrated for the past few months. I think your anger is a catalyst in trying to get things to stop, and change. I think, your anger is a healthy thing as opposed to the giving-up of suffering in silence. I think that you may need to let yourself express some whip-cracking ire and crack thru the ceiling that is holding you back from the next Level of Attainment and personal growth. Yes, it sucks– but thru your anger being honestly expressed, you will find your freedom, and healthy tissue beneath it all.

    Let yourself live, and yeah, get curly fries. You have to be free to be You. (hugs) People who love you will stand by the growth process, I promise. It’s the silence that will drive them away.

  15. Like you, it’s taken a long time to learn that you can’t change them. I don’t care who them is… the question really is are you willing to stand by and wait for it to happen.

    The more I work on my life, the more I realize that the only thing I honestly and truly control is me.

    Big hugs. The road ain’t easy, but the vistas are worth it.

  16. the opposite of being right isn’t always being wrong.
    sometimes “wrong” is just a synonym for change.
    you have admitted to yourself that you know you can’t fix other people.
    you’re changing.
    it’s supposed to hurt.
    otherwise we would do it everyday.

  17. Don’t be so hard on yourself! You are one of the sweetest people I have ever *met*. Knowing that you can’t solve everyone’s problems doesn’t make you wrong at all. It just means you’re learning something new. My daughter’s 6th grade teacher used to say, when the kids would tell her they had “got it wrong” that “mistakes are just a learning opportunity”. I think she makes a good point :o)

  18. you have no idea how often I call my sister and go, “I did such and such today JUST LIKE MOM!” or “I said “this” and I sounded just like DAD!” Araugh. It is apparent and makes sense that we are the products of our parents. Coming into our own in the challenge, knowing what we believe in and how to stand up for it.

  19. My biological father split from my mom when I was itty bitty, like 18 months or so. He moved away and never looked back. I tried to connect with him once a year when I turned 17. By say 23, I gave up. His douchebag family spoke with a smile in their voie when I called them in hopes of getting in touch with Bill. Never happened. I found out he died a couple years and I have a half-sister somewhere in Florida. And I could care less. I’ve mulled it over and no emotion whatsoever emerges from me or even tries to brew. I’m dead to it.

  20. The great thing about life is… you can wake up tomorrow and reinvent the day, your mood, everything. Live for the moment. For the now!

  21. Sometimes I think it is appropriate to tell people when they are completely fucking up.

    Okay, I am saying that because I DO IT TOO. I cannot help saying what I think. The fact that you recognize it as a problem at least means you are conscious of it and able to work on it, if you really want to.

    Right now, a family member of mine is in a really weird situation, and I just had to say to myself “I am not going to get involved.” I will let them talk it out to me, but THAT’S it!

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