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(I’m Not Your) Stepping Stone – Sex Pistols

She and I were talking on the phone. Half heartedly I listened to the tale of her friend whose abusive husband left her nothing and his ungrateful children kicked her out of his house after she cleaned it and dispersed her only possessions. She’s homeless now and my friend was trying to rationalize herself out of feeling guilty for not allowing the friend to stay in her little trailer. I’m not sympathetic.

I keep my opinion to myself. At these times I’m not going to teach my friend a lesson in not allowing other people to manipulate her emotions. She’s also got a boyfriend who stays with her in this trailer who goes out carousing with his buddies and drinks a lot. He’s thoughtless and complains that she doesn’t spend time with her. When she does have time he’s out bumming with his friends at the bars.

She’s with an alcoholic. Her friend is caught in that victim status. They are not bad people. Her boyfriend is over 50 and he’s still acting like a teenager. Her friend is also over 50 and she’s acting like a kid. As far as I know her she’s not a bad woman either. And I know my friend is a caring individual. I think she is angry at me but it could be that she’s frustrated with these people who seem to expect her to pick up after them.

There’s a woman that goes to the Wellness Center I work at. She allows another guy who comes to the Center who is homeless to crash at her house. He gets drunk with her then picks a fight, knocks her down and starts wrestling her. When she protests he says he’s “trying to have a little fun”. Otherwise “he’s okay”. He’s a good cook she says. She feels bad for him. Tells me if she “doesn’t take care of him who will?” Once he started screaming at her then he “got abusive” and took a sharpie and wrote ***** is a bitch on her refrigerator and other things. She came to the center after being absent (she works at the center,) because what this guy did set her off. She told the other workers, and agreed that this guy was never going to be allowed at her place again. The next time she saw him she’d “toss his sh!t on the lawn” and he could drag it to his tent out in the woods.

I have been in bad relationships. I have been the victim. I’ve been the person to cry for others’ sympathy. I’ve been lonely and I’ve put up with other people’s irresponsible and bad behavior because I was scared to be alone. I HAVE been there. I can understand how they’re feeling. The thing is is that I learned that I deal with less b^llsh!t by refusing to allow myself to be dragged into other people’s drama. They are not my responsibility. That Christian thing where you are your “brother’s keeper” is only valid for times when your brother is acting like a responsible adult. I know there are times when we have a lapse of judgment or we act foolishly. But to direct your life in such a way that if you stepped outside of yourself and saw the red flags easily you’d be able to predict where you were going with a relationship with someone else and yet ignored it and then complained about the results? No sympathy my friend. In fact I really don’t want to give you too much of my time listening to your sob story. I’ve lived it and would rather spending my time on something more creative and interesting.

The day before Thanksgiving a friend that I haven’t heard from since my father died this February texted me to see if I wanted to go out with her. This meant going to a dive bar and having a drink. I am aware, well aware that she tends to like to go to these bars that are serious dumps. The dregs of each town they are in go there and drink away their evenings and act like life doesn’t bother them when it is apparent that they have some serious problems but don’t want to stay sober to address them. I’ve cleaned bars like this when I was really young. Chances are high that the next day some kind of vomit will be found in a corner or dark place the next morning. I’ve cleaned that puke up off the floor for less than minimum wage. I owe those people none of my time.

My friend has her issues (I have mine, I’m not unaware, just trying to limit the ones that I’m not responsible for.) I stopped going out of my way to keep in contact with her when many of her own issues became the sole subject of our conversations for the majority of the time for too long. When I stop wanting to share my life with another it tells me that I need a break from the relationship. I was getting to the point where I felt I wasn’t interesting enough for her to hear me. I was also becoming more involved with my Mother’s demise and really didn’t care about other people’s problems. Mom’s eventual death obliterated anyone else’s issues for me. I did not feel the need to entertain my friend’s desire for an audience of one. Right now I still don’t feel obligated to stretch myself out for anyone.

We drank. I had an angry orchard hard cider, only one bottle because it smelled like rot. I finished it because I bought the wretched thing and I wasn’t going to waste my money and toss it. We caught up. Her family’s dysfunctions and her partial culling of the undesirables in her life. It may change. She’s accepted people back in the past who “changed” and then sometimes they changed back. I’ve done this too. Then the barrage of anger at her ex boyfriend’s kids who she basically raised and he kicked out of the house. She keeps in touch with them and they act like irresponsible children by not calling her. I just listened again. That is what I do. For a while. The story is old. It’s boring too. I try to listen to myself when I talk to make sure I don’t fall in the trap of thinking that people owe me anything. And on the flip side I don’t give anything I can’t afford to give or that will make me bitter if someone doesn’t return the favor.

Understand, I don’t think I’m any better than they are. I just don’t want to dance that dance anymore. I find it a waste of time.

The guy that the woman I work with “helps” came in to the Center this morning. He sat next to me and tried to small talk me. I have no time for him. Some of the wretched things he’s said about my sister and some of the sexual cr@p he’s whispered to me in the past. He’s bent over my shoulder while I was at the computer to whisper drunk whatever into my ear. I can’t take alcohol on someone’s breath. It reminds me of the past. It’s dirty and fetid and comes with a soul pissing price and I feel violated after someone’s done that to me. I’m not telling that guy how I feel about him. I don’t tell people I wouldn’t trust with a plant something that personal. I never tell the darkness the secrets that shrivel my soul. So he sits next to me as I am trying to finish my lunch. “You don’t like me.”

I said, “You know what *****, that isn’t it. It has nothing to do with like. I have nothing to say to you.” I got up with my soup bowl, munching my grilled cheese and took my dishes to the kitchen. One day he was crying then loud and yelling in the next minute then drunk half an hour later. The next day he’s acting like he’s all sorry and reasonable. “Oh I HAVE to tell you that I didn’t mean your sister”. “You don’t HAVE to tell me anything *****”. “No NO! I HAVE TO!” I walked away. I don’t have to listen to anything. I had to live with that growing up as a kid. Being someone’s lover, wife. I refuse to put up with that now. If you don’t want to get stable, that’s your decision. I am not bound to put up with your volatile self. I will only do that with my own children because children need guidance. After a certain age you should be able to guide yourself. If you can’t, seek some help or run the risk of being ostracized.

Well to wrap this up, I’m under no impression that this is the end of dealing with unstable people or people who seem to get themselves involved with other people’s drama. I may get caught in that sticky web myself. For now I am just trying to row my own little boat to the shore. I am looking at the small amount of tools I have in my boat that I can use to help me out in bad weather. I’m noticing that I’m battered and bruised and out of shape. I’ve been paying attention to the others in the boats around me so much that I’ve ignored my own condition. Am I ready to look closely at my health and change it? Time may tell. My brain may also become too overwhelmed and draw my attention away from my own responsibilities to other people’s issues. So my course is to do the things I can to help myself. Good luck to me.