Please, Bring Out the Worst in Me

Please, Bring Out The Worst In Me

“Please forgive me for my distance my pain is evident in my existence. Please forgive me for my distance the shame is manifest in my resistance to your love.”

-Fiona Apple

I am unhappy.

There is a disconnect between the person you see, and the way that my heart really feels.  I try to surround myself with people who tell me that I am okay, that I deserve better and that I matter. I go to therapy every week to talk about how bad I feel.

The irony behind this is I can fix it. But I don’t.

I have a fascination with the television show Intervention. The reason is because I always know, in the end, the user will relapse. I also wonder how in the world someone can get so low that they abuse themselves and forfeit any real opportunity of being happy. I also wonder how in the process of getting a spoon, putting the drugs in the spoon, then burning it, then filling a syringe, then tying your arm up and then finally injecting yourself; how is it that through this process, the time that it takes, do they not think “hey, maybe this isn’t a good idea. Maybe this is bad for me. Maybe I am better than this.” I never understood why that fascinated me. I do now. I am that person.

I don’t do drugs. I do horrible relationships.

I have a habit. I have a habit which they don’t have a support group for. My habit is finding my way into the most unhealthy, terrible, depressing, and saddest relationships ever. I always end up with the same types of guys. I choose to be with the guy who makes me cry and then in an instant runs out to hang out with their friends while I sit at home, alone, babysitting the dog, and “doing this to myself.” Later I am told by him, “Given the option of sitting here with you talking about your feelings and feeling depressed or going out with my friends and having a good time, I’d pick going out with my friends every single time.” The others sit dumbfounded and silent. Others promise, “I will never do it again.” Only to shortly thereafter do it again. In every relationship that I have been in, I have been made to feel like the failure; the one that is made to feel like I’m never, sane, normal, sexy, smart, nice, fun, and supportive. I never ever try.

I often find myself without energy to move forward. I get out of bed for obligations and that sometimes is a chore and needs convincing on my behalf. All of my motivation and energy goes into telling myself I am going to be okay and to trying to work things out with someone who I know doesn’t love me, despite what he says. The relationship becomes my job, my worry. I feel as if I’m constantly preparing for an earthquake – stocking up on supplies to lessen the blow of the storm when it does come. Because Lord knows it will. The controlling and anxious part of me is always on high alert. The physical and emotional parts of me are so sensitive that I am able to feel when things are not going as they should and that disappointment leads to an emotional punch.  When I found out John, my boyfriend of a year at the time, was sleeping with my then best friend Jennifer, I knew that he had been sleeping with her prior to the confirmation I received through an intercepted text message.

“Are you sure that you didn’t sleep with Jennifer? Because if you did you better get tested because she has slept with a lot of guys and I don’t want to get anything.”

“No, I didn’t sleep with her Ash,” he said annoyed “why would I do something like that, I love you.”

Cut to the text message I found a few days later

“When is the last time you got tested?” he asked her.

“Right before the last time we had sex.”

I saw it coming before it even came. So I was slightly prepared. But there was still a crack in my world and just two weeks later I decided to work things out with John. Eight more years passed with similar incidents. However, I did learn one little lesson with John and that was not to have best friends.

The amount of anger and sadness that is inside of my heart, at times is unbearable. And it doesn’t matter how much I convey that. It still doesn’t matter. Every single person that I have ever been with makes me feel like I am not warranted in my feelings in my emotions. “I’m crazy”.

I know what you’re thinking. “Why would she stay?”

I have no idea.

It makes no logical sense that I would stay in a situation that offers no resolve other than making me feel like the biggest piece of shit when quite frankly short of slitting the good ‘ole wrists and pouring out blood; I do a lot. Now this could turn into a horn tooter, but please understand that is not the point.

How can I allow someone into my life that utterly shapes how I feel as a human being and shape it for the worse? How can I let someone who has no goals, no drive, no knowledge of themselves affect me in such a way that my whole existence and sanity come to the point where they are challenged and I have to prove to myself, again, I am okay. The fore-mentioned boyfriend, Keenan, is twenty-three. Upon meeting him, almost a year ago, we appeared to have a connection; we finished each other sentences’, talked about how people weren’t honest and put up a façade for others so that they would be accepted. For the first time, it felt as though I had met someone who truly understood me. Movement happened as it does but after a few months in I found out that he had been searching the “casual encounters” on craigslist and replying to ads and sending pictures of his dick to random girls who were “looking for a good time”. Ironically, while I was sad and hurt I was more disappointed and disillusioned. All of a sudden everything I thought about this person was proved wrong. I was guilty of misjudging this person, misjudging what I thought I found.  Shortly after that, things progressively got a little more intense, especially when he was under the influence of alcohol. Name calling and violent outbursts became the norm.

“You’re just going to sit there and cry little baby?”

I say nothing and continue to sob. I think to myself, “He is just trying to get a reaction out of you Ashley.” Remember he told you, “You’re too good for me Ashley. I don’t understand why you are with me and I feel sometimes I have to knock you down just to make sense of why someone so good would be with someone like me.”

“You’re such a pussy, keep crying.”

I try to understand where his temperament comes from and not judge him. After all, he is a product of a family that pushed him for seventeen years to be a competitive hockey player only to subsequently cut his potential career short with a broken neck. All promise and then disappointment. Now at twenty-three he is trying to figure out what to do with his life and cope with the reality that he will never be able to do what he spent his whole life working towards. Turmoil. I can empathize with that, thus my allowance and my consequence. We are all always struggling to be the healthiest people that we can be but sometimes the sickness in us spreads blindly to the people we are closest to. I find it troubling to leave someone simply because they are wounded since we are all wounded anyway in our respective ways (thanks, Anthony).

My sickness stems from two places; within myself and with the person that I am with. I understand that something has to be wrong with me to stay with someone who treats me in this manner, and I am the one who is left to try and work things out. But it also comes from the other person, whether it is the things they say about me, do to me or the lack of any real love in them. A lack of real love for themselves. It is as if I choose to date paraplegics and then I get upset when they won’t go for a walk with me; they can’t. At times, I feel that I expecting something from someone who is, was and will always be incapable of loving because they just can’t or this is simply the best that they can love; 99 cent store love. I guess I have in my idealistic tendencies refused to accept that people “just don’t know how to love”. I am struggling with the realization of my choices in terms of mate selection. But how do you change something when you don’t know where the glitch is? I know I date sick people because I myself am sick. I have the Florence Nightingale effect. I try to make things easier, nicer and more comfortable for someone else and it is not reciprocated. And then I get hurt and upset and then I work things out. Meaning I adjust, adapt. Knowing this, what scares me so much is the fact that I am so sensitive to what the person I love says and thinks about me; that I choose to be with someone who is so reckless with their words and actions that in effect they murder my soul.

To be honest, I have no idea where this came from. This idea that love is supposed to be pain and suffering. That, if you are not struggling then you are not loving. And if you quit when the going gets tough then you are a quitter or a failure. I can think of where the idea of being fearful of failing comes from, my dad, but that was in terms of schooling never relationships.

My mom has been a flight attendant since I was two. Back then she worked for Eastern Airlines and was based out of New York. My dad, brother and I lived in LaVerne; a city on the eastern outskirts of Los Angeles County. My parents divorced at six because of cheating allegations on both ends, but mom ended up having the evidence that my dad needed, someone else’s kid. Over the course of my childhood and adolescence, my schools and locations changed as much as my mom’s husbands and boyfriends.

“Mom, I can’t believe you’re making us change schools again. How am I supposed to have any real friends?” I whined to her on the car ride to my new junior high school.

“One day you’ll thank me for this. Adaptation is something that is very important in life. One day you’re going to have a job and you are going to have to be able to adapt.” She replied in an angered tone as she pulled up to the school to drop me off.

There is a kernel of truth in what my mom said. But adapting became a personality trait, not just a skill. Over the course of the twelve years, I spent in school as a kid I change schools seven times. I feel as a kid it was even difficult for me to bond with her because I challenged everything that she did, in terms of decisions like moving us or selecting a new mate because I felt that she never really took into consideration what it was that she was putting us through. So with adaptation came no stability. The only things that ever created stability for me as a kid was outside influences. They never originated in the home. I was one of those kids who always had second families. In Chico, it was the Larson’s in Los Angeles it was the Navarro’s. My mom hated it. She ironically felt betrayed because it was evidence that she wasn’t a ‘good enough’ mom. The moving and the adaptation became difficult because I was constantly trying to find things to cling to outside of my family because I couldn’t count on my unstable family. My dad always had the same expectations of me so I found a stabilizing force in him that kept me lightly rooted. He was, and is, like an omnipresent god who doesn’t need to show his face because you know what the rules are you know what he wants and expects. He thought that my brother and I ate too much candy, much like my mom he would say. So, while we were shopping with him at the grocery store when we would be in the checkout line my brother and I knew not to ask if we could get a candy. If we were with my mom we would bug her to get it for us. I also knew never to challenge my dad. I as a kid and even now have never gotten into a verbal fight with him. However, as my brother and I have gotten older the relationship between my father and both my brother and I has become tense. Often times my brother and I will go weeks, months without talking to my dad just because the pressure and expectations and criticisms can really weigh you down. It may not be the healthiest form of stability, but it was all I had. My parents always left me to fend for myself and my three younger brothers. I kid, but seriously, I have been a mother since my brother Erik was born. Then there was Collin and then Kadin. It was my job to take care of their needs because my mom was busy flying around the world. Sure I had step-dads’ and babysitters, but they were transient. I felt it was my responsibility at the age of eight to give my brothers something that I knew they would never get from their parents, stability.

The funny thing about relationships is they are never really what they seem. When I first meet someone everything seems harmless, yet once one bad thing happens it seems they never cease to stop happening. And then I find myself wondering how to get back to where we started. The reality is, it is impossible to ever go back to how things were once so many things have transpired. I have learned the more content I feel, the more there is to lose and the more there is to lose the more it hurts. After a while of this, I just stop having hope, I stop having expectations. Sure, it may be a defense mechanism, but where would we be without defense mechanisms? All of this is a daily battle that I fight, and I am not tired of loving and I’m not tired of living I am just tired of fighting. Tired of fighting for what I should innately get. For what I deserve.

My last relationship, John, was eight years and it consisted of porn, cheating, lying and tons of unhappiness. Most often times I could tell when John was lying. One of the biggest things that we argued about was weed. Not simply because of the function of weed but the factors surrounding the use. The use was necessary. Every day from the moment he woke up to the moment he went to bed. And always in public places. I also had concerns about the paraphernalia being in my car and the consequences that could happen if I were pulled over. It was also the consequences of the lack of weed. If he didn’t have it we were in trouble. His mood would drastically change. I would always say to him, “I feel like I don’t know who you really are. Because when you’re high, you’re fine. But when you aren’t high you turn into this completely different person.” He never had a response to this. He felt that this was just really who he was and I suppose in retrospect he just is a severe user. And so he is right. I felt if the drug had such an effect on him then who was he really? Embedded in all this, my problem with it, was the deceit. Even though it was something that was a problem in the early years of our relationship there was always promises made, “I’m going to stop. I’m going to cut back. I promise I won’t lie.” When John asked for my hand from my mom and dad they asked for specific things from him before they would give him the okay. “We want you to go to premarital counseling, personal counseling and you need to work on your drug habit.” Now, I realize that is a list of things that would subsequently change a person, but their concern was based on eight years of knowledge.

“Hey John, did you hear that a volcano just erupted today?”

“Where at?”

“Apparently right outside of our house.”

“What do you mean Ash?” He responded sarcastically.

“Well, you told me that you aren’t smoking anymore, but there is ash in my car. So it must’ve been the volcano that erupted. Then the ash flew from the peak of the volcano, down to the car, under the carport and through my windows that were rolled up. Because that is the only way that makes sense to me that there is ash in the car, because you aren’t smoking anymore, right?”

“I didn’t smoke in the car Ash. I told you I stopped smoking.”

I know my reaction sounds condescending, but it got so boring hearing lies all the time. And I always felt like “Damn! He must really think I’m stupid because who would believe that.” I began to respect him less and less. It got to the point that his dad told me “You should really stay away from my son. He’s a liar like his mother and he is never going to stop. I am living proof of that. You deserve a lot better Ash.”

Often times my checking account would be missing money because he would take money out to go and buy weed. It would be terrible at family events, funerals, concerts, doctors appointments there always needed to be time set aside for John to go and get high. I stayed and even said yes to a proposal. In every instance of that relationship, I felt like what was happening to me was somehow my responsibility and my failure to be whatever I needed to be in order to get the love I felt that I gave and deserved. I would always think to myself in those moments where you know you should end the relationship, “If only he could remember why he loved me and why he fell in love with me. If I could just get us back to that place then everything would work out.” I can’t escape my past because I live in the time portal. My house, my home, is a constant reminder of my past. It harbors all the acquired relics of a life once lived: beds once shared, couches that hold the tune of the song of proposal and whole and torn pictures that highlight the good times and the bad. Memories of both good and bad and with faithful promise to become something wonderful, something more. While I feel the hindrance of my environment, created with another, I cannot help but be protective of it and the perversion of the unworthy. The transient.

I find myself saying this to this day in my current relationship. Everything is always a struggle and my feeling is that I have to exhaust every option and every path before I can give up so I don’t feel like I failed. So I can look back at relationships and feel that I did everything in my power to make it the best that it could be in spite of how bad it always seems to turn out. There are things in my current relationship that have been done to me and said to me that I have never in my whole twenty-six years experienced. And the essences of those things are direct contradictions to what love is. Yet, I cannot give up on it. And I try to see past the derogatory words that are thrown at me and the expressions of violence to somehow find and regain what we at once had. As of this moment in the writing of this memoir, things are terrible in the relationship. I have committed the last eighteen weeks of weekly therapy, initially started because I was told profusely that I was crazy. In therapy, I hoped to discover that I was, in fact, crazy because then there would be a reason for my many failures in my personal relationships and the degree of those failures. The best part of my hope for being diagnosed as crazy was that I would be able to fix it because I can control my actions and then everything would somehow be better. Turns out I’m not crazy. People always assume that I’m codependent and that is why I stay in these situations or that I am afraid of being alone when in all reality I’m just afraid of failing. I am afraid of letting down the person that I choose to be with, in the sense they will leave the relationship thinking I’m the one that fucked everything up when in reality I feel like all I do is try. It just never seems to be good enough.

Had I known that certain things in my life would turn out the way they have I would’ve done them differently. I believe that in life the most difficult thing to accomplish is life. There never is the ability to go back and change the things that have happened or the things that at one time, at one moment, seemed like a good choice. The misconception is that if you are with someone, you are not lonely. When in reality it is only through being with someone that you know what being alone is and how it feels.

I try to imagine and tell myself that one day I am going to meet someone that will never make me question my worth as a person; someone who at the sight of me crying will feel a pain so deep in their heart that they will sit by me and see me through my sadness, not someone who walks out on me. But I also wonder if my heart will be a malleable then or if it will have turned to stone. Because then it really wouldn’t matter. I would have wasted all of my good heart on people who didn’t deserve it. But it really isn’t the need to be with someone. Really. It is that I made the choice to be with someone and come hell or high-water it is my responsibility to see that choice through. You can’t just give up because you get tired or because things get tough because that is when you’re pushing yourself to grow, that is when you are loving. You don’t know what pain is unless you are with someone who can make you feel the difference between what feels good and what hurts. When I am alone, I feel good.