Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Emotional Overload

If there is one constant in my life, it has been my inconsistency in certain areas. But although my last post probably left the impression that I was just about to kick the chair out from under me and dangle from the rafters, let me assure you, dearest reader, that your emotional wreck of a blogger here is well intact.

When we last left off, I was feeling numb and disgusted over the election results, and the general depression over that lasted well into that weekend. Of course, life is not happy unless it throws you several curves at the same time, so I had no time to recover from the barking madness that we called an election before another item (ahem) hit the fan.

First of all, our file servers at work crapped out for THREE WHOLE DAYS that week, and so the week was a blur of eating it from people who would not take, "I'm sorry, but I can't access any computer records right now" for an answer, followed by a mad scramble to make up work once the network was up and running again. If I had my druthers, the IT contractor and his band of un-merry nerds would be out the door this fast (indicating very small measurement of time with thumb and forefinger), but for technical reasons not worth going into here, we are stuck with them for the time being. The long and the short of it was that work was a disaster.

Let's sum up so far. Work that week was stressful, combined with the misery of the election results, and the rapid slide into depression that ensued. Combine that with my pet ailment acting up (that's another post), and you have got the picture of how I was feeling as I waited in J's place for him to come home that evening, as we planned. I just sat on the couch, attempting to de-stress, and looking forward to talking to him and having his reasonable and calming take on the days' events work their magic on my frayed nerves.

As I mind-melded with his couch, it suddenly occurred to me that the hour was getting later, and it was an hour past when I was roughly expecting him, based on past-experience rather than our having set a definite time to meet. J. is really pretty punctual, so I had my phone in my hand to call his work to check on him, which I NEVER do, when I heard his car roll up. Instinct told me something was wrong.

He was acting a little strange, and didn't immediately explain why he was late, so I was internally getting more worried than depressed at the moment. Finally, after greeting me and then silently doing all of the "just got home" rituals of putting away his things and checking on the cat, he told me that he'd been late because he was printing out emails on the work printer to show me, to get my take on things.

Apparently, a joking correspondence between J. and the singer of his band quickly, surprisingly and very disappointingly turned into an escalating war of words. Although some of the emails were missing, having been mistakenly deleted in the heat of the battle, as it were, it seemed that a friendship and a band had split wide open, ostensibly because of a few poorly chosen, crude swipes, but perhaps, on a deeper level, due to some larger personal division that took this opportunity to rear its ugly head.

I was stunned, disappointed, confused and angry. At first, I couldn't understand the intensity of the heat behind J's anger at what was said, which admittedly was rude and insensitive and loaded with passive aggressive messages, and what seemed to be an unreasonable overreaction on his part. It scared me, because I'd never seen him so profoundly angry at someone before, and his quickness to sever ties when attacked was threatening and foreign.

As I've explained here ad nauseum, growing up in a childhood home environment where the insane mother is tip-toed around and every one else must placate the mad beast, has left me with a legacy in the role of constant peacemaker/non-boat rocker. It took me a little while to understand his take on the situation, since my first reaction, unhealthy as it may be at times, is to fix it, fix it, fix it! There's a rift? Fix it! Someone's upset? Empathize with them and comfort them! Someone is being mean or yelling? Duck and cover!

But J. wasn't doing any of those things. He was raised differently, and his instincts of self-defense and self-preservation are keener than mine. He lashed back at his attacker. Oh, Fuck me, is it? No, NO, Fuck YOU! (Although this is a gross oversimplification of the argument, it will do for the sake of this story.)

We talked about the matter for quite some time that night, but I still didn't completely understand his side. I was trying, in my own way, to nudge him more towards reconcilliation than towards separation, because this is my habit, and I hadn't had time to process his reaction yet. The next night, after he went over and picked up his equipment from the practice space, still in a rage and not willing to listen to anyone and especially not the singer, he called and told me what happened. I was still so stunned that he was quitting rather than trying to work things out, especially after how wonderful the Halloween party had been and how much better the band seemed to be doing. Everyone was so happy that night, and then days later, it was all destroyed. I just could not understand it. It seemed at the time that he was being petulant, taking his ball and going home, and that just isn't the J. I know.

He heard my disappointment on the phone, and he said later that he felt just awful about having disappointed me too, on top of all else. But in the following days we spent hours here and there talking about the various aspects of what happened, what it meant, what the repercussions of each person's actions would be, and what, if anything, was there left to do about it all. I know that I made him by turns angry, disappointed, relieved and confused with all my questions and prodding for information, but it was not just about the band. To me, this was a side of him I'd never seen before, a man who could break off personal attachments and not look back, and stubbornly dig his heels in, even after realizing that he had overreacted . I needed to know where all that was coming from. I needed to be reassured that he had thought out his decision, and that it was based on something that was actually said or meant, and not something he projected onto the other guys' words, an excuse to leave the band when the reasons for leaving were already in place and had nothing to do with the recent events.

Most of all, I needed to feel that he was not the sort of man who would fly off the handle at the first major disagreement we had, gather up his things and walk out of my life without explanation. Once I realized that their disagreement was bringing up my own abandonment fears, I kept gently grilling him about his reasons and feelings, until we understood each other.

After a few days, I finally felt that I understood his side, and I told him that I'll support his decision, whatever it might end up being. Even though I felt bad for the guys in the band, whom I've grown fond of and I know were probably pretty devastated by the rift, it's his life, and he has to stand up for himself when he feels badly used. And I love that part of his personality, that he walks his talk, so once we hashed it all out, I was feeling much better that his reasoning was intact and this was not just an emotional blowup.

I thanked him for spending the time he did going over it all, even though I know at times he was uncomfortable or even cross with me from all the prodding, and he said that he didn't really mind, he wanted and valued my opinions, and he knew we needed to talk it through until I understood how he felt about it all and his decision, whether I agreed with him or not. I can't even explain how much that meant to me.

In the aftermath, two good things have come. J. and I have a better understanding of each other and of who we are together, and there have been efforts on both sides (of the argument) to mend fences. What that means for the future of the band, I'm not altogether sure yet, but what that means for the future of our relationship, is that things are looking good.

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