I am afraid of everything. Every day. I worry that I’m not earning enough to live on. I worry that I’ll eat too much and gain weight. I worry that I will finally prove to myself that I am unworthy of love and incapable of happiness and kill myself. I worry that my friends will stop liking me and that I’ll get fired from my job. I worry that I’ll lose my voice and not be able to sing. Et cetera.
So it’s really quite bizarre that I have the following behavior response: when I suspect there’s a problem between someone else and myself, I try to talk to them directly. Why, if I’m afraid of everyone and everything, do I do this? It makes no sense at all when many people, much MUCH braver than I am will do many other things besides directly address someone who seems to have a bone to pick with them. I watch my friends and co-workers with awe and bafflement as they step lightly through life not taking things personally, expecting things to work out for the best, not getting all worked up over little stuff, letting things go, knowing it’s all going to be okay. But I also look at them with surprise when I watch them avoid conflict, deny that they’re upset, talk to other people besides the person they have a problem with, or hold their tongue while facing the person and then letting loose when the person isn’t around.
Why is this the one type of situation in my life in which I seem to have guts? I tend to be a nervous, pessimistic person who believes we’re all doomed, but maybe my conflict non-avoidance comes from watching my parents function as community activists when I was growing up. In the early 1970’s they joined the Mexican American Political Association, which advocates for Mexican Americans and fights racism in various arenas such as the schools, housing, political races, etc. Throughout my lifetime there have been countless instances of this organization taking on school boards, housing authorities, police chiefs and politicians. Since my father was the president of MAPA for many years, I particularly saw him face situations that few would choose. I have watched my mother demand her rights whenever she has suspected she or others aren’t being treated fairly. She has gotten kids back in school who had been sent home because their parents were undocumented workers. MAPA has been instrumental in electing politicians, supporting eduational reform and building alliances between organizations. Probably my bravery when it comes to dealing with conflict is a learned behavior from my parents. It’s still weird though, considering that when it comes to everything else I consider myself to be like Piglet: a very small animal.
I believe in clear lines of communication. If you have a problem with someone, talk to her or him about it. Nothing could be more appropriate. I feel particularly frustrated with people who will do things like sit through a meeting, saying nothing when the faciliatator asks people to share their questions or problems, and then stand in the parking lot afterwards, complaining and complaining. What’s that? It’s just cowardice. I hate cowardice.
I hate cowardice! That statement also shows more of my self-hatred: I’m a coward every single day that I’m certain that I’m not worth anything. I’m convinced that Mr. Possible is wasting his time, money and effort on me, I’m a bad horse to bet on, it’ll never work, I’m incapable of relationships, he’ll have a successful relationship only if he dates someone else. That’s cowardice.
But since we respond to the things in others that we also see in ourselves, I can get pull-my-hair-out crazy over people that I identify as cowards, especially the cowardice that involves avoiding conflict: having a problem or issue with one person, but talking to someone else about it. If you have a question about my behavior and life, please talk to me. Unless I’ve proven myself to be completely unapproachable and unavailable (or in a coma) (or just an asshole), talking to someone else about me is just inappropriate.