On Being Let Down

I’ve been cranky lately. Grumpy. Impatient. Out of sorts.

It all started when it finally dawned on me, at the age of 51, that my sexually abusive stepfather had started grooming me for his pedophilia at the age of 7. The hard core abuse didn’t start until I was 11. Not that that’s an excuse. And I had been dealing with that for most of my life. But I had been operating under the illusion that I had had a few years there before the dark shadow truly descended.

On the contrary. Looking back on certain incidents from an adult perspective, there was a whole host of inappropriate behaviors from almost the day he married my mother.

As a child, I didn’t know any better. I just knew that the man made me uncomfortable, and I tried to avoid him. But looking back now, I can see that several things would have been nearly impossible for an adult to miss. And yet my mother chose to look the other way.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my mother very much. But I know that if I had been in her shoes, I would have made different choices. For starters, I’d have never married the pig in the first place. I’d have put my child’s safety ahead of my desire to get out of the projects and be supported by the first available scumbag that happened to come my way. And the first hinky thing that happened would have been the last thing he ever did. I know this as sure as I know the earth revolves around the sun. But that’s just me, I guess.

Over the years, a lot of people have let me down. Teachers. Counselors. Adult relatives. No one heard me. No one wanted to see. I was 21 before I independently arrived at the concept that none of this had been my fault. I should have been told that by every person who crossed my path.

From that, I suppose I could have learned to distrust the world and lash out like a wounded animal at anyone who came close. But I have always been someone who zigged when the rest of the world was zagging, so instead, I put a lot of pressure on myself to not be like those people.

As a result, I am probably the most dependable person on the face of the earth. I listen. I act. I speak out, even when it might be uncomfortable. If I say I am going to do something for you or with you, only hospitalization or death will keep me from doing so. I can be counted on. I keep my promises. I don’t look the other way. I stick my neck out, even though I often risk getting it chopped.

You’d think I’d have acquired a healthy dose of cynicism after a lifetime of being let down by people. But because I’m capable of doing all of the above, I expect it from others, and I’m always rather stunned when they fall short. And good God, do they ever fall short.

The fact is, people are going to disappoint you. It’s part of life. Perhaps part of my anger should be directed at myself, for having set such high expectations for the people I care about. They aren’t me.

Maybe when people don’t return phone calls, ignore messages, don’t follow through, or stand me up, I shouldn’t take it as the abuse that it feels like. Maybe I need to develop a thicker skin. Because the fact of the matter is, I can’t control when other people screw me over.

There’s really no point in wasting energy on an existential tantrum because I can’t force everyone to live up to my standards. I can only learn to set up healthier boundaries and try to make better choices moving forward. Emotional distance. That’s what’s called for here.

disappointment

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4 thoughts on “On Being Let Down

  1. Brian

    Actually, you know that MORE than you know the earth revolves around the sun 🙂 Also, I’m sorry that happened to you. Throughout my life I’ve never been able to understand why we (as in people) blame ourselves when something bad happens to us. If you could help me understand this I would love to know the answer. Also, what you’re saying about people letting you down… If you truly understand the significance of what you’re saying here, your comprehension level is honourable and it will protect you from a lot of unnecessary pain. So be proud. The reason I’m not totally sure though is because my personal understanding of it is slightly different. Namely, that life is just a bit selfish. Life is just a bit selfish. Without humble acceptance of this idea two things will happen. 1. You’ll expect the wrong outcome and create diappointment for yourself and 2. The joy of the appreciation for the things you DO have will be riddled with dark emotions because nothing will ever be enough or good enough. I was wondering, do you have children? If so, I think they are very lucky to have a parent with such wonderful insight and appreciative awareness. If not, atleast your inner-parent nourishes us damaged ones ❤

    1. Thanks Brian! Nope. No kids. But I do often feel as though I’m providing a service through my writing– expressing the things that others can’t or won’t express. I hope it does help.
      Blaming ourselves, especially as a child, kind of makes sense if you think about it. We are taught that adults are authority figures. By extension we learn that they’re always right. So when they do things that do not feel right to us, the only thing many of us conclude is that *we* must be the wrong ones. It takes a long time for us to finally figure out that no, they are the screwed up individuals in these scenarios. And often by then the damage is done.
      Try not to think of yourself as damaged, Brian. Instead, look at it as an interesting, albeit painful, patina that adds character. Otherwise you’ll go nuts. Speaking from experience.

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