Unfriending

We finally caught this raccoon who has been raiding the dog food – another unwelcome guest!

I just had to unfriend someone after a decade-long friendship.  It was hard.  Our children liked to play together.  She is going through a really hard time in her life, and I felt sorry for her.  We have things in common.  We have both lived here a long time and know a lot of the same people.

All these things made it really, really hard.  And that was the worst part, because she was really, really mean to me.  When I thought about it, I realized she has always been really, really mean to me from the very beginning.  And rude.  And tries to shame me in front of other people.  And she criticizes me constantly, while in the same breath praises herself.  She isn’t always like that, which makes it very confusing.  I’ve had visits with her that were wonderful visits, and I’ve had other visits that make me swear never to speak to her again, ever.  But then months would go by, and I would run into her again, and she would be nice and flatter me, and I would doubt my previous experience.

That’s what made it so hard.  Because she always starts by being nice, and then she would impose on me, start bossing me around and insulting me.  Every little thing was a target for criticism.  And it’s never rational or expected: 

I had made fresh tortillas to share out of store-bought Bob’s Red Mill masa – not good enough.  She refused to eat it, and explained to her daughter in front of me that she only ate corn that was organic (I even explained that on their website they say their masa is from non-gmo corn.  This is the kind Sally Fallon recommends!). I was totally shocked when, a few months later, we saw them at the springs where she was letting her kids eat concession-stand corndogs!  (I think she was slightly ashamed we caught her at this).  But my tortillas weren’t “good” enough for her.

Clothilde got out her BPA-free plastic tea set – PLASTIC!!!  (I actually had the same metal set that she has for her girls, but because my children like to make salt-dough “cookies” to play tea with, they all corroded and rusted away.  I got the plastic because I was worried about their contact with the corroded metal).  I wish I could have gotten a picture of the sneer she made when she saw it.  It was legendary.

I hadn’t seen her in over a year when I visited her again last summer.  She was really nice, and flattered me (What does Chaucer say in Chanticleer?  “Never again shall you with your flattery get me to sing with my eyes closed.  For he who closes his eyes when he should watch, God let him never prosper.”  Or something like that).  She encouraged us to go along with group fiddle lessons at our house every week.  She was so nice then, I thought it would be fine.  But over the past few months she became meaner and meaner.  She was furious we had to cancel the group fiddle lesson at our house when I was in the ICU after surgery.  It “interfered with her daughter’s fiddle education!”

She became more and more demanding, and more and more out-right rude.  I would have a near-panic attack every week on Wednesday morning, trying to get everything clean and neat enough to please her (it never did).  Then I would spend the rest of the week feeling awful about whatever incredibly mean things she had said to me, even if I only spent a few minutes with her before or after the lesson.  I felt locked into this situation – Mirin was happy with the lessons, and was this just my problem?  Maybe I just needed to stick up for myself better.

I found that sticking up for myself resulted in violent consequences – she had a tantrum on my driveway, screamed at me in front of the children, and then sulked.  They still stayed for the lesson, but it made her even more sullen and rude when we saw them.  I started having bad dreams about this.  In my heart, I knew she was being abusive, and that I was inviting her in to abuse me every week, but it seemed impossible to cut off the lessons.

Finally, I realized I HAD to get this person out of my life – for good.  I realized I don’t care how many other people think she’s a wonderful, kind, generous person – she’s abusive to me.  I called Mirin’s fiddle teacher and talked with him, and told him we “needed a break” from fiddle. It’s such an enormous relief.  But I still am struggling with this.  I alternate between feeling incredibly angry at how she treated me, to feeling very low self-esteem.  I hear the nasty thing she said in my head still.  It’s been traumatic.

A friend of mine had a similar (though decidedly worse) incident last year, and I remember thinking that she should just stick up for herself!  Of course she should know that other woman was crazy and not believe in the awful things she did/said!  But now I remember how HARD it can be.  It’s not always so clear.  Abusive people always have a flattering side – and they might charm their way into the community so that who they target finds themselves publicly shamed.  They are careful whom they target for their abuse, and they do it privately, so their target is vulnerable (my friend was never abusive while Ethan was around!).

These kinds of things are always complicated.  I kept suppressing my natural anger, because I wanted to “be nice.”  I didn’t want to be attacked.  I just wanted to get along.  She took advantage of that.  I blamed myself for her behavior.  I thought it must be something I had done or said, and I went way out of my way to try to pacify her.  It finally clicked for me that there was something wrong with HER when I tried to sit down near her one day, and I really felt inside like I wanted to run away screaming.  Something had to be done.  I knew, as soon as I saw them drive away for the last time, my next year is going to be so much better now.

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