Sensitivity and Survival

Every shift in tone, every little strain that builds in vocal cords – the twitch of an eyebrow, or the compression of lips. The aura of a person feeds off their mannerisms; their voice; their contradictions. Not only what they say, but how they say it. My husband carried this presence with him, and offered it in various ways. Sometimes he would be contrary. Often he would pick at how I organized things.

Even asking for a glass of water (while my husband was on his way from the kitchen) would usually result in an eye-roll or moue of frustration – some gibe of how I asked for everything and didn’t do much. Then later, after I got frustrated and said I’d stop asking him for anything, he’d start to backpedal, and say ‘But I like doing things for you.’ Only to prod at me, a little mocking, when I did ask for something minor again, ‘I thought you weren’t going to ask me for anything.’

This round and around and around has skewed my universe. It is just one example of many things, the commentary on the world at large, his conviction that men were oppressed by women. Snide remarks about men who would allow themselves to be put on the couch, and how he’d never tolerate that. There were also snide comments about how a man in a divorce let himself be ‘thrown out’ of the house, and how that would never happen to him.

So many things, subtle, and not-so-subtle, have whittled away at my confidence. My ability to interact fully with others. I struggle to make decisions, because having a strong opinion on something was just not worth it.

I cringe, rereading those words. Growing up I always had slight tendencies to apologize for things that were not mine to apologize for. Things I cannot possibly have had any responsibility for. Yet now, my friends and family are gently reflecting back at me these little idiosyncrasies that have grown into huge, ongoing mannerisms. It’s appalling what coping mechanisms and habits I’ve found and allowed to take root over the years. It’s embarrassing to realize I’ve become such a pushover in so many ways.

It’s true though, sometimes to survive you learn how to bend, just so you don’t get broken.

I just hope I can find the woman I want to be somewhere in me, someone who can be confident and proud; someone who isn’t frightened of making someone irritated. (Someone who stops taking responsibility for the actions of others, that are not theirs to control.) As I realize how far I have shifted from the person I used to be, I wonder if I will ever shed this nervous, scattered, quiet person I have become.

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