Friday, January 3, 2014

On Pushing Back

My 3-year-old niece was given a meyer lemon tree in her first week of life (outside the womb, that is).  The idea was that it would grow and be fruitful as she grew and became fruitful in her endeavors in life.  It only recently started bearing fruit in earnest. I witnessed a very full basket of meyer lemons, usually at least $3 a pop in NYC, when I was most recently home.  So rich!

This is how I feel about my journey with therapy.  It's come a long way from the sobbing, I-have-daddy-issues confessional-type sessions to something fruitful that prompts genuine introspection (rather than merely an introspective face, which was mastered in my days of faking it in college Bible study), the beginnings of capable self-analysis and--most surprisingly--action.

You'd think that this isn't really that remarkable, but I disagree.  It's far easier for me to let an off-handed slight dealt by a family member slide than to stand up for myself.  The path of least resistance is to let an ex act out with some self-pitying outburst--directed at me but fueled by life circumstance--than to call him on it.  I'd be much more comfortable if I just avoided that friend who took her love for the Packers a little too seriously and bruised our friendship. (Over football!  WHY.) People push and don't expect a fight because I've never given them one.  I am much better suited to inaction than action.

For over a year I've been toiling in therapy on this concept of pushing back. A whole life's worth of Chinese-Christian upbringing has taught me that it's NOT okay to push back. Don't argue.  Play nice.  Don't express your real opinions or you'll be rebuked.  Respect your goddamn elders even if they are absolute nut jobs in complete self denial about... themselves.  Get along with everybody, even the borderline personality guy; fake it if you have to. It's hard to fight that.  My desire to avoid conflict is deep-rooted and is directly opposed to the goals of this concept of "pushing back". I don't want to act.

But it's happening.  

It's coming out in bursts, like I don't know yet how to control it or quite how to phrase my words in the moment (versus crafting them in an email--a separate skill set I have yet to master).  I struggle with sifting through my feelings in a matter of minutes rather than days or weeks in order to verbalize adequately enough to get my point across.  But I am addressing that off-handed slight, even if it involves telling my brother to go fuck himself.  I'm making heart-wrenching, deep sobs for months in the middle of the night decisions to FINALLY cut off that ex.  I am firmly but kindly telling that friend that I don't appreciate her love for a football team ruling her decision to deride me as a person (go Niners!).  

And it feels GOOD.  It feels like I am reclaiming myself.  It feels like I'm finally giving all of those hurts and injuries I've accumulated over a lifetime a conduit to voice themselves.  I'm not super great at it.  Sometimes my attempts to protect myself end up hurting other people.  But it's a start.  It's something that needs practice.  Now that I know what it feels like, how self-saving it is, I feel encouraged to keep pushing back.  And the fruit of that labor is tart/sweet, just like a meyer lemon. 

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