Using writing, and meditation, and ice cream, and reading, and dreams,

and a whole lot of other tools to rediscover who I am,

after six years living with a man with OCPD.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Do You Believe in Magic?

I have to admit - I love magic.  I want to believe.

I know, intellectually, that it's all an illusion.  That motorcycles really don't turn into girls, or girls into tigers, whatever.  That David Copperfield, delectable man-muffin in his day, is probably queer as a three-dollar bill.  (Not that I was ever likely to run into the magician at the grocery store, say, or Target, upon which he would fall madly in love with me, and then...)

But this is part of the problem.  Maybe not in the rest of the world, but in America, we've been fed an emotional diet of make-believe and instant gratification.  We want to believe that a kiss can awaken a sleeping Princess, that all we have to do is buy a winning lottery ticket and our troubles are over, that one night of indigestion and bad dreams, and Scrooge (classic OCPD if ever there was a case!) is totally transformed into a happy, relaxed, generous guy without having to put in a single minute with a shrink or do other emotional homework.

Well, it sure would be nice....  but it ain't gonna happen, any more than we're going find some "New whizbang Ab-Ass-Batwings exercise gizmo that'll trim all your problem areas and More!  Only five minutes a day, for just 19 easy payments of $14.95 (plus shipping and handling) and you could look just like Denise here.  Results not typical.  Operators are standing by!"

The only thing true about such promises is that operators are standing by, ready to take our billing information and let us rack up those "easy installments" for what seems like the rest of our natural lives.

If we really want to trim our abs, and our ass, and other parts that are showing the sad effects of time, gravity, and too much eggnog, we gotta put in the work.  If we have OCPD - or if we love somebody with OCPD, and we want a better life, we gotta put in the work.  The Ghost of Work-Outs Past is not going to be doing a butt-lift on us while we sleep, nor will the Ghost of Future Therapists hypnotize us in our dreams to be magically cured.

Setting good boundaries, and being honest, with ourselves, with our loved ones, is key to everything.  Think about how we feel, right this minute.  (Right this minute, I feel like it's the holidays and I want one more glass of eggnog.  F#%k my abs!)  We need to recognize and acknowledge what our fears are.  Our fears don't go away if we put up a big, scary front; we're just "relating" to people on a level that isn't real.  Remember this guy?

Being phony only got the Wizard so far.  The Great and Powerful Oz had no friends, no confidants.  People afraid of him, yes.  People who liked him, no.  Oz must have been terribly lonely.  And all the while, keeping up his false image was growing harder and harder.

Yet once he was forced to stop being a poseur, and rely on his actual knowledge and experience,  he was actually able to help Dorothy and crew.  I think there grew a genuine sympathy and liking there that was not present between the questers and the Great and Powerful Wizard of Oz.  (Btw, is there any life lesson that is not covered, somewhere, somehow, by The Wizard of Oz?  I know, I know, WOO too is make-believe - but sometimes fiction tells a truer story than than real life.)

If we want people to love us for who we are, we have to be who we are.  (This doesn't mean belching loudly and picking our noses at the dinner table.)  It does mean, if we are feeling nervous about having Aunt Sally and Uncle Joe over for a holiday dinner, because Uncle Joe always asks nosy questions about our finances and tries to borrow money, and Aunt Sally snoops in our medicine cabinet, we recognize and acknowledge that, and not pick a ridiculous fight with our partner because he laid out the green tablecloth and anyone with a grain of sense should have known the the right color was the red tablecloth.  We can work together to host Aunt Sally and Uncle Joe, and together, we can make sure the occasion is not a disaster. 

Guaranteed, if we pick a fight with our partners right before we go out, or our company arrives, we may feel better.  Temporarily.  But because they're feeling trashed and upset, the event is pretty much guaranteed to start badly and end worse, and by the end of it, whatever anger buzz we've gotten will have long since worn off.

Especially if we catch Aunt Sally snooping in our bathroom again.

ImageIf it's the other way around, if it's our partners who tend to pick a fight to relieve tension and anxiety, we can become aware of the pattern, and stop feeding into it.  Think of them as a squid, or cuttlefish - when feeling scared or startled, they put up a big cloud of ink to distract potential predators and make their escape.  We need to be mindful and not chase the cloud of ink, but firmly, kindly, try to get them to talk to us about what the real fear is.

Because we know that the green tablecloth, or a sudden desire to sell everything and join the Peace Corps, or whatever the "ink" is, is not the problem  - it's the ink.  We need to recognize that the ink, that the Great and Powerful Oz, all smoke and fire and thunderous voice, is a front being put up by somebody who behind it all is terrified that we will find out who they really are.

Maybe, if we set the example of being kind, honest, and aware of our own feelings and fears, those we love with OCPD will be able to face their feelings and fears too.  Now that would be real magic.

Have you had a "cuttlefish" moment - where you either squirted a cloud of ink to distract someone, or got distracted by an someone else's ink cloud?  Tell me about it in the Comments.