Saturday, December 08, 2012

Anger unleashed, again

I hate and fear my anger. It causes me to overreact and do very stupid things, sometimes in public. Last night was such an occasion.

My British friend Harriet and her husband invited me to a dinner being sponsored by their synagogue. Harriet loves this synagogue so much that every weekend they commute into the city from their home in New Jersey  to a small apartment on the West Side, just so they can attend it. And it was incredibly generous of them a) to pay for my dinner and b) to want to introduce me to the other friendly and cosmopolitan members.

I knew I needed to go. Even though I was in a lot of pain from knee injections earlier in the week, and work has been enervating because I just don't like playing power politics with my co-workers. Most of them don't impose that dynamic, but this week a lot of gambits were thrown at me and I had to cope. This drains me.

So I was tempted not to show, but I knew I couldn't. She's done so much for me, including taking me to a very inconveniently located museum in New Jersey (inconvenient even for New Jersey, several hours away from anywhere else you might want to be) so that I could see a particular exhibit I'd read about in the paper. She went the extra 178-ish miles for me. Moreover, I forgot to go to Harriet's for lunch the Shabbat after Thanksgiving, and I didn't want to set up a pattern of inconsiderate behavior that disappoints her. Because she is one of my most ardent and loyal friends.

This is apparent when she introduces me to people and trumpets my accomplishments, including my appearance on a national game show. People widen their eyes and ask me about the host, and I blush modestly, admit I didn't win big, and say the host is very affable. I can't do this myself, and I am rather proud of it. It's a good thing for people to know about me right away -- unlike, say, type 2 bipolar disorder or a history of losing almost every job I was hired to do since college. Which is, in the case of almost every job loss, directly related.

The first few people we met were great to talk to. Then, during dessert, a tall slender woman and her tall slender daughter walked up to us, where I was getting dessert for Harriet's kids from platters on the table. I'll call her Artiste. Harriet introduced me.

"It's so nice to meet you!" cried Artiste. "You know, my daughter loves to babysit."

"That's nice," I temporized, putting watermelon and grapes on a small plate and handing it to Harriet's daughter, who said, "I just want grapes."

"She even got her babysitting certificate from the Red Cross, so she's certified," emphasized Artiste.

Why is she telling me this? "You should let Harriet know," I said, removing the watermelon from the small plate and reaching for the candy platter. "She always could use some help with the kids." Actually, Harriet usually has childcare under control -- she's amazingly organized

"Oh -- these aren't your kids?" Artiste asked.

"No, I can't claim that honor," I said, as Harriet's son Milton grabbed a handful of candy from the platter and projected a few more pieces onto the floor. "I don't have kids," I added, picking up the spilled candy and wrapping it in a damp napkin so Milton wouldn't try to acquire it.

The three of us started talking. Artiste is -- what else? -- an artist who works in every visual medium, from oil and canvas to video. "If you Google my name, you'll find my videos of all my outdoor installations. I bring the indoors outdoor and the outdoors indoor."

As the granddaughter of a very accomplished artist, I should have been more interested. I tried to fix my face in an expression somewhere between merely attentive and heartily enthusiastic.

"Does that pay the bills?" asked Harriet. Artist provided a rambling, wonderfully distracting response. The gist I gathered was that people will sometimes pay her to make bar and bat mitzvah video collages, but that didn't seem account for her elaborately tooled leather boots or deceptively simple clothing and jewelry.

Harriet made a glancing reference to all the single men who were in the room that night. That piqued my interest. "Which ones?" I asked.

Artiste named several whom I'd already met and either rejected or been rejected by. "Yes, I've seen that guy a million times," I said. "Never learned his name. I don't think he's interested in meeting me. Oh yeah -- those brothers. They're nice, but we've known each other for years, there's no chemistry."

She pointed out an arrogantly handsome man, with chiseled features and dark hair going silver at the temples. Sometimes you can look at a man and just know he thinks he's too good for you. However, to be honest I had never met him.

"So how would I go about meeting him?" I asked.

"Come back to shul for a dinner or a kiddush," said Artiste. "He's always here when there's food."

Easy enough. But then Harriet said something that infuriated me:

"I get so jealous when I read on Facebook about all the fun things you single people do."

Breathing evenly and deliberately, I said, "What?"

"Well, your friends are always organizing these events, and they sound like so much fun to someone who's stuck at home all the time with little kids!" she said.

The anger started building. I could feel it tightening my shoulders and my chest. My hands clenched into fists.

"Those events account for less than 99% of a person's time," I said, probably a little too loudly. "The rest of the time is loneliness."

"I just wanted to talk about this with someone who understands the real work of taking care of a family 24 hours a day," said Harriet.

That hurt. I was already hurting, from my knees and my exhausting week. Still, she's a good friend. I didn't want to bite her head off, so I said nothing. After all, she's right: I don't know what it's like to be responsible for a child's well being. At this point, it looks like I never will. I would love to have that problem.

"You have to do fun things for yourself," said Artiste. "I go out dancing, without my husband. You single girls don't realize that a husband isn't the answer to everything."

That shattered my last ounce of control. If she has teenaged children, that condescending trophy wife was never single for 20 years, and she has no idea what my life is like.

"I'm sorry, you don't know what you're talking about," I said, got up and walked out, mortified and shaking with rage. I wanted to punch Artiste in her Botoxed face. I knew I couldn't speak calmly to either of them, and I did not want to make a scene. So I went to the bathroom, breathed for a while, and got my coat to say goodbye to Harriet, who said she'd walk me out.

'Ayelet, I didn't mean to upset you," she said. "We love you!"

I don't want my friends to feel burdened by my emotional weaknesses and needs. And I know Harriet's life hasn't been 100% peaches and cream either. She has dealt with difficult pregnancies and challenging children, interfering schools and Neanderthal neighbors. I'm sure she longs for time for herself. I know that's part of the reason she likes me so much -- I provide intellectual stimulation that neither her children nor her New Jersey weekday neighbors can offer.

But what she said hurt me badly that night, and I was ashamed of my reaction. How am I going to back to that shul and face Artiste and her other upscale, stylish, married friends? I am mortified. I don't care if there are single guys there -- they probably saw me stalk out in a fury. No man sees that and thinks he wants to hit that.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

1 comment:

  1. I am troubled by this post the same way I was troubled by your blog a couple of years ago. I am dismayed that you view yourself as the poster child for bipolar 2 and mostly dismayed that even though you are 42 years old and supposedly work in mental health care, you take little to no responsibility for your actions, blaming most of the things you say and do on your disorder. You are an alarming example of bipolar 2 and a clear example of why bipolar 2 and borderline personality disorder are often misdiagnosed. Your rage, judgmentalism and refusal to accept either reality or your own limitations demonstrate a depressing immaturity and poor coping skills, not an axis I disorder.

    When people call you on your behavior, you get upset with those people and blame it on bipolar disorder. I have seen no evidence in all these years of you putting forth any effort whatsoever other then constant complaining and blaming of everyone else. In case you haven't figured it out, this makes people less then sympathetic towards you. I am surprised more people in your real life have not walked away yet as I see this over and over again in your blog.

    If there was a way to prevent family and friends from ever seeing this and assuming this was a legitimate portrayal of bipolar 2, I would take it.

    You have a ton of work to do. Stop blaming everyone else and then complaining that it's actually because of your disorder. It's insulting to those of us with real mental disorders who do work our butts off to make our lives healthy and functional, who stick with our jobs without angering everyone around us, and who put up with being older single observant Jewish women without blaming everyone and their mother for our own imperfections. You need to take a close look at yourself and figure out why people do not want to be/stay with you. It's clear to so many readers of your blog. Time to start listening.