Darlene (my mother-in-law) finally left. I can’t help but feel that ‘leave’ must be sticking out of me. After a certain amount of time, always long before she’s ready to go, I’m ready for her to leave.
She invited me to go to two things with her. One a tour of the construction site of the new headquarters for a charity she supports with a reception afterwards at Kell’s; April 30, and then something in May, some sort of “Hunger Hero” dinner or awards or some such. Perhaps I should have just said no and gotten it over with. But I opted for the coward’s way out which is to call tomorrow when I know she’s in church and say no then.
The bottom line is I don’t want to do it with her.
It was nice of her to invite me. It was nice of her to offer these gifts. I don’t feel ‘yes’ though in accepting them. I feel no. It would make me sick to think of the prospect of attending that tour/reception with her. I would dread it for weeks
Anyway, I did call, taking the coward’s way out, and left the message with Darlene telling her thanks but no thanks to her invitations. And I was honest about the causes not being something that reflects my own investment or interest, and so I don’t want to go.
I’m glad to have it over with, politely refusing Darlene. When I was thinking about it last night, I realized that should any of my friends asked me to go to those events I probably would have said no to them too because they’re not things I have an emotional stake in right now. As far as I know, invitations are not mandatory, otherwise they’re not really invitations. They’re meant to be voluntary, and refusal is an ok option.
Which is the other thing I wanted to write about: the feeling in my body which is a response to having refused her invitation.
I feel lighter, and maybe elated. The feeling of elation I’m aware of as a bit problematic for the ‘older’ me. The ‘old-pattern’ me, I guess is a more accurate description.
First, I do feel some compassion and responsibility for the person that she is who possibly is feeling hurt. Who made herself vulnerable in extending the good will to invite me, and who has made other overtures. Accompanying this the sense of responsibility toward her: shouldn’t I just go ahead and see her every so often in order to preserve her feelings? Just to be nice, kind? Do I owe that to her?
Gary conflated my refusal of this invitation with the (probably correct) notion that I will not do anything with her one-on-one, ever. “Never??” he said.
Because technically, saying no to an invitation to an event I’m not really invested in does not mean ‘no forever’. In a sense though I kind of feel that that’s the context that is coloring this. I suspect she sees it that way too. There is cover for her, in that she can tell herself that it’s as I said: I’m not really interested in this event and so choose to not go. Then just not make any more invitations. Prior to this it had been a long time since she’d made one; invited me out to lunch—a year and a half ago or so, to celebrate one of my birthdays. It was before Christmas and I think I said perhaps after the start of the new year and then we just never broached it again. So we can treat this the same way, and she won’t have to confront the truth explicitly: that I really don’t want to engage with her any more than we are now.
So, the feeling inside as I wrote that is part of what I thought bears looking at. I suppose there is a certain schadenfreude element (I just looked it up: “malicious joy at the misfortune of others”). That definition sounds pretty ick. Not to be proud of, and a pretty mean way to feel.
I didn’t say no to be mean, although I guess the fact that I feel a kind of liberation, an undeniably pleasurable feeling, and it’s in context of a person I don’t particularly like—I could label that feeling meanness. I would have been consumed with tail-chasing self-doubt before. It’s legitimate to feel liberated whereas before I felt chained. Chained to some notion of politeness that demands the necessary hypocrisies of periodically swallowing my ‘no’ feelings and doing something I really don’t want to do. Pretend to like her and go to lunch, or any other event she wants to go to. Doubt myself and my mean spirit, wondering if I’m ‘clinging to things past’, and if the ‘things past’ are ‘just’ misinterpretations I have and have magnified in my mind (because I’m just the kind of person who’d do that), accuse myself of being childish; try to overrule the negative feelings and ‘focus on the positive’. Yeah, that all feels familiar. As does the insistence of the magnetic pull toward the feeling of no. Trying to banish it.
There is often the feeling with her that refusing something she offers is not acceptable and it will hurt her feelings if you don’t ‘accept’. That gives me the inkling that when she got my message she took it as ‘no forever’ and is hurt/angry.
It feels explosive to consider that I might feel pleasure in association with that. It feels charged, and like I want to step away and deny it. Because I don’t want to be a person who feels pleasure at the pain I’ve inflicted on someone else.
I think where the pleasure comes from is that I no longer feel sentenced. Under the social convention of politeness I’m required to go through the motions with her. I’m required to see her an acceptable number of times socially. I’m required to at least act like I want to. Under those ‘rules’ I’m always vulnerable to her whims, ‘required’ to accept her ‘generosity’. And feeling free to tell the truth now—and indeed if she presses this with me I will tell her the truth: I feel no inclination to engage with her any more than I already do.
I think she may know this.
And I’m more aware of the process by which pure feeling becomes contaminated by thought, and all that it sets off. And again, the accusation model fits. That I would feel a sense inside that’s positive when I consider having refused an overture—and having told the truth in doing it, not leading her on—it’s often followed so quickly by a thought that the feeling and thought get fused. The thought is that I am taking pleasure in her pain, that I’m being mean to “someone who only wants to reach out to me”, that I’m taking malicious joy, and that I’m trying to deny it or call it something else in an effort to rationalize it. Well, I’m going to settle the matter out of court. It is legitimate to feel a sense of liberation, as well as a sense of having been True to mySelf, and refusing to be apologetic. And, having felt under her thumb for some time, as indeed I have been when playing by the rules of her perspective, there is some glee in being out from under. I suppose a childish part of me wants to stand outside the boundary of the fence and ‘nyah nyah’ the junkyard dog, and perhaps there’s an element of that in me too. But even thinking it, I act as if she’s present and I’m doing it. And I censor myself. So fearful about pride coming before a fall. That if I allow a little triumphalism inside of me at this that on some energetic level it’s the same as doing it to her face. I feel the impulse and I reign it in, even in the privacy of my own thoughts.
I’m reminded of the concept of ‘winning’, which I guess is what triumphalism suggests to me. And that scares me a little, because in the past when I’ve allowed myself to have such a feeling somehow she’s pulled a feint at the end and I’ve felt like I lost. That’s why I shy away from the feelings that resemble triumphalism. It’s easy to conflate liberation with triumphalism, I guess. Yet, it’s the Truth that I feel that very force inside of me…that is aware that in refusing to play anymore there is a kind of victory. So my next step in the thought is that true triumphalism is rubbing someone’s nose in it, and forcing them to admit they’re beaten. I see that this is possible inside me; and I feel a sort of accusation forming about it. It comes in the form of a prohibition: I cannot even let myself picture in my brain the satisfaction of ‘winning’, knowing I’ve ‘won’, and knowing SHE knows I’ve ‘won’.
Those have always seemed like such dangerous thoughts, forbidden thoughts. The fear is that if I think them they’re true. And confirm a Really Bad Place inside me.
I've called and set up a consultation appointment with an attorney who specializes in collaborative divorce. I told Gary that he is free to come with me, or not.