I have been dealing with a difficult personality for the past 18 months. It's someone I see on a daily, Monday through Friday basis. When I first encountered this person and their personality, it was with lots of forewarning: "Watch out, you're in for it" and "Good luck with that!" and "Don't let it get to you."
I remember laughing and saying to myself, "How bad can it be? I can get along with anyone."
Oh dear. It was pretty bad. In the interest of being vague, we'll just leave it at that.
However, I am not one to give up without a fight. Some of my favorite students at school are those who present me with the biggest challenges. The tougher the nut is to crack, the more I enjoy what's inside (or something like that...sounds kind of icky, now that I see it all typed out).
So I persevered with this person. Asked a lot of questions, joked around with them. Got to know them. I found bits and pieces that I liked, and ran with it.
"It's not so bad!" I exclaimed to the previous naysayers. "There's good in there!" I crowed. "I WILL LIKE YOU, DAMMIT" I said in my head while spending time with the difficult one.
And for a while, it worked. I think the person in question was surprised by my friendliness, by my willingness to chat and laugh and hang out. For a while, I really did like this person.
I think it started changing when the stress in my life flared up. When I found out that I was losing my job, to be precise. At first the stress was a long ways out, and I could barely hear it. "Yo, Jenny!" it called out. It was faint. As the days flew by on the calendar, it became louder. I heard it when I tried to sleep, it interrupted conversations, it talked over the songs on the radio as I drove hither and yon. About three weeks ago, it became the loudest it had ever been, and I found myself feeling low. The job interviews were not panning out, and the panic over what my next move would be worsened.
That's when the difficult person really began to irk me. Little things, things that had been happening for months prior, suddenly became big things. Control issues that had been quirky were now glaringly bizarre. It was like going from having a roommate who kind of bugged you to living with Julia Robert's husband in "Sleeping With The Enemy" (remember when she opened the cupboards and all of the cans of food were arranged just so? Yeah. Like that.)
And it was more. It was being treated like shit, in a very passive-aggressive, Nellie Oleson, "oh I'm sorry, did that bother you?" kind of way.
Here's the deal with me: I have always been a doormat. A Libra through and through, conflict terrifies me. Take it, suck it up, go with the flow...that's always been my way of living. Even when I was going through my divorce, after proof of my ex-husband's affair had been shoved in my face, I kept up my Doormat facade and tried to not rock the proverbial boat any more than I had to. "No need to be a total bitch," I'd tell myself. And always, always: "Take the high road, Jenny."
I am very familiar with the High Road. If the High Road had a Frequent Flyer program, I'd be flush with points. My kids hear it from me all the time, and it's a virtue I extol ad nauseam here on my blog and when discussing divorce and co-parenting elsewhere.
But does taking the high road sometimes equal allowing yourself to be shat upon? I think so. I think we, as women especially, are taught to turn the other cheek, take the high road, be the better person. And that's GOOD, believe me, in most situations. In some situations, however, I think it allows the Nellie Olesons and the Regina Georges of the world to keep on being mean girls and bullies. And also allows difficult personalities, like the one I've grappled with over the past year and a half, to carry on with their cuckoo behavior without getting called on it.*
Sometimes you need to take a detour. And that's what I did. The difficult personality person did one of the things that has caused me many headaches and stomachaches over the past 18 months. And as I felt that old familiar stress ball start forming in my gut, I decided to fling the doormat from my forehead. I approached the difficult one, and I said exactly what was on my mind. Gesticulating like a mofo, I made my voice heard.
I closed with, "And THIS is exactly why I find it so frustrating to be around you." (cue the applause)
You would not believe how good it felt. The stress ball in my gut was gone, my heart was racing in a good way and I felt like a half ton of bricks had just been lifted off my shoulders.
You know that feeling after you've held your bladder for far too long, and you finally make it to the toilet without having tinkled even just a little in your pants? That release, that relief??
That. It felt that awesome.
Me: Oooh! What's that tingling sensation in my nethers?
Also Me: Oh honey. It's your balls. They're growing. (Also Me sounds just like Karen Walker, btw)
Me: They're so cute! And shiny!
See? I'm crazy, too. Only my crazy is kept inside most of the time. Hopefully, it doesn't cause anyone stress. If it did? I hope they'd stand up for themselves and let me know.
So watch out, world. I have lost my stand-up-for-yourself virginity. And I'm dying to do it again.
* HUGE CAVEAT HERE: I wouldn't be a real Libra if I didn't stress that sometimes people are difficult to be around because of underlying issues: true mental illness, going through a sucky situation, health problems, etc. And if that's the case, the High Road, with lots of compassion and empathy, is your best bet. BUT. To quote Gordon Gano and the rest of the Violent Femmes, "De-derange, we've all been through some shit". A lot of us deal with mental illness, with sucky situations, health problems and other life "stuff" that can make us less-than-pleasant to be around. I've been cut miles of slack by my friends, family and coworkers during low points in my life, and I'm eternally grateful. It doesn't, however, give us an excuse to act like turds.