16
Sep
13

Eschewing Drama

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Editor’s note: drama is something that I have been trying to weed out of my life but is a rather powerful force that is difficult to avoid. I started writing this particular blog entry in early August 2013, updated it in mid-November and mostly finished it in January, 2014. However, while loading a photo before posting, my computer crashed and all updates to my draft were lost. I got pissed & put it away again.  Now I’ve pulled it out because I feel the topic deserves attention, and because it feels weird to have written so much without actually finishing something. 

The fact is, drama can be exciting and engaging and blind us to the fact that what we’re really dealing with are toxic relationships. It’s often tremendously difficult to leave those and I could write an entire book about that!  I initially had planned to write three “chapters” that covered episodes of drama in my life that were currently troubling at the time that I started this draft. Particularly, I meant to address the “drama queens” that were actively seeking attention at the time – The Ex, The High-maintenance Friend & The Other Woman. I finally decided that I should make it three separate entries because the first “chapter” became quite long. But then something interesting happened. As I was finishing the first section today, I realized that the other two sections no longer hold much weight. In fact, they are barely worth writing about, let alone having their own entry. The ex hubby & I are getting along pretty well and I haven’t had a nasty-gram from him in months. The other woman barely exists in my guy’s life now  – largely because he has also been working on getting rid of drama and limiting unhealthy relationships. Perhaps setting boundaries gave me more strength than I realized. Maybe getting rid of one drama queen made the others fall away as well. –RD

It’s true. I’ve been accused if being a drama queen. I fully accept the fact that I’m loud, direct & I like to spin a good yarn. I wouldn’t have this blog if I didn’t enjoy sharing humorous & dramatic tales. But lately I’ve coined the term “save the drama for the opera & the end-zone.” It’s just not always a good thing.

Sometimes drama is engaging, fun, exciting and riveting. Sometimes it’s energy-draining, hurtful, negative, time-consuming, nasty bullshit. Too often we get stuck in a cycle of drama with friends and in romantic relationships and it can be really difficult to get out. I have a long history of taking on other people’s pain, tragedy, angst and worry. It’s great to have empathy and compassion, but the past few years have found me learning the boundary between being a supportive friend and being used as fuel in someone’s drama-fest. I’m also trying to learn to not escalate my personal conflicts into big, dramatic episodes. I try to avoid or at least not ramp up these moments of strife while at the same time, not allowing myself to be a doormat. I guess I’m learning to pick my battles. I’ve always been direct but I’m trying not to be aggressive. As for being passive-aggressive? I’m trying to do away with that altogether. Ain’t nobody got time for that!

THE FRIEND  Speaking of crap I don’t have time for, I recently cut a friend out of my life after what was simply the last straw for me in her constant flow of high-drama, self-absorbed, narcissistic incidents. Seriously. I used to refer to her as “my high-maintenance friend” and many of our mutual friends had already grown tired of her conduct and cut her off. When I first got to know her a bit I used to downplay her behavior by saying “she’s just young and has some maturing to do.” I cut her tons of slack. I felt like I took on a sort of nurturing role of confidant who was helping to thicken her thin skin. I reasoned that her hypersensitivity might actually help me learn to be more thoughtful and sensitive in my communication too. How often was my “directness” considered abrupt and insensitive? I was absolutely willing to examine my own behavior.

We often had fun together – she is very smart, lively and witty. But her go-to emotion seems to be butthurt, in conflict or going through some sort of drama with a client, employer, landlord, neighbor, lover, friend, parent, sibling, cashier, server, ex, other drivers on the road, etc. It was ongoing and exhausting. Her Facebook posts were full of angst and conflict disguised as intellectual conversation. Soon I realized that she tends to bully people with her feelings – requiring that hers be validated in a very specific fashion, while downplaying or dismissing those of others.

My justification that “she’s just young” doesn’t really play either. My last straw happened on her 27th birthday. She had specifically requested a karaoke outing and I had enthusiastically accepted.  I asked if it was okay to include my niece who was visiting from college. She agreed but asked that it be “just girls” and no dates. It took a coveted Friday away from my fella, but I agreed. I shopped for a couple of small, personal, thoughtful gifts and a nice card. I also spent more than an hour on the phone with her that afternoon talking about her sister and her feelings having been invalidated because her sister cares more about her new baby than her (my ex-friend’s) feelings. Seriously, it was painful. An hour and a half of her saying how her sister having a baby was just one more thing for her to hold over her head. One more way that the sister is more successful. The entire conversation I never knew if the child was male or female or had a name. It was always “it” or “the baby” and occasionally “the damn baby” – gross.

Again, I give someone slack on their birthday in particular. I was kind and patient and I showed up that evening dressed nicely and with gifts in hand. She thanked me saying that I was the one person who always got her something for her birthday. They weren’t big or expensive, but they were thoughtfully selected for her. One was a nice, carved wood bookmark that she immediately put inside the book that she had brought with her. The other was a small, decorative pill box that you might keep safety pins (or perhaps Prozac) in. It was painted with a miniature of the Seattle skyline and she seemed very pleased to have received them. Ironically, the card read “Don’t be a Drama Queen – it’s just a birthday!” It proved to be quite prophetic.

We ordered drinks and food – I opened a tab with the intention of covering the bill for the three of us plus the two other friends that she was expecting. Meanwhile, I asked if she wanted to sing a duet, she said yes and I went over to chat with the karaoke host (a close friend of mine) and put in our song. I came back a few minutes later and told her we were all set and she said “No, no, no! I don’t want to sing that YET! I mean, I want to sing it, but I don’t want it to be the first thing I do.” Okay, I guess that’s why I asked you in the first place, but away I went to change the song (which the KJ had kindly put at the top of the rotation because of it being this gal’s birthday.) I chatted with him for a few more minutes about what to sing, what songs he’s been working on and general friendly chit-chat. Apparently when I was away the birthday girl lit into my niece saying asking what was wrong with me and saying she could tell that we were over there talking about her. My niece thought this was really crazy and it made her uncomfortable, but I didn’t know about it until later.

Food arrived and was virtually ignored by the guest of honor who was starting to get really spun up about the fact that her other two friends hadn’t yet arrived. She began texting to see where they were and encourage them to hurry up. When one of the friends messaged back that she wasn’t feeling well and apologized, saying she would take her out for lunch in a few days, but couldn’t make it out, the tantrums started. This 27-year-old adult human began whining “but it’s my birrrrrthdaaay! It’s only one day! She should have known better than to go to yoga and overdo it!” A text exchange then ensued wherein she blatantly guilt-tripped her apologetic (and apparently ill) friend. The friend, having said that her head was throbbing and she felt nauseous, apologized again and the birthday brat tapped in a response that said “you say that so frequently it no longer has any meaning to me.” She then turned her phone to me and said “what do you think? Should I send that? Is it too harsh?”

I responded very directly by saying “well, if you really want to escalate things, okay, but she’s not feeling well, offered to take you out another day and has apologized multiple times…”

Clearly, I had not given the response that she had wanted to hear, because she immediately started defending her aggressive retort. She got really shrill and said “but it’s true! You have no idea how frequently she apologizes – it’s just meaningless anymore!” Rather than engage further in what had become an absurd discussion, I simply said “well, you’re a grown-ass adult, do whatever you want.”

(Now, I feel as though I need to interject here – I use this phrase all the time to my friends. I feel like it’s a way to validate their decision to do what they want to do without asking me or anyone else for permission to do so. My niece, who was witness to this exchange, hears this from me often!)

Well, instead of laughing it off, considering my response or taking it as validation & moving on, she changed the focus of her attack to me. She sneered then looked stricken, asking me what was wrong with me and asserting that I had been in a bad mood all evening. Well, I kind of lost it. Years of her neediness, absurd demands and constant dissatisfaction and dissection of even the kindest comment had piled up to break this camel’s back. I finally said something. It’s been months and I would be hard-pressed to accurately quote exactly what I said, but it was something like “hey, you asked for my opinion. Just because you didn’t like my answer doesn’t mean that I am having my period.” I said that she was so busy bitching about her friends that hadn’t shown up that she was ignoring those of us who had actually bothered to come. What happened next what the straw that broke our friendship for good. Frowning, she silently stood up. Slowly, she took the bookmark out of her book, the birthday card & pill box out of her purse and laid them down on the table. She then turned to my niece and said “Olivia, it was nice to see you again,” before standing up and shuffling to the bar at a glacially slow pace while occasionally glancing back to see if anyone was going to chase after her and beg her not to go. Nobody was. She paid her portion of the tab and walked out.

I had given this person multiple chances – far beyond what others in our mutual social scene were willing to do. I was patient, calm, honest, kind and willing to listen and examine myself. I was the only one of her friends who actually managed to show up to her birthday celebration where she chose to complain, demand, tantrum and whine instead of having fun and enjoying the people and the present moment. It was the straw that broke this camel’s back for good. I literally got up and took a picture of the abandoned card and gifts on the table. I save it as a reminder NOT to get drawn back in. NOT to forgive and cycle through the same toxic crap.  Somewhere in my “nice” Judeo-Christian upbringing, I was taught to “forgive & forget” and to “be the better man” and resolve conflict (or at least ignore that it happened and never speak of it again!) I was taught to be loyal. That marriages, friendships, relationships last forever. I was never taught how to walk away. How to disengage. How to not care. How to essentially “give up” on something that wasn’t worth doing anymore. My “play through the pain” parents never gave me an example of how to say “no” or how to say “no more.” I’m teaching myself how to set boundaries that make me feel empowered and sane instead of guilty and bad.

With “the high-maintenance friend” I feel that I wasn’t really her friend. At best, I was a bit player in her ongoing drama but usually I was just set dressing or audience for her little show. The night that she walked out of her birthday party I unfriended her on Facebook. Not as a dramatic gesture and not even as a punitive gesture. As a finality. As a very real means of cutting off the feed of something unhealthy that was draining me with its demands and not really feeding me in any way. Funny thing is? For as much as I am sarcastic and snarky? I’m a good and loyal friend who is willing to forgive a lot if the other person is willing to consider their behavior and their treatment of me. Had my former friend sent me a message saying “hey, I’m really sorry how things went down on my birthday. Can we talk?” I may have responded positively. Instead, I got this message:

Wow. Seriously? Not even a message or a text?

It was my BIRTHDAY and you were giving me a hard time. Wtf.

I didn’t feel comfortable taking your gifts. It didn’t feel right.

Your complete lack of interest in conflict resolution is so opposite from my experience of you, thus far.

 

Yeah, screw you and get used to it. No more blaming me. I’m no longer willing to be anyone’s whipping boy. I ended a marriage that was nearly as old as you are and with far less drama. I’m done.

It doesn’t hurt. I don’t miss her. Why? Because even though I was a friend to her, she wasn’t a friend to me. It’s not like giving up salt or chocolate or wine – those things feed you and make you feel good. I gave up the equivalent of emotional rice cakes. Something I felt like I ought to like but I really didn’t.

 

 

 

 

 

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1 Response to “Eschewing Drama”


  1. May 29, 2014 at 1:41 pm

    Reblogged this on risquédivorcée and commented:

    This post was generated from an old draft and isn’t showing up in my “recent posts” list or in my archives. So how will people read it? I hope this helps! I’d hate to have to overhaul all my widgets!!!


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