washing dishes and accepting blame.

I have a history of blaming everybody else. If they hadn’t done that thing, if they had just listened to me, if they hadn’t been such an asshole, then I wouldn’t be so angry. I wouldn’t be so sad. I wouldn’t be so hurt. If only the world would worm its way into my ideals and my plans then everyone would be happy.

If only I had listened when the world kept telling me, “It just doesn’t work that way, honey” I would have saved myself a world of hurt.

Just over a year ago I started to deal with some demons I had been carrying with me for a very long time. We all have them, and we all know they can pile up on each other and become a tangled, muddled mess. Sifting through them all takes time, effort, and a lot of energy. As someone who never lets anything go, who never appreciated a decent wave of introspection, and who never attempted to understand how things affected her, this was really difficult to do.

I was under the impression that every time someone hurt me, every time they broke my trust, every time they had done something abhorrently shitty, I had nothing to do with it. In some cases, this was true. But in others, the phrase, “Fool me twice, shame on me” comes into play in full force. I had a history of not just being hurt but keeping my mouth shut about it. I would let it happen, and let it happen again, and then I would pipe up and say something to defend myself but then turn around and let it happen again. Every single time, I blamed the other person. Eventually, it becomes a joint effort.

If I am going to be completely honest, I think I enjoyed the hurt. Not in the same way you enjoy love, but in a way that made me feel like I at least felt something. For a few years I pushed everything aside and tried to feel as little as possible. I have a lot of emotions, some of them hit me with a force I can’t even describe, and I did my best to suppress them. When someone hurt me, I felt it, and it was a feeling I could justify (unlike a lot of my other ones). A part of me also believed that if they cared enough to hurt me, they cared. And I could carry on blaming them for my pain and the world would make sense.

It goes without saying that this was a really shitty way of living. I didn’t like myself, I didn’t like a lot of the people I knew, and I didn’t enjoy my life. I was unmotivated by life in general, I had a skill that could be easily turned into a career but didn’t want to do anything about it, and I spent more time crying than laughing. This way of dealing (or not dealing) with things carried on even after I fell in love with someone who didn’t treat me like I was nothing to them. And I still didn’t understand why, sometimes, I felt so terrible.

One day I got upset at Sam for not washing the dishes. I like to have all of the dishes cleaned as soon as possible. I clean what I can before we even eat and I want them out of the sink as soon as the meal is finished. Sam is not opposed to dish washing but he doesn’t have the same sense of urgency that I do. That night I was already in a bit of a slump, not feeling one hundred percent, and I got so angry that the dishes hadn’t been washed. Like, how dare he leave that pot in the sink, knowing how anxious it was going to make me feel? Doesn’t he understand at all? Doesn’t he care that it’s going to freak me the fuck out?

Well, he does. He cares deeply. But he also didn’t really understand why one dirty pot was cause for such alarm. He looked at me, in tears, upset and angry about this dirty dish, and said, “Why don’t you wash it now if it’s upsetting you so much?” This was said in the kindest, calmest way possible. So I obviously lost my mind.

Since that day I’ve spent a lot of time working on my self. I had no idea at the time how often I would go back to that night as an example of something so simple I had been missing for so long. At the time, I was just angry and Sam was confused. But I’ve made great strides in my health, a lot of it surrounding my mental and emotional well-being. I’ve referenced before some serious mood swings that I can have, and I don’t know how to describe them other than having another person take over your body for a few minutes while your kinder, more rational self stands to the side being like, “Who pissed in your cornflakes this morning, girl?”

After a long fight with myself and some acceptance of who I am, I started to emerge on the other side of a really dark period of my life. But I still couldn’t quite figure out how to make the leap from unsettled to happy. I didn’t know what I was missing. Then I thought about that night, with the unwashed pot, and wondered why I had been blaming Sam for my anger when my anxiety over dirty dishes had nothing to do with him and it hit me: accountability.

I struggled with emotions, but I also struggled with holding myself accountable.

I combed back through some of the toughest times of my life and I realized that almost every time I had blamed someone else. I even found ways to blame others for my weight, my unhealthy lifestyle, debt, or putting up with poor behaviour from others when I had never stood up for myself. I didn’t even hold myself accountable for my mood swings.

It’s a tough pill to swallow, accepting blame. It’s even tougher when you have to accept your role in a situation that might have damaged your trust or happiness deeply. But Don Draper said it straight when he said, “People tell you who they are, but we ignore it – because we want them to be who we want them to be.” Almost every time someone hurt me the first time, I didn’t know they would do that. And then they would do it again and at that point it becomes a trend.  Eventually, you have to accept part of the blame for what they’ve done because they showed you that’s who they are, and you refused to accept it.

As soon as I realized that I had to love myself and that would include accepting my culpability in past mistakes, the world became brighter. As soon as I started to accept my role in things that had happened in my life, and continue to happen, I saw a better life for myself. As soon as I recognized my own strengths and my own faults, everything started falling into place.

Now, I wash the dishes when I feel like they might get to me before Sam gets to them. Once in awhile, I even leave them in the sink for later, which apparently doesn’t hurt as much as I thought it would.

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