Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Am I in an Abusive Relationship?

We fight, I cry, we make up.
I get pummeled, and I go running right back into trouble, face first, only to catch the next hit square on the bridge of my nose.
Self-preservation kicks in, I withdraw. I am slowly wooed back into the lull of routine, of surprise pleasantries, the ease of lowered expectations.
I catch one in the teeth.

It's less domestic, more urban, I'd say: I'm in an abusive relationship with New York City.

I've been calling it love/hate but it's getting more complicated than that. Love/hate is surface and simple. There is a psychological cycle to abuse.

How can a city itself pummel you and beat you down? You'd only ask that if you haven't lived in a place like this. But I'm starting to suspect it's the effect of millions of people sharing the same resources- an age old problem, really. There's a whole hell of a lot of us living on this peninsula fighting for the same jobs, the same spot on the Downtown 6 train in the morning, the same men, the same taxis when it rains. And beyond resources, it's a place where Everyone Else's choices have a direct and definite impact on your own life.

I feel like I'm constantly battling to define, to carve out, to defend. And when everyone else is doing that, too, inevitably, there is a strain on resources and you win some, but you lose more.
It's why one of my roommates is about to have her fifth job since getting here last summer. It's why you can be running perfectly on time for work and with the decision of one train conductor who is "momentarily holding the train," be fifteen minutes late.
It's why you can go on six dates, but only really like the one who chooses not to call you back. Concerts sell out in minutes.
One woman decides she wants to watch CSPAN in the morning at the gym and changes the channel away from Reg and Kel.
It's why I can get hired full-time and have a great phone call with the President of the company, but then see Hugh Jackman at the batting cages over the weekend and remember that he makes a bazillion more dollars than I do.

Constant contact with humans equals constant comparison: I can love my outfit when I walk out the door and by the time I get to 77th, wish I were wearing my heeled boots instead because that girl looks SO CUTE.

It's exhausting. And just when I think I have things under control- a routine formed to keep my sanity- it implodes. All of a sudden, I'm working 50 hour weeks because of the needs of other humans and their choices to stay and work later affect MY time.
Or I just want PRALINE FRO YO and 16 Handles decided out of SIXTEEN DIFFERENT HANDLES PRALINE JUST ISN'T GONNA CUT IT THIS WEEK.

But as in any cycle, some days... some days the sun just feels so good on my face in the morning on my walk to the train, and it lights up the space between the buildings on the East River, you know?
Some days, the chocolate chip cookies at City Bakery are so melty, and so chewy, I can't be mad. Or like today, there was a spot for me on the train and it pulled in just as I swiped my card in the turnstile. And while everyone else in the office gets to be in Tahoe for a sales training, I had time to fill out my NCAA Basketball bracket. And even though someone else's choice affected me - that little blue text message light refused to shine on my phone, today - all it takes is one more victory than the loss column to make it worth it.
To want to stay.
To want to do better tomorrow.
To be willing to take one on the chin sometimes.

To get out of an abusive relationship requires a steeliness of one's will, a commitment of one's confidence. That's when you can look eye to eye and say, "You don't scare me anymore. I am better than this." and then take positive steps to reconstruct a better experience for yourself; to build a foundation that won't waver in the wake of whatever the day holds.

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