I: Today’s Deb-Blog Has Been Brought to You by the Letter D for Dismissing and the Letter I for Ignoring Is Being Ignored
I have got to ask for more specifics when someone tells me they’ll call me on Tuesday, like which Tuesday and what year. Twice in my life I’ve had two different friends with whom I’ve had no conflict tell me they’d call Tuesday and I never heard from them again. Both were also demonstrating a self-destructive pattern of behavior so I didn’t call them because I wanted to know whether I mattered to them, or whether they mattered to themselves. Asked and answered. It’s been more than a decade now, so I’m pretty sure their being specific back then wouldn’t have helped. I was summarily “unfriended.” And I suppose my not wanting to be a co-dependent meant “unfriending” them, too. (I’m not so horrible I haven’t checked that they are both doing fine.)
Intellectually, I know people behave the way they do to hide ignorance, shield insecurity, protect their reality, mask a physical or psychological disorder or even conceal a crime. But this behavior can still sting. No one who knows me would accuse me of being thin-skinned. I am too independent to let someone else’s erratic or inconsiderate behavior ruin me. But it hurts, nevertheless, when a friend or someone you trust and is important to you ignores your feelings.
I was terribly hurt when my boyfriend virtually ignored me the entire week of our first Christmas, even though we had planned dinners and a brunch for him and his adolescent daughter at my place. I won’t even tell you how devastating the whole gift-giving went. When I met him for coffee to share my disappointment, he told me, “Get over it.” We actually lasted almost another three years. He was a good talker and while his words didn’t match his deeds, I loved and believed him. His dismissal of me never really improved. I tried. Then I gave up. As Aimee Mann (‘Til Tuesday) says, “Sometimes, you know, [there’s] limits to love.”
I had a boss who, six weeks into my new job, added half of another staffer’s work to mine, all with absolutely no orientation or training from day one. Prior to the official hand-off, I’d intended to meet to discuss my pay but he had some sort of psychological detachment shortly thereafter, became violent, incoherent laced with manic laughter when I was alone with him in his office. A couple of days later, after I implemented what I could make out from his erratic rant, in the presence of the entire staff, he instructed us to do the opposite. Sound crazy? My concerns for my safety and the safety of others were completely ignored by anyone above his stature so I decided my best option was to escape, rather that ask for a raise. I still have no idea the reality from which he was operating. At best I felt my reality dismissed, if not all reality ignored! That experience caused to to rethink a lot about my work!
Back when I was an undergrad, I was also working a commission job. I offered an unemployed friend to be my sales’ “ringer” for a one-day mega sale, as we employees were allowed to select a helper to process sales faster. Her pay was unusually high for one day’s work. I thought the day went smoothly but when she found out my job was commissioned, she blasted me and never spoke to me again. Seriously, a ten-year relationship was sent into the corn field. I was ignored from then on. Now, her parents were paying for her college, while I was borrowing, saving and working my way like most. My reality didn’t matter to her, nor did the money I helped her make. No good deed, right? Again, lesson learned.
I gave a friend my spare lawnmower because she was having difficulty with hers. When she got it home, she took it out of her car and gave it to a neighbor. It had belonged to my recently deceased mother so giving it to my friend was an act of love. But what could I do? When you give a gift, it is no longer yours. She dismissed my gesture, ignored how I might feel about her action. Lesson learned but I certainly felt my good deed and friendship were dismissed.
Recently, I built a website for a friend and when I finished, I told him specifically how to buy and activate his desired domain name. Instead he went through a host that required building the site through them and, therefore, start over, which he is unskilled to do. Three times I tried to tell him how to remedy this mistake but, instead, he called what I built “practice,” while all he succeeded in doing was transferring content to his newly purchased bones. He continues to ask why his site doesn’t work like the “practice” one and when I try to explain his massive, time-consuming error, he says, “I will not discuss this again!” He has dismissed and ignored my expertise, my feelings and the many days of work I did for him. I can still feel that hurt, literally like a stabbing below the belt.
Yet even when I am been misunderstood, ignored, dismissed or hurt by someone, I would rather carry the pain or erect an emotional wall than fight to be understood. Why do I avoid confrontation and conflict at all costs, because I truly hate this about myself? Because time and again, my attempts to discuss a matter where I have felt harmed are usually met with escalated anger by the other who only defends his or her feelings and that often causes a bigger rift. So usually I leave it there. If I am hurt or misunderstood, I make a mental note of the line I shouldn’t cross with that person again.
I guess that’s life. But it is a disrespect I don’t deserve and a frustration I can do without.