by Charley Daveler
I’m a territorial person. I like to bark at strangers who pass by, hide in my room when guests arrive, pee on things to mark them. You know.
Mostly, I feel most comfortable in “my” space. I suppose one of the reasons the Jackson Hole Writers Conference was less intimidating this year was because I knew the location, I’d attended the event several times, and I probably knew more people than most of my fellow writers.
Today I have no space. After leaving Australia, I camped out in my parents’ house for the summer in hopes to rebuild my savings before moving on again. Planning to leave in a few months makes it hard to settle, much more so when you consider the fact that I don’t actually have a bed right now. I’ve been staying in the R.V., the couch, and sometimes my brother’s room, depending on what was available to me at the time.
Even if I did have a place of my own where I could stash my stuff without fear of the gremlins shifting it about, moving, and preparation of moving, stresses me out beyond all belief.
I actually have more people to talk to this time around—all my high school friends having run off to oblivion, yet I like my coworkers—but I’m still holding back to attachment with anything. People, places, things. Everything will probably go, and I’m still left with the feeling I have nothing. I have my projects, and that’s about it.
The stress of living in a foreign country without truly trusting what my future would hold is gone. Work is fantastic, the nagging problems of potential mistakes have disappeared, and I feel a lot freer than I did even four months ago.
But I don’t seem to like anything.
Supernatural has been holding my attention decently, but not to the extent where I can pay all of my attention to it. In fact, I remember the oddity of an episode coming on and me thinking, “Wait, I actually want to hear what happens!” rather than just leaving it on for background noise.
Videogames don’t excite me. Books are pains to get through. Conversations, prospects of dating, future trips… Finishing some sewing projects have done better for me, but if I’m not absorbing myself in work or creativity, I struggle with caring about something. And most of my projects—the webcomic, the quilts, the painting—allow for a lot of thought while working, which seems to pull me back into the negative. And, unlike most writers, when I get angry or miserable, it doesn’t inspire my creativity, just makes it impossible to focus.
A few weeks ago I had a guy harass me in the typical obtuse manner. He wasn’t mean, just unrelenting, putting me in the awful position of trying to say no in a polite but clear manner. But when someone doesn’t want to understand something, they won’t, and even after he firmly was told I was uncomfortable, he merely apologized before continuing to behave in the same manner. I tried ignoring him, but it only led to late-night calls. Not even booty calls. The one time I answered, he asked to take me to dinner later that week. You couldn’t have waited until daylight? I ended up having to bluntly state that he had proven incapable of respecting my boundaries, to which he told me he understood. Then he argued with me.
I ignored him after that. The point seems to have been made, and I hope for his sake it has because I’m not sure I can play nice the next run around.
But I’m furious. I am angry at the way he made me feel, the constant pressure he put on me to “decide” if I liked him or not, the overzealous interpretation of any acceptance as affection, and the refusal to listen to anything I said. I felt helpless. I could either be an asshole—ignore him, perhaps tell him off—or I could play nice and be forced to be in more uncomfortable situations in which, despite his claims there were no expectations, I knew would cross the line the longer it went on. When I tried to tell the polite aspects of the truth—we had nothing in common—he tried to deny my reality and make it look like I was insane for being offended when he claimed, he “hadn’t thought that far ahead.” Like I was the nutjob for considering our compatibility so soon.
I could tell you hadn’t thought that far ahead. Your abundant crushes on every woman who walks the Earth is apparent to anyone in the same room as you. This not really giving a shit about who I actually am or your complete lack of vetting girls before choosing? Anyone who’s hot and willing, huh? Not attractive. Way to make me feel special.
I spent all day angrily running my mind through the things I could have said to him, how I could have responded as he acted like we were just “speaking a different language.”
A lot of my thoughts were insults. I felt inhibited by my need to take the higher ground and not point out that brushing your teeth is a good way to show a stranger you care. I felt helpless knowing he would argue with any of the obvious but unprovable speculations about his intentions. He’d deny any interest in me the second he found I didn’t feel the same way, and how do you turn down someone who won’t admit they’re asking you out? And you’d think you wouldn’t have to state his intentions, that you just say no, he’d argue it wasn’t what he’s doing, and you say, “Oh. Okay,” then go on your way. But it’s like they think they’ve tricked you or something, like, “She believes that I wasn’t hitting on her. Now’s my chance!”: “So do you want to go still?”
And they will try to kiss you if you do agree, as if your inability to tell them to fuck themselves (because you don’t want to embarrass or hurt them) is the same thing as changing your mind.
Even though it was over, I kept thinking about it. I hate being angry. I hate the negativity.
I’ve realized over time that pain is important. It’s a warning sign, it helps you predict future problems, and running over situations in your head again and again teach you how to better react the next time around. But sometimes you just need to let go. Live in the moment. I don’t know how to do that.
I was trying to go with the flow when I let him text himself from my phone. “I don’t like him, but does that really mean I need to shut him down immediately? Nah. Just live day by day.”
Yes, Charley. There’s a reason rejecting him immediately was your first instinct.
I consider myself a negative person, but an optimist at the same time. I may see the glass as half-empty, but I never fear being able to get more water. I truly believe things will end well, everything happens for a reason (even if that reason isn’t for your benefit), and I don’t mind seeing the flaws and puzzling out solutions.
But I’d like to let go of some of my anger. I’d like to think about good things. I’d like to feel joy more often. I’d like to get excited about television and books again. Mostly, I’d like to let things stop bothering me, stop worrying about the future, and tell a jackass off once and leave it at that. A coworker asks me often if I’m happy. I always say no.
I shrug. I haven’t been happy in a long time. But I would like to be.
From now on I am going to…
1. Name two positives for every one negative thought I have.
2. Carry a water bottle because hydration benefits mood.
3. Snap a rubber band on my wrist every time I start to think of past conflicts.
4. Create a personal space in my current residence.
5. Find positive stand-up comedians (then judge them.)
6. Spend at least an hour out in the sunlight.
7. Do something outside my house each week.
8. Get my cat to forgive me.
I do believe that being angry is a choice, but I think that you have to replace it with something. I strongly hope I can find what that is.
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