Ruining Things For Everyone

Over the summer, my friend Hannah introduced me to a friend she’d met at college.  Danielle is 20 years old and going through some rough times right now.  She came out to her family and they, in turn, disowned her.  Her relationship with her girlfriend is really rocky as her girlfriend is verbally abusive to her.  I’ve opened my home to Danielle whenever she needs a safe place to stay.

Once again, Danielle is crashing on my couch for the weekend.  She went out with her girlfriend last night and they ended up at a bonfire.  She texted me to let me know that she didn’t know what time she’d be home but it would be late.  I told her I’d leave the porch light on and the door unlocked.  She then texted, “I’m not even having fun right now.”

I told her to just come home then.  She responded with, “Cause I’m not gonna be the one who ruins everything for everyone.”  Wow!  That brought up some really big feelings for me.  How many times during my years have I had that exact same thought?  How many times have I known that my discomfort, pain, misery wasn’t as important as everyone else’s happiness?

The first memory that came to mind when I read that was of when Liam was a month old.  Bubba’s mother had come to stay with us and help us out when he was born.  We had just moved (again!) and I had no family or friends around to help with a very rambunctious three-year-old Serenity and a newborn.  Bubba’s mother generously offered to come down to help for a few weeks.  Against my better judgment, I agreed.  Well, to be more accurate, I acquiesced because I knew there was no other choice.  What I understand now but didn’t then was that you NEVER say “no” to an abuser.  My ex-mother-in-law sadistically abused Bubba when he was growing up and it didn’t stop when he left home.  There was no way for either of us to understand that telling her not to come was even an option.

When Liam was about a month old, she decided we needed to go out to celebrate.  The pediatrician had told me not to take Liam out because a nasty virus was going around the entire town yet we had to go out that night because ex-MIL said we had to.  I still wasn’t comfortable breast-feeding, let alone doing it in public, but again, that didn’t matter.

We went to a fancy restaurant.  I fed Liam before we left, but by the time we drove there and waited for our table, he was hungry again.  Our salads had just arrived at the table but I had to feed my baby before feeding myself.  I was nervous and I think that transmitted to Liam.  He would simply not latch on.  I couldn’t get him in a comfortable position, I couldn’t get him to latch on, I was a nervous mess.  When Liam started screaming, I decided it would be best to excuse myself and go out to the car to try to feed him.

It was hot so I turned the car on and let the a/c run for a bit.  I had no idea how long it would take Bubba to get our food, box it up, and come out to go home.  At this point I was in tears because Liam was crying so hard and was so upset that he refused to nurse.  I knew that calming myself was essential to calming him.  I figured it would be able twenty minutes for them to get the food, box it up, pay the bill, and come out.  I could handle twenty minutes.  After 25 minutes, I felt guilty about letting the car run that long, so I turned it off and when it started getting stuffy, I rolled the windows down.  Liam was finally nursing a bit although he kept unlatching to sniffle and hiccup his displeasure.

As time wore on, we both became increasingly hot and uncomfortable.  I kept thinking that surely they’d be out any minute and we could eat once we got home.  I waited and waited and waited.  Then I waited some more, becoming increasingly uncomfortable and unhappy that I had this brand new baby out in a hot car.  Each time I tried to get out of the car to go in and see what was taking so long, Liam would start screaming again.  I knew I couldn’t walk into that restaurant with a wailing newborn.  I would ruin everyone’s dinner.

After an hour in the car, it finally hit me that Bubba, his mother, and Serenity were in there, enjoying their meal while the baby and I sat in the car in abject misery.  It turned out that I sat in the car for about 90 minutes before they finally came out with my box of food.  Bubba and his mother were chatting happily, like there was nothing in the world wrong and that Liam and I sitting in the hot car for an hour and a half was no big deal.

I knew that I couldn’t go into that restaurant and ruin Bubba’s and his mother’s dinners.  I knew I couldn’t disturb the other patrons.  I knew that I had to sit in that car and just deal with the misery that Liam and I were experiencing.  Looking back now, I understand that I was afraid to rock the boat.  I was afraid of making Bubba mad.

I remember another time that involved my in-laws and eating out.  I was pregnant and dealing with morning (and afternoon and evening) sickness for the first time.  I hadn’t had it in my previous pregnancies but was suffering every day that time around.  My in-laws had other family in town and wanted to go to dinner.  I begged Bubba to just let me and Liam stay home and to take Serenity and his parents and go have a good time.  He told me it wouldn’t be the same and that I *had* to go.  If I wasn’t going to go, none of them would go and it would really upset his parents and the other family members.  Against my better judgment, I went along.  I had to or the entire dinner party would be cancelled.

We went to a Mexican restaurant and they ordered guacamole for an appetizer.  Guacamole is one of my favorite things in the world.  I could forget all about the chips and just eat it with a spoon!  That evening, I took two bites and knew that if I ate one more bite I would end up in the bathroom, throwing it all back up.  I sat there and by sheer force of will, I think, prevented myself from throwing up.  I could feel it at the back of my throat, that burning need to purge myself of the food that was so violently disagreeing with me.

Throughout dinner, I fought it.  I refused to give in to the sickness because not only did I have to keep everyone else happy, I had two small children to take care of.  You see, Bubba didn’t even sit by me and the kids.  He sat on the other end of the table, amongst his relatives while I took care of our children by myself.  All I wanted to do was stand up, scream, “I am going home NOW, find your own ride home,” and walk out the door.  I pictured it in my head.  I concentrated on it because it was helping keep those two bites of guacamole down where it belonged.

Cutting the children’s food and helping Liam eat was torture.  The last thing I wanted to do was deal with food.  Smelling it and looking at it was horrific by that time.  To this day, I don’t know how I got through that dinner.  I don’t know why not one person in that dinner party didn’t notice how miserable I was and offer to either take me home or at least give me a bit of sympathy.  They completely ignored me.  I could’ve been hired help for all the attention they gave me as I cared for my children.

I was responsible for everyone’s feelings.  I was responsible for not ruining everyone else’s fun.  No matter how many times I was in misery, it never mattered.  It was my job to bury my misery to ensure everyone else had fun.  It was my job to not rock the boat, to not assert that I had needs too.

I’m so glad I see the lie in that now.  I’m glad I can see that what I knew to be true then is a Bad Law and that it is a LIE!  I know that I will never again be in a position where I, or anyone I’m with, has to suffer in silence to ensure everyone else stays happy.  I am trying to teach my children that they do not have suffer for anyone else.  It’s taken me too long to realize that I’m valuable and important and worthy of taking care of myself.  My children will know that Truth.

My children will know that they are valuable and important and worthy of taking care of themselves.

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