I realised some time ago that one of my problems is the expectation that someone else will fix them.
Probably this explains a lot about my marriage. Even more about my attempts to recover from the end of that marriage. But other things, too.
I was talking to my brother the other day. Like most in my family (where I grew up, not the one I created) he has ‘issues with food’. Food is a massive part of his life; he cooks and caters. He also does things like fasting, or liquid only. He is very slim, though he hasn’t always been, and still seems to think he isn’t. Anyway, my mother had been having another ineffectual and irritating whine about how fat I am, and he was making suggestions. I mentioned being tempted to go to one of those places where they deny you food – I had just read an article about a stay in such a place by Jeanette Winterson, who fasted for 11 days. My brother asked me why I felt I needed someone else to take control of my eating. Well the answer to that is bloody obvious: it is abundantly clear that I cannot.
It’s not just about food, though, is it? In searching for a job I realise (though I have made applications etc) that I have been sort of waiting for someone else to sort it out for me. I did say from the start that I thought I’d most likely need a leg up from someone who knew me, to get past the undeniable fact that my cv after about 1995 is not going to have employers falling over themselves. (And so it has proved.) But maybe I wanted more than a leg up. Maybe I wanted it on a plate. A leg up, and a push in the right direction. And maybe a reminder or two. There have been times when I have contacted people and honestly believed, going in, that because they are clever, successful, rich and kind, they will fix this for me and give me a dream job (not too demanding, nor too lowly, working for a cause I can get behind, with an easy commute, reasonable pay and wonderful colleagues.)
Why do I abdicate responsibility for my own life? Even for what I put in my mouth? I realise as well (this may be a subject for another day, and may also be a natural result of the years – not yet over – of my having to justify in court how much I spend on groceries etc) that I worry about how things will look to other people, more than how they feel to ME. And that I think of myself in relation or comparison to others.
When I was first abandoned by my ex, a friend gently pointed out that I kept describing myself as a wife. How I was not a good wife, mainly. Or how I tried to be. ‘I never think of myself as a good or bad husband or father’ he said. ‘Just a person.’ I realise how little I really know about myself as a person. I am more this or that than him or her, in some ways. But in absolute terms? (Fat, yes, I know, but otherwise?) So I had high hopes of Rachel Cusk’s book Outline. I read when it came out that it described a woman only with reference to others, and I thought I would like it (I enjoyed Aftermath). But I have just abandoned it half way through, something I do too rarely with books. Maybe I had been expecting that book to solve my problems?
It’s the Cinderella Complex, isn’t it? But why? It’s not like my parents ever rescued me from anything. I don’t think I ever hid behind them, either. But I hid behind my husband. And my children. They are so smart, I find myself doing it even now, when I should know better. Trusting them instead of myself. As I always did with BH. Deferring to him and assuming, if something did not compute, that the fault lay with me. I find with all kinds of people, and even – unbelievably – still with him, I sometimes think ‘well, but what if they are right, and I am wrong?’ What if, for example, there is some reason I haven’t understood, why it is OK that although the court has ordered him to pay maintenance, he doesn’t? Certainly his behaviour, his being a stranger to shame and not making any attempt to do what the law (not to say common decency) dictates, suggests he thinks there is some such reason, and so I struggle to find it. Why is it so hard to think: ‘NO! I am worth more than this! My children deserve better than this!’ Why would I rather put myself in the wrong, and someone else in charge?
There is no knight in shining armour, and if there were I wouldn’t trust him, so what is going on here? Why the reluctance to make do with ME?