I'm Falling All Over Myself, Dying To Be Someone Else, I Wish You Would Dare To Walk Me Home, I Don't Want To Fight The World Alone
Breanne has a saying that I've always found rather cute: “Just because you can't hook a whopper don't mean your pole's broke.” I've always taken it to mean that when something goes wrong certain people like to lay blame elsewhere rather than themselves. It's an easy habit easy to fall into, after all. Who wants to accept responsibility as the first course of action. Even if their rationale isn't said aloud, most people tend to drift towards thinking about possible explanations instead of immediately leaping to the conclusion they themselves have done something incorrectly. I, for one, am notorious for spreading the wealth in this regard—even going so far as guilt-tripping people into accepting their part in whatever snafus may have arisen.
However, I've started to see another possible explanation of the aforementioned saying. I've started to notice that a lot of people like to explain away a great deal of their behavior by assigning either the worst or best case scenario to a situation. For instance, people can justify almost any great expenditure on gambling by conjuring images of themselves winning that elusive jackpot or catching that impossible confluence of perfect conditions at the poker table and cleaning out the House. In that spirit they'll lay down the bulk of their life savings, excusing it away by that ideal what-if daydream. Or, even less grandiose, men and women have both gone to great lengths, figuratively and literally, to win over a fair heart that they were sure they were destined to be with. Indeed, my trips to the other side of the country, buying presents I really couldn't afford, and, yes, racking up a forty-thousand dollar credit card bill could all be seen as instances where I thought impulsively with my heart rather than with my head. And, again, at the time, I thought it was innocuous, even necessary, because I had lofty visions of a love that would last my life dancing through my head.
But what if you flip the coin? What then?
I've seen people do some horrible things to other people because they've encountered a situation they were ill-prepared to face. Rather than think rationally, they let the worst possible outcome dictate their line of reasoning. It could be something as simple as Marion's total belief that one day the tiniest of cuts is going to get horribly infected, ultimately killing her, to justify being overly sanitized. Or it could be as complicated as my own frantic search for another college to attend when I was being “interviewed” about possible plagiarizing of my twenty-four page research paper in my Medieval Japanese History class at U.S.C. Yes, some semblance of a fallback plan is necessary in a few key crossroads in one's life, but it's unhealthy to always see the worst possible consequence whenever a momentous milestone arrives.
In those incidents, it didn't end up affecting too many people since we were mainly watching out for ourselves. But what happens when this line of thinking becomes extended to individuals we claim to care about or even genuinely do care about? It becomes a whole different ball game at that point.
“I don't understand. She seemed fine last year when I met her. Yeah, she was kind of cool with me and just seemed easy-going in general, Case.”
“A lot changes in a year.”
It's always been my belief that the instant you move in with somebody you find out more about them than you might care to know. I've moved in with exactly one person, that being DeAnn, and let me tell you that even before then we had had our share of problems. But living with the woman only seemed to compound the problem. I don't know if it was our timing or if it was merely a case of finding out more than we cared to know, but there were days where I wish I could have forgotten all I learned about her in those first few months of living with her—just go back to when all we did was date, when all I mostly saw was her good side.
I can also tell you firsthand that whatever quirks in personality you might possess before the big commitment to one another only gets amplified once you reach that serious stage in a relationship. If you're kind of weird like me on your best day, then that freaky side only comes out bigger and badder once you're safely ensconced in that other person's good graces.
Or, if like you're like Laurel, you've always had doubts about your self-esteem, it only comes out more cruelly once you're around that person you claim to love all the time.
“She doesn't like going out like we used to. She definitely doesn't like hanging around my friends. Or my family. Or sometimes me. It's like she's afraid if she doesn't hold onto me as tightly as possible, I'll run away or something.
“And you know what the worst part is, Patrick?”
“She's being so spiteful and nasty that that's exactly what I want to do sometimes. Ironic. It's ironic somebody can be that paranoid about what I might do to hurt them, that it makes me want to hurt them.”
I once called DeAnn's parents house just to see what she was up to. When they told me she was out doing whatever, I let it get to me so much that I drove the eighty minutes to their house just to wait for her to get home.
I once forbade Breanne going to her school dance because I was that hung-up on her meeting anybody she might fall for that wasn't me. Never mind she'd probably been with the same set of kids for the previous ten years and hadn't fallen for any of them yet. She was acting strange and when people act strange it's because they're planning to hurt you.
That's what I actually used to think. Strange behavior from people you think you've got figured out equals they're planning to destroy you emotionally (or, in some cases, physically).
“She's just worried about losing you. I would be too, if I was her. It's a lot to lose.”
“But why? It's not like I'm Miss Party Girl. It's not like I like being away from her any great length of time. I just don't get what I did to give her the impression I could ever be less than honest with her.”
“Sometimes it's less about what you're doing or what you did, and more about what you could do.”
“I don't get it.”
“The more you let someone in, the more you take with you if you decide to go. She wants to test you.”
“Why does she have to test me at all? What if I don't want to be tested?”
“I don't think it's the kind of test you can pass. She wants to know if you'll follow her lead even when she's being a nutcase.”
“Even if she's being unreasonable.”
“Especially when she's being unreasonable. Where's the fun in issuing orders that are easily followed? Nope, she wants to know if you'll do as she asks even when she knows you want to do the exact opposite.”
“How do you know?”
“That's what I'd do if I were her.
Case had it easy. All she was bitching about was Laurel not wanting her to go out of town for an impromptu girls night out with the ladies from her job. If she couldn't come, she didn't want Casey to go off alone either, for fear of what she might do.
It was paranoid, but it wasn't outside of the realm of what a lot of other couples go through. Some people have a hard time trusting someone once they've gotten a taste of what it's like to be intimately close to them. It's easier to trust someone when they mean only a little to you. It's a lot more difficult when they mean everything.
Whereas before you might have been cool to let them go for a week with the boys (or girls) because, hey, you only recently started dating and, hey, how much trouble can he get into—it suddenly becomes a cause for alarm if they even want to spend one night away from you. It's like the more you invest in a person, in building in life with them, the more you start seeing threats to that life around every corner. Every odd thing they say and every unexplained disappearance becomes a crisis that needs to be hashed out and resolved before anything else. Every little problem becomes a major obstacle.
Sometimes by moving forward with a relationship, you end up tearing it asunder.
I've seen a lot of relationships come and go, not just my own. I've seen a lot of people hurt, I've seen a lot of people cry, I've even seen a lot of people do physical or emotion harm that they would never consider doing on somebody they truly hated. I've seen people change their entire philosophy on life just because it suits the person they're with. I've seen how love is the most evil cause of misery ever invented.
People always talk about holding on too tightly as being the root cause of why people break out. I think it's more of a problem of people holding too long that's the real problem because deep down everybody wants to be held by someone. I think the problem comes when they want to make sure that they're free to go and you still want to hold onto them. Lucy calls it the dog test. Some dogs you can leave the gate open and they'll stay in the yard with you all afternoon. But should you close that gate, all they do that day is figure out how to get out of that blasted yard.
It works the same way with people. You don't have to hold onto someone too tightly, you can just hold onto someone for too long of a stretch of a time.
“Sometimes, Case, it's not enough to make sure someone cares about you. Sometimes, for whatever reason, you just need to push them to the breaking point of not caring about you just to see how far it goes. It's like filling a glass of water when you're thirsty. You could pour yourself enough to quench that thirst or you could pour enough to make sure you won't be thirsty for a great long time.
“It's not enough to know somebody loves you, because that could mean a great many things. Sometimes you want to know what that other person really means when they say it.”
“That's crap. It is.
“She knows me. She knows what I like. If there's a gap of time where she doesn't know where I am, she should be thinking of how much I want to get back to her and not what I can do now that we're apart.
“She should know when we're not together it's because it's something I need to take care that doesn't include her. Doesn't she know I would include her if I could? Doesn't she know that by now? I've changed so much for her. Doesn't she know if this trip was something I could avoid, I'd do it for her? I'd do anything for her.”
“Well, have you told her that?”
“Not in those exact words.”
In the absence of a reason, people will either look to the best case scenario or the worst case scenario. It's human nature, after all.
There are some men and women who, when they can't land that fish, blame the pole. When they can't figure out an explanation why something isn't working, they'll make up their own, and it's usually something they'd like to think is out of their control.
If she's not here it's because she doesn't love me. If she's not here it's because she's cheating on me. If she's not here it's because she's a “heartless bitch”.
If you give them an explanation that makes sense, however slight it may be, that may be enough to see the folly of their thinking. It doesn't take much. Sometimes all it takes is removing all doubt from their head and replacing it with some sign that you still care.
“Maybe you should use those exact words.”