Wait, There Are People Who Aren’t Jerks?

I was pretty down earlier this week. I wasn’t sure of the cause, but I suspected it was Cookie.

As the week progressed I kept feeling worse until finally, I realized I was sick. I slept almost the entirety of a full day and a half, then started feeling emotionally and physically better.

However, in the midst of feeling like utter poo, I had a therapy appointment to get to. I was glad. I was in turmoil and happy to get help calming all my swirling thoughts.

It worked. I achieved clarity about my feelings.

I like Cookie. I like him a ton. I feel completely confident about things with him and his feelings for me… except that I never have any idea when I might hear from him next.

Not knowing when I might hear from Cookie again turns the “when” into an “if” for me. Hence, my constant anxious feelings.

My therapist suggested I talk to Cookie about this. It sounded like a pretty nutty idea, but possibly worth trying. However, with Cookie seeming too busy to respond to texts and going out of town next week, it didn’t really feel like an option. My therapist suggested a phone call but I couldn’t imagine initiating that, particularly since Cookie and I have never talked on the phone before.

And then this crazy thing happened. I texted Cookie and mentioned I was sick, even though I hadn’t texted him much this week. His response came quickly. “Oh no! Ugh, I’m so sorry. Have you been sick all week? What happened?” I didn’t know what to say to that, so I just went with, “It’s been a super weird week.”

At which point, Cookie offered a phone call. We’d never talked on the phone before, but we did, and it was a great conversation.

When I said I’d been feeling really down this week he expressed sympathy, and asked point blank if it was because he hadn’t been in touch for a couple days after we had such a nice time the other night. “Not to insert myself into your narrative or anything, although I am wondering if that was a factor.” I’m guessing he noticed my responses to his texts were suddenly a bit cooler than usual.

My knee jerk reaction was to say no, of course not, he had nothing to do with it, that wasn’t it at all, there are a lot of things going on, etc.

This is fine. Everything is fine.

Which is what I said… at first.

I recognized my old “people pleasing” habits were coming out and I made a conscious decision to break that cycle.

I said, “Wait, that’s not true. Yes. Yes, it did bother me that you didn’t get in touch with me.” I told him how much, in general, it bothers me that I never have any idea how long it will be until I hear from him again.

His reaction astounded me.

He heard me. He was sympathetic. He wasn’t defensive. He didn’t blame me for my feelings, tell me this was yet another sign of all the things that were wrong with me that he kept trying to talk to me about, that he really wished I was more invested in self improvement…

Well, I’m sure you get where I’m going with this. He didn’t react the way the Narcissist would have.

Assholes are incapable of being shamed.

Geier, Karen. “Being Raised by Two Narcissists Taught Me How to Deal with Trump.” Vice, Vice, 13 Feb. 2019, http://www.vice.com/en_us/article/3kga4j/being-raised-by-two-narcissists-taught-me-how-to-deal-with-trump.

It’s sad, and yet I suppose not terribly surprising, that I’m not used to an appropriate reaction to, “Something you’re doing is hurting my feelings.”

Cookie acknowledged me. He was able to understand, without needing it explained, why his inconsistent response times were upsetting me. He offered, without me asking, to do better at building appropriate expectations around his availability and when I might hear from him.

Astounding. Shocking. I was absolutely floored.

I feel the way I did when I first moved out of the house I owned with the Narcissist. After leaving, I lived for a while in the basement guest room of a friend and her husband. This was where I first started recuperating.

Those first few nights in that new space were filled with one revelation after another. I remember one moment where, after I’d made dinner, appreciation and enthusiasm for my cooking were expressed. I remember being told I didn’t have to clean the kitchen since I was the one who had prepared the meal.

These simple things were deeply meaningful to me. These simple things made me tear up with happiness to such an extent that thinking of them now makes my eyes water up again.

It was an introduction back into normal interactions, normal human behavior. I’d forgotten. I’d forgotten what it was like when people were kind, and cared, and didn’t feel entitled to servitude.

Cookie’s behavior has reminded me of that initial period of freedom.

If I ever tried to tell the Narcissist something he did was upsetting to me he would twist it into being a sign there was something about me that was deeply flawed. And somehow, his twisted logic and word salad would make sense to me. I wasn’t happy, but I was certain the cause was me and not him. He was blameless. He did everything right. If I thought otherwise, I had problems I needed to work on.

“I really wish you had better coping mechanisms. This isn’t that big a deal. All I said/did was xyz. You know I say/do things like that and it doesn’t mean anything. I mean, you know I’m not an asshole, so this really isn’t something that should bother you this much. Just, try to figure it out and calm yourself down, okay? You shouldn’t need me for this.”

Cookie, on the other hand, came forth with empathy and a solution.

“I can see why that would bother you. Here’s how I can try to improve on that.”

It feels, perhaps, like an introduction back into normal relationship patterns, or, at least, normal communication patterns. I’d forgotten what that is like. I’d forgotten what it is like when someone is able to respond to a situation without ego and with a desire to make someone happy.

We’ll see over time if Cookie’s actions match up with his words, but as far as words go, his were deeply encouraging.

It’s almost like, maybe, perhaps, just possibly, this guy I really like isn’t an asshole? Naw. That would just be nutty.

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