Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Prickly



See this ugly old cactus just sitting in a pile of craggledy, sharp rocks?

This is what I was looking at, yesterday morning near my MIL's house. I had absented me from grim "felicity" awhile, and took myself and my take-out styrofoam of bad weak Texas coffee on a walk of sorts--really I left the house in tears but we won't dwell too long on the second, or perhaps the fourth, bout of semi-public weeping in a week. Let me tell you, it was no small feat for this reviled scullery-maid to free herself from the property. The gate there is strong and tall, the code to the keypad undisclosed, the remote hand-held device hidden away in the very bowels of the MIL's secured drawer...I finally squeezed myself through the bars with supernatural effort...

What I was musing on was the question of being liked. Which I am definitely not, by my mother in law. No, the old lady does not like me. Really, I believe, she hates me. Now, why should I care? I asked myself this as I paced the long road in the hot Texas sun. I've been pondering this awful problem since I read Brian's question--why do we need people to like us? Actually, I've been thinking about myself in relation to this question for ages now, ever since I first began to articulate to myself the fact that I really do want, need, people to like me.

The fact is, not everyone will like me. I've tried to be philosophical about it. After all, it's not possible that everyone, that every single person I encounter, will like me. I would sincerely hope that my ego could take it at this point in my life.

The problem is that, when I know someone doesn't like me, it puts me in a hideous ruminating spiral of existential fidgets, and I begin to run an inventory of all the ways in which I'm not likeable: neurotic, hot-tempered, controlling, weepy, nagging, myopic, stubborn, gloomy...fuck it, I'd better not list 'em all here, this special place where I can at least try to keep up some pretense...

And there's the awful prickly feeling that comes with being disliked. In Texas, I imagine that I am the icky person my mother-in-law believes me to be. Ungracious, difficult, and irascible. I've hated myself these past ten days.

So I suppose the answer to the question of being liked or not is...although in this case, I know intellectually my MIL's dislike is without cause and foundation...I'm still immature enough to reflect the dislike back on myself...do I need people to like me so I can like me?

What a dreadful thought.

28 comments:

The Idle Devil said...

I suppose being confined in MIL's house, in her presence, makes you feel so. While others' validation is important, I guess people who cannot make houseguests feel comfortable (even if they dislike them) should be avoided as much as possible. Is there no one else in the vicinity you'd like to spend time with? I wish there was a way you could convince your husband to really cut short your visits.

Brian Miller said...

hmmm...sorry my question seems to have created a prickle in itself. you have captured you trials well...don't give in to how you think others see you, its really all rubbish. confining ourselves to others conceptions only chokes the life out of our...well, life. i pray the rest of your time goes quickly. thanks for being real.

Ronda Laveen said...

Yes, I think that when others like us, it validates our self-worth more than it does theirs. And when they don't it is often like wanting the one thing you know you can never have. In reality, it is
ALL an illusion.

When I read your opening sentence on Reader, "See this ugly old cactus just sitting in a pile of craggledy, sharp rocks?," I thought you were talking about MIL.

My bad.:)

Ronda Laveen said...

Just read you comments from last post. And yes, along with Nancy Drew, I read all of the Trixie Belden's, and Cherry Ames: Girl Nurse. When I exhausted those, I read the Hardy Boys. As I got older, I moved into the Mickey Spillane mysteries. Great.

That is why I am so sleuthy.

crazyrivergirl said...

She must be the ONLY person who doesn't like you. But don't worry, it won't be too long until Hedgie realises what her grandmother is really like and she won't want to visit her anymore...that's when the fun will really start!

Jimmy Bastard said...

To dislike someone so intensely is to give them power over you emotionally.

The route you have chosen is much easier for reflection, especially while taking in the view from the relative tranquility of the moral high ground.

You did just fine hen. But then again.. you always do.

Mrsupole said...

I too thought you were talking about MIL in the first sentence.

No you do not need others to like you, but for some reason it seems to make us feel better. Is this logical, probably not. But sometimes we just have to accept that someone does not like us. I am not sure if I have said this or not, but by your trying so hard to have MIL like you, you are giving her a power over you that she should not have. Once you stop caring if she likes you or not, her power will be lost. She will not be a happy camper because she seems to relish having this power over you.

This feeling of needing anyone to like us gives that person power, and they almost all probably act like your MIL. This is when we should start using the "Whatever" attitude towards people who do not accept us as we are. Your MIL should love you unconditionaly, but since she does not, who cares, it is her loss. As long as Sarge and Hedgie love you that is all that matters. Bask in their love, you only have a little more time left there. Hug them every chance you get, but mostly just hug yourself, look in the mirror and realize you are really something special. Just be happy, don't worry, you are loved.

God bless.

merelyme said...

We like you Leah! We do, we do! My heart is heavy knowing you are still in the trenches. I thought you were home safely. Sorry.
You list exactly my ENDEARING characteristics: neurotic, hot-tempered, controlling, weepy, nagging, myopic, stubborn...it's, I think, why my husband married me...to balance everything that is so good about him.
You are a blessing in Blogland!

(Not-So) Cynical Gal said...

A Blessing in Blogland, indeed. I agree completely.

I'm so sorry you are having such an awful time!! It sounds dreadful, and I tend to just avoid these situations at all costs in the name of self preservation. Maybe that isn't an option for you?

*hugs*

just bob said...

I need to be liked too.

MJ said...

*in Sally Field voice*

We like you! We REALLY like you!

Emerson Marks said...

....neurotic, hot-tempered, controlling, weepy, nagging, myopic, stubborn and gloomy?....

You sound like me kind of girl!

On a serious note - we can't have tears. Not here. Not now. Let's hug it out.

That's better.

savannah said...

how about standing close to her right before you leave and whispering as you smile, i love you anyway?
xoxo

(ok, i had written something else, but figured i should be nice.)

(seriously, it shows what a truly kind person you are, darling, that you haven't called her out!)

Baino said...

Almost over . . .everyone needs to be liked we're a social animal after all. It's important though to remain true to yourself. Great comments here. I wish I could take them all on board a little more.

Random Chick said...

Leah, I hate to tell you this but you suffer from a well-known modern disease called "thinking too much." I know, because I do too.

There's a big difference though in being like by your MIL and being liked by someone who is not "family." You are in a tough situation. We ALL want our In-Laws to like us because it makes life MUCH easier when we have to be together...and unfortunately, we sometimes have to be with our MILs. Whenever a MIL visit looms, I usually get pissed off and dread being with her. I view it like a dentist appointment or a pap-smear, something you DON'T want to do but you HAVE to. I grin and bear it then when it is over I rejoice.

Your MIL probably doesn't dislike you as much as you think. She is probably threatened by what is different about you from what she is used to or how she imagined the woman who would marry her son. From getting to know you via your blog, she is probably also threatened by your intelligence and your strength.

You ARE a likable person. Try thinking of people who don't like you differently: they have something horribly wrong with them if they don't like you. And your life won't suck without them because it was perfectly fine before you thought they didn't like you. I hope that makes sense. I'm confusing myself...

Anyway, hang in there. Your visit WILL end soon!!!

XOXOXO
RC

mago said...

I think a grown human needs acceptance, not necessarily liking. And no, i do not think that to be liked is the conditio sine qua non one likes him/herself. It is impossible to be liked by all and every human being.
All these feelings have two sides - one for the one who likes and the other who is liked. But nevertheless it can not be the basis for self-esteem and self-understanding (I am sorry, it's not my language and the words do surely not fit in: Von jemandem gemocht zu werden oder nicht ist mehr oder minder zufällig - und das kann nicht die Grundlage für ein gesundes Sich-selbst-mögen sein: As others here saied before, one can not allow other people to rule over ones self in such a way. Die Selbstliebe ist dem Menschen eingeboren, and so the task is to recognize oneself in the other.
Your MIL seemingly just wants to rule. But for such a thing the subject must allow in one way or another to be ruled over, so it's an act of self-love or self-liking to stop these attempts to rule.

HoodChick said...

I used to suffer from this, now if someone doesn't like me I figure it's their loss. Because I'm a GREAT imperfect person.

Dream yourself to a happy place.

Leah said...

Wow, these comments are so thoughtful and wonderful! Thank you so much!

Idle Devil--You know, I think you are right. Sarge and I are finally back in Brooklyn, and we've been discussing the possibility of simply spending less time there...a simple solution, but perhaps the best.

Brian--no apologies, your question was profound and one I've grappled with anyway. I thank you for the original post, actually.

Ronda--you are very very right, my dear, it is all an illusion. The shifting perspectives, often unclear, are just too confusing. As Brian said, it chokes the life out of one. It's funny, but I guess I did think of the MIL when I looked at that cactus--I thought of her and myself!

And Hedgie's concurrently reading The Hardy Boys! What's so funny is that her dad has picked the books up now too and is re-reading them.

crazyrivergirl--thank you, LOL...I think Hedgie is already starting to have funny feelings about the MIL...I'm trying hard not to foster those funny feelings too much, let her come to them on her own!

Leah said...

Jimmy--thank you for your words. I did indeed survive, although I think I have just a touch of PTSD...

Mrsupole--yes, totally, the biggest task for me during this trip was to stop caring whether or not she likes me. Beyond the insult of it, why care? Adopting the "whatever" stance is definitely the most desirable route...

merelyme--a hug for you, my endearing-characteristics-soul-sister! Your comment was really cheering. Thank you so much.

NSCG--hugs back to you, and thank you. I'm beginning to think self-preservation has been heretofore underrated as an option!

Just Bob--that is good to hear. And I like you, so there you go.

MJ--Well, I'll take it where I can get it! ; )

Leah said...

EM--I shall treasure your comment, really. You made me laugh through the pain!

savannah--do you think it counts that I kissed her full on the cheek when we left, and thanked her without sarcasm? As for calling her out, I believe the story's not fully told...

Baino--yay, it's over and I'm home! And weren't these great comments? I'm going to try and take 'em to heart, including yours.

Random--YES. It is just like the dentist (well, if the dentist tried to undermine your self-esteem whilst also hurting you with needles and drills LOL). No really, that's a good way of approaching it. It is also good to hear about someone else, er, not totally loving their MIL...makes me feel less guilty!!! xo

Leah said...

mago--what a great comment. Actually, your bilingual abilities are incredibly impressive! And yes, acceptance is so different and maybe more profound than liking. And you are so very correct--one must agree, in some way, to be ruled over. Sarge has successfully waged revolution against his mom, and now it's my turn I suppose.

Hoodchick--that is an absolutely awesome aphorism: "I am a GREAT imperfect person." Let's all repeat that several times!

Megan said...

I suck at leaving meaningful comments.

But I do like you.

For what it's worth.

It's not worth much...

BEAST said...

Its a funny thing that all the time you stress about being liked by the MIL you are putting yourself in a position of weakness .
If she is genuinley never going to like you , then accept the fact and just get on with being you , believe me it can be remarkabley freeing in its way .
The change in attitude can make the disliker sit up and take notice

MJ said...

Coming from Beast, that is frightfully profound.

Candie Bracci said...

Hi,it's just the way it is.Some will like you and some won't.I too needed it very much because when I was a child I was shy and wasn't having many friends.Later,I have cared about how people was seeing me,until not a long time ago.Now I don't give a damn,i'm just being myself and I think with time,i won't care even more.But you know what?Me,I LIKE YOU!!

Have a nice day!

Leah said...

Megan--it's worth a ton! And you needn't worry about leaving a "deep" comment or any comment at all--never a command performance over at the Weatherinthestreets!

xo

Beast--thank you for the comment! I feel freer already. Seriously, the revelation that it doesn't really matter whether or not she likes me was, well, a revelation. I have been so glad to hear it corroborated.

MJ--Beast is a bundle of profundity wrapped in a duvet! Right, Beast?

Candie--thank you for sharing that! See, we are both freer for trying (and succeeding) in not giving a damn!

kylie said...

i need people to like me. i am a little ashamed to say so but thats how it is.
maybe she doesnt really dislike you, maybe she doesn't realise how she comes across?
ok. thats dumb but i'll leave it there.

xx

Leah said...

Kylie--I've been trying to decide whether or not to give her that benefit of the doubt...