April 26, 2008

Disappearing is an Art and Other Thoughts

In the poem by Naomi Shihab Nye called "THE ART OF DISAPPEARING" she writes:

When they say Don't I know you?
say no.//

When they invite you to the party
remember what parties are like
before answering...//

It's not that you don’t love them anymore.
You’re trying to remember something
too important to forget.
Trees. The monastery bell at twilight...//

Walk around feeling like a leaf.
Know you could tumble any second.
Then decide what to do with your time.


It was with the final stanza in mind that I decided not to continue to try to be friends with a person(Nancy) I recently met, a high energy woman with a tendency towards wildly swinging moods, who 1) talks way too long on the phone, 2) talks only about herself and her own goodness and the worthiness of her charitable works 3) is unreliable and unpredictable and when she visits stays far too long 4) wants me to "enhance" dozens of pieces of cheap costume jewelry, would pay for it, yes, but it is really cheapo plastic stuff that I could not easily enhance except with equally cheap beads...

Nancy tended to talk and talk and only about herself for an hour or more on the phone, interrupting me every time I tried to speak, and I as usual had no ability to simply call her on it. Instead, I felt that I should listen to her, humor her, agree with her, sympathize with her...she who had asked for a free copy of my book, started it, then proceeded to tell me she couldn't be bothered to read it, so had skipped to the end and read that as a substitute! Of course, I said nothing in objection. I felt only that I was wrong to have expected her to read it. Of course, she shouldn't read it! She is far too busy and important to want to find out about me...Why, doesn't she tell me so every time she talks?

But let me quote what I wrote in my journal last night: " I had a major disagreement with Nancy today. I don't even remember how it started except that she ended some comments by essentially saying that because of meeting me (not in so many words but that was clearly what she meant) she would never trust anyone again. She would do her charity work yes, but not believe in anyone's fundamental goodness from the start. She was partly referring to Karen in this, because I had referred her to Karen as a person who might answer the phone for her, that being K's forte. But Karen it turns out is in fact a pathological liar, which I only now have understood from interactions between the three of us...

I nevertheless said to N, "You will not..." meaning that she would not stop trusting people just like that, in essence challenging her, not believing her histrionic statement.

"Oh, yes," she assured me, "My faith in people is completely gone."

I wish I could remember all of what she had been referring to, because it was not all Karen, some of it was that I had told her I myself feared she was a con woman, that her so-called charity work could be a con for all I knew...I told her I had a tendency to be paranoid, and that I had been taken in by people doing exactly what she was doing (collecting "donations for those less fortunate than others" -- and after all, I gave her many, many items of my own) and that since I had seen nothing but her and her brother putting things in a van, what did I have to go on? But I'd also explained that it was my problem, that she needed to do nothing but go on being herself, and that if she was on the up and up, well, then, I would find my trust rewarded not blown away...Anyhow, she clearly took this as a mortal and personal insult and made it her problem, not mine (perhaps not the most politic thing I could have confessed to her, but I had to put it on the table, frankly, or I'd have gone on assuming she was simply a con woman!). Also, another of my sins according to her was my telling her I would not be the middleman between her and K, who were themselves fighting, in addition to originally suggesting K for the telephone job.

Sorry if this is confusing, but it is hard to reconstruct from memory and stil explain it in some cogent fashion...

At this point I'd had it with her self-righteous and histrionic diatribe and I pointed out that she was kind of full of herself and was always talking about herself and her own goodness...etc at which point she then said, calmly, "Let's talk more when we are both less upset, shall we?"

I thought that was a good idea, and we hung up. But I later discovered she had no such intentions as she later left a vitriolic message on my machine, accusing me, threatening that if I "kept her jewelry" she'd take it to the "next level". Huh? Then a second message explained, in equally truculent tones that she was sorry to do this to a "paranoid schizophrenic, but 'next level' meant legal recourse"; she would bring the issue to her lawyer!

Now, as an aside, I have to tell you that from my bitter experience with that Chaplain, the pathological liar, Holly, to whom I gave so much money and so many things, and about whom I eventually went to the police, I learned a few things. One of which is that if you voluntarily give anything to another person, the police (lawyers are not police, by the way, they cannot compel one to do anything) can't force that person to give it back. It was given willingly, not stolen, and no crime was committed. Just so, this jewelry...Frankly, it would be her word against mine if it came down to that. IF i wanted to keep it, which of course I have absolutely NO interest in doing.

That said, I calmly called her to tell her I had no such intentions and would return her precious materiél at the earliest possible time convenient to both of us. In fact, I neatly packaged up all her necklaces in separate plastic bags and even donated to her the necklace I'd made out of her and my own beads and a couple of pairs of earrings I'd created that she'd asked for...Free of charge, though why, I dunno. (Yes, I do. Though they were more expensive than she deserves and worth more than any of the jewelry she currently owns, I wanted to make a point about turning the other cheek and generosity to those who injure you...) All was carefully placed in her overnight bag near my door awaiting her call. When she finally takes it, I hope never to see her again.

But that is my point. I was hurt at first, and disappointed. I felt like I was losing the chance at a good friend. Then I reread the poem by Naomi Nye, which a better and slower-to-develop friend, Jennifer reminded me of just today. Reading it I realized that NOT every high energy, engaging person who comes my way needs to be taken in and befriended. Some should in fact be avoided, or greeted, treated courteously, then shown the door.

This "relationship" if that's what it was, surely not a friendship yet, with Nancy? Well, thinking about the end of Nye's poem, it is NOT what I "want to do with my time." Nor is "enhancing" costume jewelry. I was pushed into it, lured into it even by the notion of making a little extra income, and also by Nancy's enthusiasm. But I am always attracted to enthusiastic, energetic people, who almost always then proceed to walk all over me, misunderstand my own lack of stamina, and demand more time of me than I want or have to give. I suspect that Nancy, despite her busy schedule, would be like that. And when not enthusiastic and up, would be down, down, down and just as demanding then. K may or may not be right in saying Nancy is bipolar. Nancy insists it is merely her brittle diabetes and wildly swinging blood sugar talking, but she is nevertheless way too unpredictable and moody for me.

No, I need people with Joe's calmness and even Karen's rationality to deal with my craziness...Even Josephine, who is by no means unemotional can be with me better than Nancy, who is so self-involved she has no time for anyone but herself (this despite her self-avowed dedication to charity work). In any event, I do need calm people around me for the most part, not Nancy's hysteria all the time. I do not need her to drain me of time and energy or need me to listen and constantly placate or agree or flatter her. I do not need someone in my life who is so convinced of her own virtue she talks about nothing except that. To the point of telling me how she donates money to people-- "anonymously...It is "between God and me, so it remains pure."

(Huh? If it is so damned pure, why are you now boasting about it to me???)

No, I should say to her, No, you do not know me. No, I do not want to attend your party. No, I do not have the time. I want to do other things with my time, not listen to your self-aggrandizing tales. If you are so good, let God reward you. You need none from me and I have nothing to give you. I'm just a poor struggling soul like anyone else, fighting to keep my head above water and the demons at bay...I do not need you in my life. GO AWAY.

Posted by pamwagg at April 26, 2008 09:46 AM | TrackBack


I just tried posting but my comment was erased...

I'm glad you're okay and the paranoia was temporary.

Nancy. Well, I think you have shown a lot of common sense about her. She really behaved badly when she threatened to take legal action against you. But your generosity in including some of your jewelry at no cost should help to defuse the tension. I think it's very cool that you did that.

How's your jewelry making going and your fruit sculptures? How did Passover dinner go?

Posted by: Kate K. at April 26, 2008 11:53 PM

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