Breaking Bad Habits

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Bad habits have been on my mind a lot lately. Not the smoking, drinking variety…more of the “personality” kind. They are the kind of habits that keep me awake at night, thinking about what I could have said or done differently. They leave me wondering if I’ve made a good or bad impression on someone. They are habits that I’m working hard to break.

I’m not going to put all the blame on my ex or our toxic relationship, but I developed these habits when we were together. The responsibility for reactions and actions falls completely on me, even if they were done out of self-preservation. Accepting an offer of help from her was like playing Russian Roulette. I never knew if saying “yes” would end with peace and love or me slumped on the floor, figuratively bleeding. Most of the time, it didn’t go well. Eventually, I stopped accepting any offer she made. It just felt safer to say no and handle everything myself.

Communicating with her was just as treacherous, whether it was email or direct conversations. She rarely answered a question directly or truthfully. I spent most of my time trying to read between the lines in the hope of gleaning out some answer. I had to watch everything I said for fear that she would twist my words and use them against me. Having a differing opinion from hers often meant being told why I was wrong AND stupid, that I think I’m smarter than her, etc. After awhile, I just learned to keep my mouth shut and nod my head.

Flash forward two years and I’m still trying to break through some of these chains. I find myself analyzing email and conversations for messages I might have missed. I worry that I’ve said the wrong thing. I worry that if I don’t get a response that the person doesn’t want to have anything to do with me but is too nice to say it. I lay awake at night wondering if I should be direct about a situation or wait it out.

I still have a difficult time accepting kind and generous offers from people. A friend offered me a ride to a movie a few weeks ago. She knew I was in a rental because my car was being fixed. I turned down the offer, not because I didn’t want a ride or didn’t appreciate it, but because I felt it would have been a major inconvenience for her. I live in a completely different area and I wouldn’t be on the way to theater. I’m still kicking myself for saying no, and counting that as one of the stupidest things I’ve done this year (tied with tearing up my knee tripping over the dog’s bed). I feel like I’ve left the wrong impression and I’m not sure how to recover from it or if I can. Other friends have been on the receiving end of “no, I can handle it” but have known me long enough to understand I’m just being stubborn. They are often able to wear me down and get me to accept help once in awhile. Me being able to say “yes” is progress, but I’ve still got a long way to go.

The end of the year is always a good time to take a look back at the progress we’ve made. This has been the best year I’ve had in a really long time. I’ve pushed myself past my comfort zone in social situations. I’ve pushed myself physically. I’m going out and having fun and meeting new, wonderful people. I’m actually enjoying life again. 2013 will be a year with more firsts, more new experiences, and hopefully some nice surprises. And maybe it will be the year I finally break these bad habits and say yes more.

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