Mark said something to me a couple of weeks back:
Sometimes I think you wouldn't be happy unless you were picking yourself apart.
I have heard variants of this for years: "most relentlessly self-analytical person I've ever met"; "you don't shy away from your warts"; "Jesus Christ do you ever stop THINKING?!"
There's been more of this lately, because I am undoubtedly growing and changing--into what, I'm not sure, because I've never been what I'm becoming.
I know what part of it is. I have always been a submissive person--someone who appeases to avoid conflict, and appeases even more when conflict doesn't avoid me. I don't think I've ever been anyone's doormat...just I'm a simple man with simple pleasures and a peaceable demeanour. But I have come to realize that burying resentment is unwise, especially when you do it so long you no longer even realize you're doing it. All that pressure builds inexorably, without outward sign or even inward notice (because pressure? I don't have any pressure, haha).
The most perceptive people saw tufts of smoke, but everyone was taken aback when the eruption came. Most of all me.
The thing about volcanic eruptions--they can be destructive as all hell, but volcanic soil is some of the most fertile on earth. I'm to the point after one big blow of realizing that periodic small eruptions are much easier on both me and those around me than burying everything and one day suddenly going Tambora on everyone's ass.
At this point I will hasten to assure everyone a few things.
One, everything's fine now. The eruption happened, the lava has cooled, and a layer of that fertile soil has been deposited.
Two--because I know for a fact some people have been holding their breath and just waiting for it...this had nothing directly to do with polyamory. Both partners saw different stages of the eruption--Eva got the big blow and Kathy saw a series of volcanic aftershocks. Both are still here; both have learned something about me and I about each of them, and it's all good. It does behoove me, however, to guard against such things in the future.
Three--I am not the communicator I have always touted myself to be. I'm really good tackling any relationship problem you throw at me...and often good even if those problems involve me and my behaviour, so long as I remember to take about forty mental paces back before engaging. But actually bringing my problems to others might provoke conflict, and so instead I've thrown them into this here volcano, see...
Actually, I kind of sidestepped the truth when I said, above, this has nothing to do with polyamory. In a way it has everything to do with polyamory. Without the confidence living poly has given me (and despite poly exposing every insecurity and relationship flaw you never knew you had, it does wonders for one's self-confidence)...I never would have felt comfortable with the concept of asserting myself at all. And everyone agrees, everyone has always agreed, that I need to become more assertive.
But how? How does one become something? Wow, classic Centipede's Dilemma, and does that little poem ever explain a lot about how I freeze and can't advance and then feel stagnant! It's like "hey, wow, I can do this! I really can! I never could before but you know what? I'm so deeply loved and valued and understood that I can do this!...look, I'm doing...uh....what is "this", exactly? Oh shit!"
Here I must guard against an old, old flaw taking on new menace: my knee-jerk. Overshooting assertiveness lands me in aggressive territory, and that's no land for me. One look at its craggy cliff faces, utterly devoid of vegetation, and its angry, louring skies and I want to teleport far, far away. And yet I find myself in this desolate space, if only for a moment, before I knee-jerk back the other way into Mr. Meek and Mild Milquetoast Man.
That knee-jerk is something I have had all my life and it has never once actually served me. I'm trying to eliminate it, but it seems hard-wired. For now, all I can do is tell those around me to disregard my first reaction to criticism--I call it my Hollywood Squares answer, a completely frivolous utterance bearing no resemblance to my feelings as they will be in five seconds, five minutes, or (very rarely) five hours. The knee-jerk itself is bad enough, but what makes it much worse is this newfound conviction that I need not be forever a background man. Put those together and instead of resignedly muttering out some outlandish overreaction, I snap it out.
That...can not be allowed to stand.
Because the knee-jerk is so common (what? you don't like this one extreme? here, let me try the other extreme instead!), I have ample opportunity to work at it, now that it has the potential to cause (even more) real damage. Just last night I made an advance, after being told to "relax"--oh, the knee jerked, all right, repeatedly, but I didn't actually express it. I think this is a habit that needs strict encouragement. With diligent attention to each mental overreaction, and a conscious, concerted effort not to express it, I might actually get to be what I want to be: a confident, strong and capable middle-of-the-roader. Hell, it's where I try to drag everyone else when I'm calm myself. You'd think I'd learn to stay out of the ditches.
I'm either impetuous -- usually when I spot a problem, grasp a solution, and enact it without considering that it might actually have unintended consequences...or I'm careful and deliberate, usually to an extreme--the ol' "walking on eggshells" thing that pisses people off.
Where in the hell is that cheerful old woman who communicates with the dead? Happy medium, happy medium, my life for an ever-loving happy medium!
The eruption that happened--the yelling, the uncontrollable tears, the realization that stuff I forgot I even buried is now rolling down the mountain in front of me--needed to happen. The pressure has been released, and only in its release did I truly understand how much there was.
Let the renewal...and growth...begin.