Why you shouldn’t have to “handle me at my worst”.

We’re all very aware of Marilyn Monroe’s now famous quote:

So empowering, right? The recognition of bad behaviour. The openness and fierceness of accepting that not everyone is perfect, especially coming from a gal whom, by all accounts, is the perfect specimen of a woman – beautiful, articulate and talented. And if Marilyn could badass bitch this quote, we should hold it like a mantra over our hearts and strike down fear in anyone who comes near us – I am a woman, and I am a human, and I won’t be lovely and perfect all the time! Some days I’m just lousy, and if you can’t handle that, then you don’t deserve me!

What?

For a long time, I gave in to this. I gave into the fact that if I could accept who I am – that some days I am moody, some days I am tired and frustrated, some days I am angry and heated and devoid of patience – if I could accept all the these things about me (because I deserve to feel all the feelings on the spectrum), then the people and persons in my circle should also, because that’s how it’s supposed to work. You accept when I am awesome, and cheerful, and remember your birthday, and that somehow bides me a hall pass on my shittier, less than fantastic qualities that round out my person.

No.

I don’t buy it. Not anymore. And I haven’t for awhile. I don’t buy that just because you have suddenly owned your shitty behaviour that it somehow justifies the act of being shitty. I think we have to do better. I think we have to recognize when we’ve been shitty, and work through those emotions and work towards not taking out our shittiness on the people who love and surround us.

No, you don’t have permission to say – well, some days I can be a real jerk. But don’t worry. If I am a real jerk to you, it’s just sometimes who I am, but tomorrow I’ll be real great and it will all balance out.

I think – I think, you have to say: I’m really sorry, I need to take a break from today and from yours and my time together right now, because I recognize I’m too irritable, too impatient, too angry, too heated, too frustrated, and too much to handle. And I don’t want you to have to handle me like this. These are my hangups. And when I come back I’ll be better.

A loved one can say – sure, take your time. Or they can say: I’m sorry you’re feeling like this. Talk to me. Tell me what I can do. I can just listen? Say it – scream it, let all the fbombs out. And when you’re done being mad, then we can go back to better days.

Right? Doesn’t that make more sense?

It’s not my job, or your job, or anyone’s job to “handle you” because you’re sometimes a jerk. Sometimes a mean person. Sometimes selfish. Sometimes jealous. Your toxic behaviour is yours to own. Yours to handle. Yours to recognize. Yours to work on. Yours to own. And it isn’t permission to put it on others and say: this is just how I was built. Accept it or don’t.

Don’t accept it. Because it’s not up to you to defeat those demons in another person. You can love someone implicitly without becoming a martyr for their own shortcomings. You don’t have to be at the receiving end of their damaging behaviour under the guise “that’s who they are”.

For Jan and I, we have had to work steadily through the obstacle course of our relationship the past year. We have had to make these qualities inside ourselves recognizable traits. We have had to be honest with ourselves and said: well, I didn’t see that what I was doing was actually hurting you. Some days, we’ve even had to say: I need a day to clear my head. And things will get better later. We love bomb through breaking the ice by sending old selfies to one another. It’s a peace treaty. “I’m done being crappy. Can we go back to the way it was?” It’s enough to try and love another wholly. It’s another thing to love yourself enough to say – this part about me … this part where I can’t handle my emotions effectively and I need an emotional break or release to bring me back to the surface. When you can get there, you can lend yourself to healthy relationships. Where toxic behaviour, toxic personality traits, toxic methods to handling conflict become learned patterns of change and growth.

As for Marilyn’s quote:

Perhaps dear MM could have said, “I am wholly human, with wholly human emotions. Some good. Some bad. But everyday I am trying. I don’t want you to feel responsible for handling me when I’m at my worst. I am working through those traits for myself. But I promise you, this is my best. My best is working through my worst to becoming a whole human, so I can love you completely. I will not make you the catalyst for my pitfalls. I want you to know that I am always trying my best.”

I know. Not nearly as fierce. But it’s at least more authentic.

— c ☆

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