This particular meme touches me deeply. I actually learned a life-changing lesson about my propensity for martyrdom from a situation where I was excluded from a gathering in my own home, seemingly because I wasn’t “happy” enough.
While in the midst of the initial Fibro insanity a few years ago, I threw a holiday gathering at my home. Setting up and cooking used up nearly all my energy and my pain started early in the day. I was struggling to be social. I wasn’t grumpy, just low energy and quiet.
Not one person other than my partners initiated a conversation with me at that party. No one approached me. No one greeted me, thanked me for cooking or hosting, or said goodbye to me. The only interactions I had were when I approached a group and inserted myself in conversations.
I talked to a close friend about it afterwards. She asked me if I had considered that my low energy had put people off, that maybe I wasn’t approachable. I asked in return if I have to be in an visibly good mood for my friends to talk to me, especially when I’ve welcomed them into my home? And if so, why weren’t others who were more prone to have low energy and complain about their challenging situations excluded? We had people in our midst who used their suffering as currency to gain attention and concern. Some of them seemed to be the most popular in the group. Why was it different for me? I still don’t know the answer to that question.
It was a sad day, as is usually the case when our illusions are stripped away. It was one of the necessary situations that pointed me towards my addiction to masochism. It was also the last gathering I hosted for more than a year. I realized I was regularly giving myself away to people who did not value the gifts of my service and love.
It’s not an accident that I’ve maintained few friendships from that period of my life. I examined every relationship for reciprocity and genuine interest in one another. Only a handful survived the scrutiny.
The people in my circle now are truly unconditional in their acceptance of me. They do their best to work with my limitations. They help me find physical comfort to optimize my potential for enjoyment. They understand when I can’t commit or have to back out of plans because I have too much tired and/or pain. And they like to spend time with me no matter my energy level.
I’ve since realized that I had a belief that I had to earn visibility, love and affection through service. Somewhere deep in my heart I came to believe that I had to give as much of myself as possible by serving others happiness in order to be seen, let alone receive friendship and love. Love was something that had to be worked for.
I know better now. I know that I deserve to be loved and belong simply because I exist, just as everyone does. I now experience belonging and unconditional acceptance in my family life every single day, with people who choose me and to share this life with me wherever it leads us individually and together.
Because of these experiences, both painful and beautiful, I will strive harder to build communities with radical inclusivity. I desire to find ways to help everyone experience belonging.