Taryn is free

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I had plans to post the final part to my “Creepy ass White dude” saga today, but I had an interesting change in relationship with a toxic family member and I wanted to rejoice in my newfound freedom. Out of respect to my parents, I won’t name the person, but I will talk about the relationship and how I allowed it to muddy the waters of my state of being for so long.

Undetected Virus

When you are asleep at the metaphorical wheel of your life, it’s easy for toxic people to infiltrate your mind, setting up a host of nasty Trojan horses to gain control over you. For years I allowed this person to prey on me because I was so oblivious to my own needs and rights as an individual. As such, I allowed this person to drain me of my resources— time, money, help, support, etc.— under the guise that they were family and that trumps everything. Well, if you’re family is consistently hurting you or making you feel like you’re the problem or that everything is your fault, RUN!

Subtle Infiltration

The problem with emotionally manipulative people is that they are subtle in how they get their hooks into you. Problematic behaviors don’t just manifest overnight, they take time. The person can make seemingly harmless comments to you or about you under the guise of “trying to help”. They’re good at twisting your words and putting you on the defensive to destabilize your emotional wellbeing. If this happens over a decent period of time and you’re not doing anything to establish boundaries, they will control you.

A Tricky Blind Spot

It’s funny, looking back, I really was out to lunch. I think one of the biggest reasons why I didn’t see it was that she’s family. You don’t expect your loved ones to use and abuse you. That and she leveraged children. This gets trickier when little ones are involved, so I was able to reconcile the shitty behavior for their well-being. Ironically, it was this relationship that helped me see how messed up Brett was. Once you’ve experienced “Bat Shit Crazy” it’s way easier and faster to spot. Interestingly enough, both of them suffered some form of abuse one way or another. I really believe that at one point they were victims. The funny thing is, there’s a very fine line between victim and aggressor, and if you don’t seek help or deal with your trauma, you’re likely to become the monster you once feared.

Aiding and Abetting

I’m not going to go into every detail about my relationship or interactions with this person because a) I’m lazy and it would take forever to recall details, and b) I’m at a point where I’m happy to move past stewing over the garbage encounters with that person. While I’ve set my own boundaries, my family is still entrenched and sweeps this person’s behavior under the rug. I’ll admit, the last encounter— the 4th of July— nearly got the best of me because of how fake everything was. There was a time where I felt like Candace from Phineas and Ferb (yes, I’m referencing a children’s cartoon). But, instead of trying to expose fun science projects, I was hellbent on proving that this person was indeed the root cause of a lot of problems. Needless to say, this tactic provided me with more anguish than solutions.

Since my parents are out of the country and I’m a nomad, we have to do family occasions at this person’s house. This means we all get together, pretending that they aren’t a manipulative narcissist. For the most part, I can hold my tongue as I generally focus my time and energy on all 7 of my niece and nephews. That said, I’ve come to the point where pretending like nothing is wrong and sitting on the grenades this person lobs in my direction, is over. If my parents want to continue in that cesspool of dysfunction, I can’t stop them, but I’ve served my time into that mental ward and I’m checking myself out. Now that I’ve had a week to think about things far away from the situation, I initially wanted to call this person out and distance myself. However due to their snooping ways, they did the heavy lifting for me.

 

Cat out of the bag

Yesterday, I was having a chat with my father— a thing we do several times a week— and we were catching up on things. He stays with that person in question, and how he does it is beyond me. Just to give you context, we talked for an hour and that person had come up, because of a gaslighting conversation they had with my Dad. I know this because of how my Dad was speaking about the situation. The words he was using to describe his actions had a negative and malicious vibe to them. I asked him why he was talking in that way because the one thing my father is not is negative or malicious. It turns out, these were the words the other person assigned to his behavior. This tactic is not unfamiliar and I was quick to shed light on what she was trying to do.

Toxic people will do anything to shift any type of blame onto their opponent. They assigned intent on your actions even if what you’re trying to do is benign or benevolent. They do this to make you feel insecure, thus depending more on them. This made me furious. It’s one thing to treat me like shit. But if you do that to either of my parents, we have an issue. So anyway, we talked about it and I gave anecdotal evidence to highlight her manipulative behavior. It wasn’t more than 8-10 minutes of our conversation, but it turns out to be the best thing to ever happen.

Breakup Email

Last night, as I was drifting off to sleep I got an email titled “This Morning…”. I opened it and it started by the person admitting they were eavesdropping on the conversation with my dad and heard all of the names I called her. She then talks about how I trashed her family, and how I’m no longer welcome in her home. After reading it, I laughed out loud. First of all, I did not call her any names. Second, what I said was the truth, if she has a problem with that, she should definitely self-reflect.

To be honest, I’ve never felt more happier about being “broken up” with. The funny thing is I know she was trying to hurt me, but truthfully, she set me free! Thanks to her, I no longer have to play into her crazy mind games and manipulative tactics. I feel like the last year has prepped me to handle these types of situations with ease. I have to give God some blame because my relationship with Him has really impacted how I see myself, the world, and how I move around in it. I’ve come to learn how to control my mind, thoughts, and feelings. Balancing those things are so important and disciplining myself to do the work has been well worth the discomfort!

Free to do what I want

So in a nutshell, I’m free of the dysfunction and nonsense that once plagued me. Prior to this, I tended to take a long-suffering, obligation approach to certain family members. Not anymore. This experience —along with many others— has shown me how to remain calm in even the most turbulent of storms. I didn’t share this story to crap all over my family member. No, I still love her and hope she gets some help. I shared it to shed a light on dealing with toxic family members. So here are a few takeaways:

-Be present in your life, take care and value yourself

-Don’t take the blame for what manipulators do, this isn’t your fault

– You are not responsible for anyone but yourself

– How others perceive you is their problem not yours

– Don’t allow others to assign intent to your actions

– As long as you’re not hurting others, be yourself!

 

With my newfound freedom, I am writing more than ever before. My creative thoughts are buzzing and I could not be happier. The last thing I will share is an article— which you can find here —about manipulative people, how they work, how to spot their tactics, and what you can do to set boundaries. I was going to share it with the final “creeper” piece (I probably still will), but it’s just such an excellent read and does a wonderful job explaining the shit-show that is a manipulative person. Anyway, I hope you enjoy the reading! I’ll finish off the rest of the “creeper saga” next week. But before I got, I want to leave you with this little number to enjoy. Cheers!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taryn Learns a Lesson Pt. 2

Safety is such a subjective matter. Everyone has their own interpretation of safety. For me, autonomy has always been at the center of my core. Personal safety, however, has not been something I’ve had to define for myself, even as a woman. Before this incident, I was certainly in the minority, as I never really questioned my safety. I had always adhered to practical rules for traveling solo. That and I have a very muscular 55 lb border collie mix who has no problem voicing her dislike for people. Even as a pup, she challenged a 120 lb pit mix when it came running down the street to attack us on a nighttime stroll. At 36 lbs during this event, she held her own, only sustaining a surface wound on her backside. I was more traumatized than she. But anyway, I’m off topic.

Saturday Morning

I woke up, like any other day, and Abbey and I went for a decent-sized walk. I felt like I owed it to her for the other day. On that walk, I called my dad. We chatted for a bit and caught up. He was in Maryland for the funeral of his great uncle. There, he was re-introduced to family members he hadn’t been in contact with since his childhood. I remember hearing his disbelief and awe about family problems that sent a rift between his grandfather and great uncle. He had enjoyed catching up with cousins and the like and lamented about how much time had passed for this to occur. That moment stuck with me as I realized how important it was to let things go and not to harbor grudges.

Anyway, I had told him about the second conversation I had with Brett and how it was not my cup of tea. I then thanked him for being such a great male role model for me and demonstrating healthy boundaries. One of the things I had come to ascertain from my experience with Brett was how easy it is for an unassuming woman to fall prey to his creepy advances. Fortunately for me, I was not interested or charmed by his behavior and I made sure my actions and words matched that sentiment. Still, the observationalist in me could see the parallels of overbearing behavior being misconstrued as loving or amorous.

Society does not help in matters such as these. Older men are often regarded as wise, smarter than the average idiot 20-something male, and the age stigma has certainly decreased over time. That and I’ve observed women in their 20s abandon their sense of self when receiving the attention of a seemingly well-established older male. Fortunately for me, my bullshit detector is in full form, so Brett’s charming facade had more cracks than a broken mirror.

Again, I can’t take full credit as my relationship with my father really informs my relationships with members of the opposite sex. I’m fortunate in the sense that I can talk to my dad about anything and we have a very candid friendly relationship. As I’ve grown older, it’s only improved. So after an hour-long chat, Abbey was happy with the prolonged outdoor adventure, so she and I retreated back into the condo.

I always feel like…

Maybe it’s the writer in me, or maybe it’s because I enjoy being alone, I am very good about observing my surroundings– even if I don’t heed my internal warnings. Back in the condo, I sink into this retro leather recliner, which is positioned by the window and balcony door. I should mention that the condo is a studio, so I was sitting by the only window. Since we are right by one of the exits, I keep the blinds partially open so that people on the outside can’t see us. That and it provides enough cover for me to creep on passerby’s undetected. For the first time in 28 days, I saw a shadowy figure outside the window that was seemingly not going away.

…somebody’s watching me

Intrigued, I was curious and annoyed by the person lurking by my window. I had grown accustomed to people walking by on weekends, but this was different, as the person was there for a few minutes. I cautiously proceed to the window, careful not to give away my position as I peeked through the blinds. To my dismay and creeped out vibes, it was Brett, standing there with his phone. A few seconds later, my phone beeps He was texting me while trying to nonchalantly peer through my window. At this point, chills were going down my spine as I open the message. Why the fuck was he by my window?

Creepy Texts

“Hey, how are you doing? You seemed a little off last night. Wanna hang out?” was the message on my phone. Again, I had just met this dude, and I’m 100% sure, I kept my cool when leaving. If there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s being a chameleon, so his constant comments were absurd.

“Sorry if I was obnoxious,” again adhering to the stupid social contract. “I can’t. I’m packing to leave. I will let you know if things change.”

“It’s fine, I videotaped you and put it on YouTube,” was his response.

My heart sank to my feet as I was utterly thrown and disturbed by the comment. Who the fuck says that and in what world did he think that was ok? He was still by my window and at that moment, I felt stuck in the condo. Ignoring the text, I decided to ignore the situation. This dude can’t bother me unless I engage. Still, I had no desire to leave the tiny studio because he was lurking about. I remember feeling a sense of dread and frustration.

I hate when people intrude on my space, especially when it’s unwelcomed. That and there was literally no reason for him to be on my side of the condo. The rest of the day proceeded with him, sending more texts asking to hang out and apologizing for the YouTube comment. So clearly he recognized how inappropriate that text was. I ignored them all. The fact that he kept texting even though I had explicitly said I would let him know really pissed me off.

If this were a normal situation, I would have called him out and told him to fuck off. But seeing as the complex was nearly vacant and the only other people I knew were away, I just didn’t want to risk it. At this point, it was clear something was off with the dude, and I didn’t have any real recourse should he go off the deep end. For the first time in my 29 years of existence, I realized that my safety was compromised and it was a disturbing feeling.

Condo Barricade

Come Sunday morning, I basically barricaded myself in the condo. I didn’t want to run into him, even for a second. I was so paranoid that instead of taking Abbey out to pee using our normal route, I used the entrance a few feet from the condo. This required me to pick her up, carry her over the grated flooring (she refused to walk it, and I can’t blame her, it would’ve shredded her paw pads), let her do her business, and then carry her back over the floor. Neither of us enjoyed this process, but I didn’t want to take any chances.

Around 1 pm, I was fed up feeling like a prisoner and I really needed to get some work done. I made the decision to drive down the mountain to go to Starbucks. My car was located in the downstairs garage. It was literally a 45-second walk, there’s no way I’d run into Brett. Still, I had this sinking feeling that I could not shake. I made the decision to ignore my apprehension, weighing the odds to go through with it. There’s no way I’d let some creepy asshole deter me from going on about my day. I said a quick goodbye to Abbey and then tiptoed down the hallway. As I opened the door to the stairwell, before I could get a look at the figure before me, a pair of arms pulled me into an embrace. It was Brett.

Stupid Stairwells

There are no words in the English dictionary to describe how it feels when someone– who is bigger and stronger– puts their body on yours when you don’t want them to. I hate being touched without permission. I especially hate it when it’s a person that I had been actively trying to avoid. My first instinct was to pull away. As I began to squirm, he hugged me tighter and harder, stifling my attempts to free myself. I could not get out. Until that moment, I had never felt so physically powerless in my life. This was not a friendly hug, and I knew exactly what he was trying to convey– control and dominance. He succeeded, as I went limp, understanding that I didn’t have the strength to fight him off. I just stood there, waiting for him to be done.

“Hi!!” He screeched, finally letting me go.

“I don’t like hugs,” I mumble not making eye contact, pushing past him to head to my car. I was spooked and wanted to get away. He clearly did not get the hint as he followed me to my car.

“Where are you going?” he asked

“Coffee shop,” I muttered.

“Do you need a printer? I have one. You can come up,” he said as he walked me to my car. “Is this your car?”

Shit, I thought. Now this fucker knows my vehicle and basically every important detail about my whereabouts.

“I’m fine, thanks,” I mutter, trying to get into my car.

“You seem standoffish as opposed to the other night,” he mentions. “Don’t forget to stop by and say goodbye before you leave. You have to promise me you’ll stop by. I’ll find you if you don’t.”

At this point, I was flabbergasted. Keep in mind, this is Sunday afternoon. I met this dude Friday late morning and had only 2 conversations. For him to be so pushy was insane to me. That and I was still trying to deal with the ambush that just happened. What stood out to me the most was his word choice. Even though he tried to appear “friendly”, everything was a command, order, or a threat.

“Yeah, I’ll stop by,” I say in a frustrated tone. “I need to go.”

“Ok, no need to be pushy,” he fake-jokingly retorted with his hands in the air as if I was overreacting.

At this point, I didn’t care about how he perceived my behavior. I got into my car and went down the mountain. I decided to shove the encounter to the back of my mind. I had work to do and still needed to finish cleaning and packing. Still, I couldn’t help but think about his comments about saying goodbye. I decided that I would stop by, but on my terms and I would have the control.

To be continued…

 

Taryn Sets Boundaries

Ok, so I know I still need to write about my birthday. However, I left my camera and I wanted to upload a photo for the post, so it’ll happen sometime soon! Anywho, I’ve recently made the unsettling discovery that I’m not always the best advocate for myself when it comes to respecting my time/boundaries. In fact, I can be a bit of a doormat both professionally and personally.

 

Fairy Godmother syndrome

I don’t know exactly when, but at some point, I made the choice to help other people with their goals, problems, dreams, etc. If you needed help with something, I was your girl! Bibbidi-bobbidi-boo, I’d turn on my neurotic superpowers to make sure whatever you needed appeared as if all I had to do was wave a magic wand. Sure, that sounds like a nice character trait, however, I went way overboard, leaving very little in the tank when it came to taking care of myself.

 

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The first step is admission

Maybe focusing on other people’s stuff was easier than admitting that I was avoiding my own stuff, but, fortunately for me, I had a painful experience during a recent wedding where I had to be a maid of honor, forcing me to take a good hard look at how I prioritized myself and others in my life (One day, I’ll sit down and fully explain, but I’m letting some time go by for processing purposes). To summarize quickly, I had overlooked my own personal needs to uphold someone else’s unrealistic expectations. Like a hand backslapping you on a cold winter’s day, I was confronted with an unsettling truth: I turned myself into a doormat and I have myself to blame.

 

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Out with the old, in with the boundaries

I’ve learned how to assert the word “no” and it’s been glorious! At work, I’m refusing projects that are either too low in compensation or when the project is too demanding. I’m no longer answering emails that are outside of my working hours or arrangements I’ve made with clients. Long story short, I’m doubling down on my worth. I have noticed that it makes me less agreeable (something that I used to covet), but it has weeded out the emotional soul-sucking aspects of my professional life. Setting boundaries also helped me to discover that when I was dreading or avoiding something, it was actually my subconscious trying to let me know that my boundaries were being disrespected. Now, when my gut is telling me to abandon ship, I listen.

 

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Taryn’s got a brand new bag

I have to admit, asserting boundaries have been so helpful in my crazy little world. I’m learning to put myself first, hence my traipsing across the US. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that initially, this process felt very alien to me, but with a little practice, I’m improving over time! It is a work in progress, like a muscle I’m exercising to build endurance. Creatively, this opens me up to really hunker down and work on my projects. With that being said, I am enjoying the changes I’m making and am looking forward to the process, uncomfortable or not!