Just Answer the Question
Sometimes I forget that I am living with a man who is not normal. For a moment I think that we can have a conversation, and then he responds in a completely irrational way, and I am back to my life.
It finally occurs to me that the analogy that fits his understanding of the world is that he sees the world through a circus mirror. Everything is distorted. He is incapable of even recognizing reality, because for him there is none—everything is twisted and contorted, and, unfortunately, he is the only one who sees things through that mirror. His vision of reality is implicitly twisted. Not only can he not see the truth, but no one can even know what he is thinking or perceiving (his truth), since the distortion is only within him.
The other day I asked him if he had someone come to service the air conditioner. That should have been a simple conversation; instead, it touched off a tirade.
“Don’t leave me notes telling me what to do,” he yelled at me, already red in the face. Then, without a pause, he turned the tables, and rushed at me with accusations: “Did you call your plumber? He didn’t fix the bathtub. Did you call him? Did you tell him to come back to fix the caulking? Did you?”
I tried to answer him over his tirade, “I called him and left him two messages.” But as I was trying to explain, I realized that he was not interested in what I had to say; moreover, he was not going to let me know about the air conditioner, so I walked up the stairs, defeated. He wanted to hear himself berate me; he did not want to listen to an explanation.
He complained that I leave him notes with things to do. Well, we don’t talk since whatever I say is just a lead-in to a rant at me, so I leave notes, how else are we supposed to “communicate”? In fact, he has even asked me, through his lawyer, to leave him notes telling him where I am going with our daughters or about their different activities. Some notes are good and some notes are bad; if it’s the information he wants, it’s good; if it’s for me, then it’s bad.
It had seemed like a harmless question. But, nothing here is harmless.
What am I afraid of? That he will yell at me. Unbelievably, it’s that simple. Nothing more than that (I think); to maintain a modicum of peace and quiet in the house, in the family, in the soul. Has it been worth it? As I sit here thinking about it, it seems such a petty concern, just ask him what you need to know and to hell with his yelling, don’t let it bother you. I even imagine telling him to shut up and answer the question. But it doesn’t work like that. I have not built up immunity to his screams; I have developed a severe allergy to them and try to avoid them as much as possible. And no, it has not been worth it. My silence has been devastating to my psyche, my self-confidence, my very sense of self and my understanding of the world.
But even when I finally did answer back with a “stop it,” he would keep going, ignoring my pleas and hands over my ears. My shouts of “I’m not listening to you” simply interrupted his rant, they did not end it. This is a man who must have the last word, no matter how ugly.
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