All or nothing deconstruction

Are you an all-or-nothing person?” my therapist asked me, a few weeks ago.

I had to think about it.

I wasn’t sure.

Former evangelicals might deconstruct the tenets and practices of the particular flavor of Christianity they left behind.

Activists and social critics might deconstruct the “standard” version of history which justifies the structures of a civilization they want to change.

Deconstructing means taking the thing apart. Looking at its components. Asking what it really means. Asking if it is really true. And examining its effects: past, present, and (potential) future.

I’ve spent a lot of the last 9 months trying to deconstruct my own marriage. Taking it apart, breaking it into pieces, examining each one, trying to understand what it is and what it does and why it’s there.

I started with two big sorting containers: My fault and His fault.

I kept finding overlap. I added more containers: Maybe my fault but also his and Mostly his fault but I wasn’t helping and Definitely all his fault, the bastard and Definitely my fault but what else was I supposed to do and What the actual fuck I have no idea.

The more containers I add, the more meaningless the whole thing becomes.

Deconstructing my marriage leaves me sleepless and confused and spinning in circles.

So in my saner moments, I settle for deconstructing myself.

I need help with it.

It’s difficult to see yourself as you are.

“Are you an all-or-nothing person?” my therapist asked me, a few weeks ago.

I had to think about it.

And the more I thought about it, the more I saw it.

When I love things, I love them wholeheartedly. (Books, trees, dancing, the ocean.)

When I don’t care about things, I don’t care about them at all. (Politics, sports, astrology.)

This trait applies to the people in my life, as well.

When I care about someone—when I let them get close—it’s an all-or-nothing thing. I don’t let many people in that close, probably because I know I’ve got zero boundaries there.

I need them to be people who are trustworthy and will not lie to me and would not take advantage of me. If I am for you, I am all for you. I will bury the bodies you drag in and ask no questions.

I’m not saying this is a good trait.

In the pile of things filed under Definitely all his fault, the bastard there is a piece called Questioning Things I Once Trusted Completely.

It’s not a bad thing. It’s a gift, actually. Some things need to be questioned. Sometimes trust needs to be withheld until it is earned.

But this gift is also a knife and I’m not sure how to wield it. Sometimes I twist it around and stab myself: Am I really an honest person? What if I am nothing but a judgy bitch and I just can’t see it? Am I completely closed-off and selfish? Do I expect too much of everyone?

Sometimes I poke and slash at people around me, when they have done nothing to deserve it: Are my friends secretly unhappy with me? Do they really love me or are they pretending? Does everyone harbor secret hatred toward me? Do they wish they were free of me? Am I wanted or am I tolerated?

The potential answers scare me, so most of the time I don’t ask the questions aloud.

But maybe I should.

Maybe I should bring it all out into the light.

Maybe I should be vulnerable enough to say, “My life is upside-down and that might be my own fault and I don’t know what to trust and I crave reassurance.”

Maybe it would be okay to say, “I took a lot of things for granted and it didn’t work out the way I thought and now I am so unsure that I can’t take anything for granted and I need to ask stupid questions and I might need to do it over and over again for a while.”

Maybe that would be okay.

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