One of the trendier debates in the psychology world these days is “nature vs. nurture”. When some guy goes crazy and opens fire on a crowd of tourists, whose fault is it? Is it nature: some chemical imbalance, some deficiency in the brain, or is it nurture: Mommy abandoned him, Daddy spanked him too hard, Uncle Steve got a little too friendly? The debate rages on.
I used to date a man who was completely self-centered. He didn’t come off that way at first, of course–they never do. His problems were always the most important thing in the world, and almost everything was a problem. Whether he’d forgotten something at work, or some person was too slow crossing the street, it was all worthy of a full-scale blow-up . And I’m talking the works: screaming, swearing, hitting things (although thankfully not me!). Everyone loves a scapegoat, and soon enough, I became the reason for all this man’s problems. I tried being understanding. I tried taking a firm hand with him, letting him know he couldn’t treat me that way. I even tried anticipating situations that may become issues and circumventing them before they happened. Nothing worked.
I loved him and didn’t want to give up on the relationship. So over time, I changed. I lost confidence. I was on edge all the time. I never knew what his mood was going to be like, or what would set him off next. I never knew when I was going to have to defend myself against some ludicrous accusation. For the two years I was with this man, I never wrote a word of fiction. I rarely exercised, and gained some weight for the first time in my life. Dinner was often a bag of potato chips or a bowl of popcorn. I could barely drag myself out of bed in the morning, and I got headaches and stomachaches with a vengeance.
Now, am I blaming my ex for my lack of writing and exercising? Not at all. I’m a big fan of personal responsibility, so I accept that the only fault was mine. But I do think my environment played a huge role. All of my energy, both creative and otherwise, was expended trying to predict his behavior, meet his needs, and avoid his outrages. When it came to my own goals, I had nothing left to give.
For me to write well when I’m in a relationship, I need to be in a partnership with someone who’s understanding about the time commitment writing requires. Someone who is genuinely interested and excited about what I’m trying to do. But overall, I need calm. I need peace so I can spend time focusing on my goals without worrying about what horrible drama is coming up next.
Another failed relationship was with a man who was completely ambivalent towards me. He acted like he loved me, so I believed he did. But whenever I started thinking that our relationship had potential, he would drop some bomb on me. I’d pull back, and then he would chase me. I spent a lot of time agonizing over his feelings, but this time I did write. A lot of crappy, forlorn poetry. It’s not much use to me now.
There must be writers out there who use pain and trauma as a jumping off point for creating works of art. We hear the cliche of the tortured poet so often that it must be true.
I’m interested in hearing your opinion about the impact of environments. It doesn’t have to be about writing or fitness–I imagine any goal can be affected. Dated any drama kings or queens? Share your stories here!
Making the Cut, Day Three: Managed to stick to the meal plan in spite of the bad day, which is a minor miracle for me. Usually that’s when I get weak and give in. Bit sore and stiff, but dinner (poached dill salmon with dill sauce) was very tasty. Still didn’t drink enough water, but I’m guzzling it today…honest.
To bed at: 10:15 pm
Awake at: 6:20 am
Novel pages written: One. Didn’t do too well today…had to craft a scene that is heavy on description and imagery, and that doesn’t come easily for me. I’m more of a dialogue and action type.
Exercise: Jillian’s plan, day four.