As I forget the things that life has taught me, those lessons reach back up and slap me in the face with a wakeup—if you want to call it that—that people don’t change and neither do I. Somehow, I fall back into a seated position with my head heavily in my hands, and I shake it back and forth in wonder at how life has trespassed across some unwanted path, yet again.
It sounds depressing, but when you step away from it, it’s not. It’s just a part of life. It’s the part that gets you to a better spot, a better place. It realigns you and your movements. At least, to me, that’s what those lessons are for. Without them, I think it would be hard to look at life in retrospect and see where you’ve been and where you want to go…but I digress.
It’s constant. Cycling. Circling. Forever bent into a curve that repeats. It’s not always the same, but generally it’s similar. As I roll along, I am faced with the same lessons scattered along the timeline of my existence. They live on a bell curve that pulls me up and down along a path.
The people who wander in and out of my vision, the people who I allow in and out of my subconscious, those who I devote my time and energy to, are occasionally the ones whose behavior throws me back and for some reason, although it’s happened before, it leaves me stunned.
Usually, it’s just life—outside of my home, outside of my personal space, away from the place I hide in safety and curl up to think. But this time, it was different, it was something I couldn’t run from. The reason I am between houses, and left in the panic that only I can push myself to when I have a goal to reach, is because I gave a person I trusted too many chances.
My landlord, who had become a friend.
I hesitate as I write this because I feel like I’m betraying some sort of unspoken trust that is her story, but then I realize that this is my story too.
We all have cycles and tendencies, which I have already touched on. For me, it’s trust and a desire to help someone I see flailing that gets me into trouble. I put myself out too far, I give too much of myself to another, and then feel tremendous guilt when I pull away. It’s always been that way. I can remember my mom getting upset at me for doing it when I was in elementary school.
There are, of course, other Camillia-cycles too, but we’ll leave those where they are.
For this person I rented a room from, her circular path always veers back toward chaos. It’s her bell curve and constant existence. I listened to the stories she told me and in the six months I lived with her, I watched her go from the top of her curve to the bottom, go from new habits to old habits, and in the process, because we lived together, her life became my life.
Near the end, it was just too much for me.
Her spiral, in my opinion, started with a job loss. She wasn’t fired, but was let go because the orthopedic surgeon she worked for was downsizing. That was almost two months ago.
During that first month, I watched her get depressed. I tried to reach out, but the empathy that I can usually muster for those going through rough patches had run out. I couldn’t be there for someone I felt wasn’t there for herself. I started to step back and inevitably got sucked back in.
In the first couple of weeks after she lost her job, I held a little birthday weekend camping trip in Big Sur for myself. She came with me, and we drove up to meet my friends. For me, there were two sides to that weekend—a great little vacation and time to talk to people I hadn’t seen in a while and also one where I saw a side of my housemate that I hadn’t seen before. Without getting too far into it, I don’t think either one of us was happy at the end of our three-day trip.
The trip ended badly. A side-trip to Morro Bay and a fist fight pretty much threw that weekend into my own personal record-book of things I’ve never experienced before. Not to worry, my housemate and I didn’t fight, but there was a fight involving her, that ended with a couple black eyes.
Two nights later, her ex-boyfriend broke into the house and “stole” her wallet. She was dating someone new and her ex started harassing and stalking her, badly. He harassed her friends and family, both via phone calls, text messages, and Facebook. He made threatening remarks and had come into the house un-announced and un-invited several times over the preceeding two weeks.
I had called the cops on him once. That evening when I came home, I finally convinced her to call the cops on him herself. She did, filed a report, and he came back to the house later, so we called the cops again. Turns out, he had a copy of the house key, and that’s how he got into the house.
To me, this is not normal behavior. Not during a relationship, not after a relationship, not ever. This is a series of events that also goes in my record book of things I’ve never experienced before, and to put it frankly, it had nothing to do with me, but because I lived there, I got to be a part of it.
The next morning, I changed the locks. I started to feel weird about making sure the doors were always locked. She said she was working on filing a restraining order against her ex, and she changed her phone number.
After a couple weeks, I thought she started acting really strange. She would come in and out of the house without saying hi to me, she couldn’t look me in the eyes, was always locked in her room. I really started to worry that her depression had spiraled to a point where she needed help, and wondered what I could and should do as a friend.
Then, one night I saw her pull up with her ex. I found out she had been sneaking him into the house and not telling me. The reason for her strange behavior clicked. Obviously, I wasn’t supposed to know—maybe it was the late nights she had spent hiding from him, or all the crazy things I had witnessed, or the cops. Either way, I kind of lost it and let my anger take over. He is a thief-harrasser-stalker-crazy person who had mentally abused her. To hear it from her side, now, “we abused each other. It wasn’t just him.”
Tell me, is this something you want in your house, in your life?
For me the answer is an easy, exasperated, agitated, infuriated “No.”
It’s not safe, he’s volatile and unpredictable, he’s capable of awful abusive things when he doesn’t get his way. And now, I don’t trust the person who I pay rent to so I can live in a room in her house. Wonderful.
So, I gave her notice and got out of there. It was a weird transition. It’s not like I despise her or anything like that. In fact, I feel lighter now that I’m no longer in that situation. And now that I’m on the other side of it, I can see why that’s her cycle. It’s what she’s used to. For her part, she understands why I don’t want to be around it and don’t want her life to be such an intimate part of my life.
“My friends are used to my drama,” she told me.
It’s not the first friendship that drama destroyed for me. It’s not the first time my empathy for someone has run out, or I willfully decided to remove myself from the life of another. For me though, it was the first circumstance like that I’ve ever experienced.
Warning signs for big disasters are always there. I remember taking mental note of the ones that shot red flags up for me and made me think that I wanted to get out of that living arrangement much earlier than the beginning of November. But I didn’t do anything about it, they were just thoughts without action.
And those big diamond-shaped yellow signs that signal danger up ahead, are part of my intuition, but for some reason, I usually choose to ignore them and push through. For some strange, cyclical reason, I feel like human connection and kindness are more important, like a simple human relationship will fix all the problems in life.
It doesn’t. And my stubborn behind always learns things the hard way.