Friday, August 01, 2008

Obsess no more

It seems every other week one of my friends are complaining about leaks -- the information kind. That's why I keep a public journal. Not everyone can do that because of their jobs or because they just prefer to keep their lives and actions off the gossip fence. One thing I have learned is that the only way to keep a secret -- or your life private -- is to tell no one. The chances of leaks increases with the amount of people who know, especially people who like gossip or a good cat fight. The worst offenders are usually the ones we trust the most -- and family. I learned that the hard way and it's why I make everything public. When I want to keep a secret, I put it in my paper journal or in my password locked private journal on my laptop.

Think someone is leaking information because private details keep popping up in conversation or on someone else's journal or just over the gossip fence with a strong wind blowing in your direction? It's time to look close to home, the closer the better. The thing about families is that not everyone will agree with everything you say or see things the way you do. They might not be secure enough to tell you to your face but the information will leak out somewhere to someone. I've seen plenty of private details leaked at parties or during a conversation with a virtual stranger or casual acquaintance because everyone needs to talk to someone who will listen to them, someone who won't judge and who isn't obsessed with people, places and/or things.

When people don't feel secure in a relationship, no matter what they say out loud, they look for a safe environment and a friendly ear. My best and oldest friend and I were having dinner with her husband of five years and she had to leave because her daughter called and needed her help. Her husband and I stayed to finish dinner and we promised to bring her dinner home for her to finish. Her husband and I have known each other since high school and we've always been friendly, but I was surprised when he told me about an obsession she hadn't mentioned to me. I thought she got over this particular obsession a long time ago, which is probably why she didn't tell me about it.

For years, she and another woman have been at odds. The woman moved on and didn't give my friend a second thought but she just couldn't let go. Any time she could manage it, she made veiled comments at parties and gatherings the woman either attended or would be sure to hear what had been said. Her sons usually told me what happened when I saw or talked to them, but to hear it from her husband was something new. He loves her but he doesn't agree with her obsession and, after hearing the story of what happened from someone other than his wife, who is carrying a huge grudge over something that is mostly in her head, I knew things weren't going well despite how happy they were otherwise.

I remember the incident very clearly and over the years I have done my best to convince my friend that she needed to see things from a more neutral perspective, but she wouldn't -- or couldn't. She had convinced herself she was the injured party. She had told the story so many times, adding details and twisting the facts around until it made her feel better, but it wasn't the truth. I knew I had to say something and I didn't have long to wait. It is her favorite topic, one she keeps in well oiled order.

Without telling on her friends and family, I reminded her that I knew the truth and we discussed it. She got angry. She didn't want to hear the truth. She had too much invested in her conflated version of events. But we've been friends for a very long time and we've had disagreements before and we're still friends because she knows, as I do, that no argument is worth the loss of a good friend. When I got home I sent her a photocopy of my journal from that time to remind her of what really happened. At first she was angry, but eventually she softened and agreed that she had taken things too far.

I understand her anger because the woman made her see something she didn't want to see. She had put so much energy and time into denying the truth that she wasn't willing to let it go so easily. This situation is not unique and it's not rare. Several friends and some of my very extended and far flung family have been through similar situations and I've seen it so many times in blogs. Some people love a good cat fight and others need to get some distance from the obsessed person because they suspect there is another version of events that is closer to the truth. At the core, obsessions turn the truth on its head and inside-out to make the obsessed feel good about themselves because in their heart they fear someone will find out the truth they don't want to face. Like I said, the only secret you get to keep is the one you tell no one.

Obsessions are dangerous and divisive and have a way of sending loved ones for shelter and a friendly listener.

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