Chewed Up and Spit Out

by Mari cross posted from her blog Mari’s Muses

Some people won’t be gotten along with.

It’s not that you aren’t trying hard enough.

It’s not that you can’t be gotten along with.

It’s not that there’s something wrong with you.

Some people choose to not be gotten along with.

* * * * *

Last year my boss got after me because she felt that I wasn’t congenial enough.

This translates to an unfortunate inability to read people’s minds and erase their offenses.

Some of my coworkers complained to my boss because they didn’t like the way I did something. I bent over backwards to do what they wanted as soon as they told me they didn’t like what I was doing. And then they complained to my boss again because I wasn’t accommodating enough. It was all very petty — I can understand if I was making a serious error, but it was simply a matter of personal preference. It should not have been a big enough issue that it needed to be brought to the boss. Twice.

The hysterical part about it was that I did exactly what they asked me to do the second they asked me to do it.

My boss told me that I needed to be more accommodating. And she told me that I need to “make an effort to get along with people” and suggested that I talk to my coworkers more and tell them about myself and my life.

Several months later, when a couple of my coworkers started asking questions about my life, I thought, “What the hay. The boss told me to converse with with.” So I answered their questions.

And I got thrown in the wood chipper.

I got chewed up and spit out.

They told me that I shouldn’t speak to my family. They told me that it was immoral for me to continue to speak to my family because they used to treat me badly. They asked me why I would do such a thing and then they told me that it was not because I was a nice person. Their words implied that they felt that somehow, I was not worthy enough to have a family and I don’t get to have things that everybody else gets to have — like a mother — and I need to just deal with it because I will never be worthy enough to have those things.

After listening to them for a few minutes, I stopped talking. I turned my chair away from them. I looked at my computer screen. And I never told them another word about any of my personal history or what is going on in my life.

Honestly, who would?

* * * * *

Fast-forward to today.

I was sitting there when all of a sudden, everybody else in the room started talking about what a wonderful person my coworker is because she has dealt with her horrific family situation so well.

And I was like, “?????”

The difference between her and me is that her horrific family situation is more mainstream. Divorced parents. Having visitation with an alcoholic parent and hating every second of it. Calling her mother when her world turned upside down and good ol’ mom’s response was “Too bad for you. Have a nice life.”

Honestly, what is the difference? Abuse is abuse. Abandonment is abandonment. Regardless of why or how it happens, overcoming it is heroic, no matter what.

What makes my coworker’s situation any more heroic than mine? She did what she was supposed to do — she grew up, she left, she got married and had kids and got a 9-5 job. She lives the dream.

I did the opposite of what I was supposed to do. I was supposed to stay. I was supposed to get married and have babies. I was supposed to stay at home and cook dinner and homeschool those babies. I did none of that. But what I did do was I got out. I started to learn about living, as opposed to merely existing. I gathered up every ounce of ambition I had and I figured it out. I figured out that those philosophies were severely skewed. I figured out that what I was told about God and people and life in general wasn’t true. I figured out school. I figured out making friends and finding work. I figured out how to get my car out of a snowbank and how to change a tire. I figured out bills and finances and insurance and taxes. I figured out a lot of stuff. And I figured it all out on my own.

And somehow, in spite of all that, I’m not worthy enough to have the basic things that everybody else in the world has the right to have. Like a family. Love. Acceptance. Respect.

Comments open below

Read everything by Mari!

Mari is the middle of 5 kids — and the only girl — in a male-dominant, semi-quiverfull, rather patriarchal homeschooling family. She was raised in a patriarchal church and most of her social network as a child consisted of children of patriarchal or quiverfull families. This is the story of how she was sucked into the patriarchal/quiverfull belief system, and how she was lovingly (and in some cases, not so lovingly!) escorted out. Read her blog at:

The Spiritual Abuse Survivor Blogs Network

NLQ Recommended Reading …

Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment‘ by Janet Heimlich

Quivering Daughters‘ by Hillary McFarland

Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement‘ by Kathryn Joyce


About Suzanne Calulu
  • Joy

    Mari, you ARE worthy to have a family, love, acceptance, and respect.

  • Edie Moore McGee

    Sometimes it’s better not to share too much. Of course, I realize your idiot boss insisted, so I’m not faulting you one bit. But no one knows our lives better than we do, and I think the vast majority of us ARE capable of figuring out the right response.

    My marriage fell apart a few years back and “ended,” or so I thought at the time, with my husband in the back of a police car and with me seeking a restraining order. It turns out it was undiagnosed mental illness. It turns out it could be medicated, vastly changing the person he seemed to have become at the time. It turns out that after a lot of counseling — and prayer — and with the total support of my noonabusive family (I was not raised in abuse at all, and my own daddy was a darling), I took him back. Our marriage since has been pretty good and is only getting better over time.

    But, my dear, you would not believe (or maybe you would) the ration of shit I recieved from “friends” who didn’t know me that well. All the assumptions. All the innuendo. All the intolerance towards mental illness. All the cluelessness. And the big fat need to run their big fat mouths when all the people who really knew me and really cared about me and my daughter — including my divorce lawyer! — were totally supportive

    • Laura Turner

      Oh, Mari, this sounds EXACTLY like my situation at work. It’s really incredible how similar our situations are. I mean almost down to the last detail of how we are being treated and what our bosses have told us to do. I have coworkers who are absent multiple times each week, and the attitude is “poor so and so.” I pick up their work without making a fuss or even getting noticed, and then when I’m legitimately sick, I get attitude for going home. After three years, I have finally figured out what is going on. Because you and I were able to rise above our circumstances, come out strong, not show neediness, maintain our self-confidence, they feel threatened. Insecure people like to bully strong people and pity those they deem weaker. I seem to be a person that others either love or hate. I finally figured out that it’s the insecure people that hate me for absolutely no reason other than I am confident and strong. I was am wired that way! And
      I think you probably are too. It’s hard to work in such an unaccepting environment. Mine fluctuates. I hope yours improves, or that you are able to find another job soon.

  • SAO

    My guess is that there are a few things going on here:
    1) people don’t like to believe that really bad things exist, so they assume them away or assume that the teller is wildly exaggerating. This a lot more comforting than the truth. So, this is about the comfort of the co-worker, not about you. Rather than sharing with people you aren’t sure will be supportive, find some neutral thing to say, like, “my childhood/relationship with my family is/was difficult and it’s painful to talk about.” If they prate about the value of talking it out, say, “Indeed, I do talk to my therapist/minister/support group,” then close the conversation with “but thank you for your concern.” Nosy people should just get polite repetitions of the same. “But I just told you that discussing this is painful for me.” The more neutral and firm your tone (as opposed to annoyed) the more it will be obvious to everyone else that the other person is being obnoxious. If it’s the fourth or fifth demand for confidences, try a pause, then “Wow! Did you not hear what I said? I find this too painful to talk about.”

    2) My guess is that your experiences have made you defensive, less-than-trusting, or possibly slightly aggressive when challenged. You will have an easier time if you can find the shell that lets you react to people assuming that they are well-intentioned, clueless, and tone-deaf to subtle signal (ie lacking in social skills and to be pitied) and responding to them with polite, friendly and firm conversation enders, than if you get annoyed or defensive. You may have a right to be angry and I’m not suggesting suppressing your anger, but that you will reach a happier place if you don’t care what people who don’t matter think and when you’re there, you won’t get angry at their cluelessness.

    Lastly, I wonder if you project your feelings onto your co-workers. My take is they are clueless, trying to fit your experience into their world where abuse doesn’t take place, rather than feeling that you aren’t worthy of love, respect, or a family. You are and you really have to convince yourself of that. Some people find daily self-affirmations useful.

    I’m a little socially tone-deaf and I’ve said clueless things or stuck my foot in my mouth more than once in my life. When my sister was in a relationship that was controlling and rapidly heading towards abuse, I missed all the signs and gave her horrendous advice because I didn’t understand anything. (Luckily she got out despite my advice).

    So, I have a plea to appreciate the extent to which the world is full of people like me, socially tone-deaf, occasionally monumentally clueless, but well-intentioned and good-hearted. Please cut us some slack. I’d love to have a high social IQ, but I’m in my 50s and I don’t think it’s going to happen.