In 2010 I devised the Cleaver Scale for measuring the degree of codependency an individual may suffer from:
One of my new heroes is a fictional character named Cathy Jamison who is the main character for a new television show: The Big C. I like Cathy because she is living the end of her life not with grace but with complete and utter selfish intention. Selfish intention is something most women have trouble dealing with and owning for themselves. The writers for the show have done a great job showing how Cathy was once extremely co-dependent and “selfless”. Now she’s torching a couch she never liked, sleeping with a hot young man, experimenting with drugs and leaving a dead marriage. Good for her, says I. Too bad it took a terminal diagnosis to move her along the path.
I moved myself along the path over a decade ago and I lost a few friends along the way. But I made more and truer friends since then. Moving from a place of co-dependence to self care has been hard and it’s a day by day thing which takes pointed and thoughtful effort on my part. But I still take it in the chin from people who think my acts of self-care are selfish. I’ll never forget the gasp emoted from one of my nursing peers when I explained to her I went to Mexico for two weeks every year and didn’t take my kids. She clicked her tongue at me when I further explained that I take them because the idea of entertaining a couple of teenagers didn‘t sound like much of a vacation to me. I could read the words “Bad Mother” written on her right eye and “Selfish” over the left as she chided me with that infuriating tongue clicking head shake women do at misbehaving toddlers, unfaithful husbands and other mother’s who practice self-care.
Fuck that. It’s not like they are four year olds and I leave them alone at my house with a big box of cheerios and a credit card. Hell, Wally would have loved it if I left him home with a credit card last winter.
So why is it so hard for some women to grasp this idea of “self-care”? It drives me bonkers to think how far women have come from the chattel of men to being the emotional chattel of one another. We are positively misogynistic towards one another at times. Maybe I notice this because professionally I’m mostly surrounded by women and the majority of them are so profoundly co-dependent they feel guilty if they buy themselves a new pair of shoes before they check in to make sure no one else in the family needs footwear. Maybe this kind of behavior raises the hackles on my neck and makes me stabby because I’ve spent six figures re-educating myself so I’m no longer a raging co-dependent but only incidentally co-dependent.
I’m not a clinical psychologist or even a mental health professional but I believe a scale measuring co-dependence is called for. It would be like the Kinsey Scale which was developed by Dr. Kinsey to assess a person‘s sexual orientation at any given point in time. I am smitten with this idea so I give you:
The Cleaver Scale
The measuring tool which attempts to describe the depth of a person’s co-dependent behavior at any given point in their lives.
0) If someone needs something you are there, you are sleep deprived, hungry and naked. And you spend most of your life alternating between apologizing for sucking really hard at being a human being and apologizing for the human race’s terrible behavior. You’re also the angriest person on the planet but no one knows this because you are so nice all the time.
1) If someone needs something you are there, you are sleep deprived, and often hungry but you draw the line at naked. When you aren’t apologizing for everyone’s bad behavior you are the second angriest person on the planet and prone to saying things like: “Well isn’t that just so special.” and “Fine then. Just fine.”
2) If someone needs something you can say no but are apt to change your mind when you see their crestfallen face. You’ve been known to go without sleep, food and clothing for the sake of someone else. You’re generally happy when you aren‘t trying to shake off self-blame for the ills of everyone in your life or trying to hold your temper in check. You say things like: “Don’t mind me, it’ll be alright.”
3) If people need you, they can find you and usually you will say yes but you’ve been known to draw a strict line in the sand despite woeful sad moony eyes in the direction of your firm denial. A denial which often fills you with a deep guilt. You’re deeply content with the person you are even though every once in a while you try to own problems that don’t belong to you. Your tagline: “No, sorry can’t be there for you.”
4) You learned the power of no as a young adult and it hasn’t failed you yet. If people really need something you can manage to find a way to make it happen for them but only if you are not going to be sleep deprived, hungry or naked for long periods. You are happy and content with your life 90% of the time. The other 10% of the time you allowed yourself to be coerced into doing something you didn’t want to do. It usually involves a social occasion with people you can’t stand and those people are usually between 0 and 2’s on the Cleaver Scale. You are fond of saying: “I’m happy to help you, but I can’t this minute, is next Tuesday ok?”
5) You could write a book on setting boundaries and there are no gray areas in your life. Everyone knows where they stand with you 100% of the time. Your life is your own and if you are sleep deprived, hungry or naked it is because these states somehow serve a greater purpose in your life. You spend a lot of time wondering why people are angry at you when really all you are doing is leading your life exactly how you want. Your catch phrase is: “Are you high? Why would I want to do that for you?”
Too bad after all that damn therapy I’m a 3-4 with the secret devilish wish to be a 5.