Sarah gave me some homework to do, which is to write a letter to someone who has hurt you. I told her that I feel like I do enough of that on my blog, and should I just print some stuff out, or write a new one? She said, “either or both.”
Here is my response.
When Sarah gave you this assignment, she said to write to someone who’d hurt you. No one ever hurts you more than you. You’ve coasted on charm a lot of your life, but not maliciously… because you didn’t ever have enough bravery to look at the pain roiling underneath… or perhaps that’s unfair. It was so far down that it wouldn’t have occurred to you to look. Covering up all that anger led you to be your own worst enemy, because it left emotional blind spots in your heart and mind that have led you to lie, cheat, and steal just to fight your way to the middle. It’s disheartening watching you fight for the middle when you were born with so much visionary capability. You want to see things as they can be, and not as they are. While most people accuse you of living in the clouds, they do not have the capability to take that idealistic version of the world and implement it. That’s what visionaries do. It hurts to watch you squander all that talent because you are afraid to fail and afraid to succeed in equal measure. So you hide, and it’s one of the most self-destructing things you can do, but you do it anyway, year after year.
You don’t want to succeed because you know that in some ways, succeeding means making some people angry. No one is ever going to live your life for you, and you haven’t had the tools to take criticism, not to care when other people hurt because you are entitled to your own emotional space in the world, just like they are. It is not your job just to let everyone tell you what would be best for you and then to do it.
It’s painful to watch, this looking at you trying to get ahead and holding steadfastly to treading still water, so that not even the current is carrying you. You’ve had great jobs, great relationships… and yet, none of them seem to last as long as you want them to. The way you sabotage yourself is intensely frightening, and I hurt for all the moments that you’ve seen everything slipping away and haven’t had the tools to stop it from happening.
I hurt for every moment you’ve felt small in someone else’s presence, because not thinking that you have as much power in the relationship as someone else has led you to try and make yourself feel even smaller than they ever could’ve. Molehills become mountains and you don’t know what to do… don’t have the tools to know how to react to a molehill so that it stays that way. Every mistake is gargantuan. Every time you hurt someone’s feelings, you scream and cry so much more than times you’ve hurt yourself. Self-preservation has been gone for you a long time, so that when you enter into any relationship, there’s no way for you to handle conflict without always thinking the other person is right and going home and abusing yourself… and when you can’t be angry at the people who deserve it, you’re angry at the people you love. Innocent bystanders are tired of it, and I watch it hurt you because you cannot see the consequences to your actions, and people you love don’t understand why. Don’t understand why you don’t fit in, don’t see as they do, don’t know things that “God, everybody knows THAT.” Your abuse begets abuse to those around you, but not more than yourself, because you are in so much pain.
That abuse takes many forms, but most of it is in your mind. You think you are unworthy, and so you act like it. You don’t go out of your way to interact with people, because the less people you meet, the less room there is for any kind of conflict. You are happiest alone, and that probably hurts most of all, because you also know that you are hilariously funny and people love to be around you. It’s you that doesn’t want to be around them. It has caused you to focus inward to the point that even the people who love you are mystified as to why you don’t want to see them, don’t want to talk, don’t want any interaction past a few instant messages because they cannot see that you do not want to do anything wrong, say anything wrong, give anyone any reason anywhere to doubt that you are perfect. Because if you cannot be perfect and someone points out a flaw, they cannot see the hours of rumination you will attach to a moment they won’t even remember later. People think you are being selfish when they cannot get you to interact, but you rarely feel like it because that requires putting on a mask of massive proportions so that even if someone does point out one of your flaws, they’ll think you’re having a normal reaction because they cannot see all the threads that braid in your subconscience that you will interrogate later.
Your pain is mine and mine is yours, but we approach it quite differently. As the part of your mind that can comment on the rest of you, I see things that you don’t. I see that you are very much enjoyed when you are with other people. I also see that you cannot need them, because eventually, they’ll need you, and you know you’re going to disappoint them, anyway, so you back away without making friends. Being in community with other people is excruciating, because you know that you’ll forget to bring food to the potluck and forget to bring those pencils and water bottles you said you’d bring to choir last week… and in your innermost self, you also know that when you forget those small things, you’ll back away from the community altogether in your shame. You forget why you wanted to join a community in the first place, because it’s easier to be alone. There’s no shame in forgetting something if it only affects you.
You don’t know that people are generally willing to forgive you for forgetting small things, but to you, those are the big things…. or they will be, once you get done with yourself. You can barely handle getting yourself out the door, so it’s not surprising that you feel you continually disappoint others because you won’t engage. No, a Halloween party does not sound fun, because you have to dress up to go to those things and your costume will never be right enough, and you feel you know this up front, so it’s easier to stay home. You know you are not gifted that way, and as a perfectionist, you cannot walk into a party looking like a five-year-old made your costume… although if a five-year-old did make your costume, you would wear it.
Your love is gigantic, but few people know it due to the way you’ve let them down. Because you can only take care of yourself, you have no concept of what it’s like to be able to function in a group of friends who love and take care of each other. You never mean to be selfish, you just don’t want to do anything wrong, so it’s better to do nothing at all. You protect yourself to the point that every day is survival mode, and it’s painful watching your “failure to thrive”condition.
I see you with these glimpses of confidence, but they never last very long. You’re surprised that when you ask a girl to dance, she says yes. You’re surprised when people call you attractive. You’re surprised when people tell you that you are brilliant, because when they do, you know it is a lie of immense proportions. When you told Argo that you were fascinated by her brain, you meant that it was strong and vulnerable, angry and hilarious. That there wasn’t a day that went by that you didn’t think you’d ever met anyone smarter or more capable. When she said that she was fascinated by yours, you felt like an animal in the zoo… because why would someone like that think your brain was equally interesting? It couldn’t be. You missed a compliment of massive proportions due to your own unworthiness, and you miss them a lot, from everyone, due to the exact same thing. Your compliments to them are genuine, and their compliments to you are lies.
Watching you feel worthless is hurting me. Which is hurting you. Which is hurting me.