I'm learning many lessons.

I'm learning that I really, really want to help people and I'm so good at dispensing advice designed to help...but...

...I never really knew anything.

I used to do what everybody does when they encounter "sad" people. I tried to cheer them up. "Look at the bright side!" "Don't pay attention to mean people!" "Never read the comments on the internet!" "Why do you care what people think?" "People love you!"

I've said those things, and recently people have said the same things to me. I always meant well, and I know that people who are saying these things to me also mean well. But what I'm discovering is that well meaning as those words are, they might not be the best approach.

I mean...I WANT to look at the bright side. I WANT to ignore the mean things that people say. I WANT to not care what people think about me. I tell myself those things every day. And then I kind of spiral a little further into despair because why am I so completely fucked up that I CAN'T see the bright side, that I CAN'T not care what people think, that I CAN'T ignore the mean things that are being said, and I CAN'T direct this energy to the people who genuinely care about me?

I'm supposed to be this strong, outspoken, confident person and over the last few months, I've just crumbled into this scared, anxious, tired, broken and sad weirdo.


painting by Jessica McGhee

It's humiliating.

But...I'm getting a little bit better everyday. And I'm learning lots of valuable lessons about myself, and about other people. One is that I really do...or did?...or do? about people. And when you care about people, you care about the whole. You care about how they're doing, you care about their friendship, you care that they care about you...and you care if they don't. You can't really love people, but only love the nice parts. Love doesn't work that way. So when the people you love betray you, you feel that pain.

Because you loved them.

So it's ok that I got the wind knocked out of my sails by this experience. I still think it really sucks, and it still hurts, but I am trying not to be ashamed by my reaction. It happened because I loved people. It happened because I thought the best of them, and that's not anything to be embarrassed about.

image found here

I'm also figuring out that childhood trauma that you're totally sure you had made peace with can sneak up on you years later and just kick the living hell out of you. And the triggers aren't always so easy to recognize.

One of the things my mom used to say to me all of the time was "I love you, but I don't like you." Not, "I don't like the way you're acting" or "I don't like your behavior" but "I don't like you."

I don't really know how a little kid is supposed to take hearing that all of the time...but, you know, no big deal...there were worse things to worry about...

I ran away from home for the first time when I was 13. I came back within a few days. With the exception of a few short lived returns, I basically left for good at 14. I did not feel loved in my home, I was not safe in my home, and the right thing for me to do was to leave. I spent the next 4 years homeless.

The thing about being homeless, is it doesn't always look like the movies - homeless kids aren't always living under freeways or sleeping on park benches. In my case, being homeless sometimes meant sleeping outside or in cars, but more often than not, just bouncing from couch to floor to spare bedroom to space in a garage, to whoever would have me.

When your food, shelter and safety are not guaranteed from day to day, you become a people pleaser. You try really hard to make sure that you're perfect. To make sure that everyone likes you. Because if they don't, where will you sleep? Where will you eat? How will you eat? How will you survive?

Fast forward to today. I have a strong sense of right and wrong. I'm open to compromise, but I don't like to compromise my values. So I make enemies. And sometimes people just want to be cruel. And I shouldn't let it bother me...

...except...there are parts of my brain that are apparently all tangled in my past and red lights are flashing and sirens are going off and it's like there's a 13 year old version of myself sitting in a corner of my head freaking out and screaming "you're not safe!"

image found here

Because if people don't like you, where will you sleep? Where will you eat? How will you eat? How will you survive?

And people are telling me that they love me and they care about me, but part of my brain is saying "they love you, but they don't like you..."

And if people don't like you, where will you sleep? Where will you eat? How will you eat? How will you survive?

All of this time I just thought I was ambitious. A perfectionist. A little high strung, maybe, but look at how much work I get done! Look at all of the good things!

...all of these things that I make sure that I'm good that people will like me...because I have never, ever, truly felt safe...

Oh, brain. You're so much fun.


So, you know...I'm trying. And I really am getting SO MUCH  better. But sometimes it's just a little more complicated than it looks.

And I'm learning that more than all of these words of wisdom and good intentions and great advice, people just want to be heard.Our feelings are valid and don't always need to be fixed and hopefully time will heal our wounds, but it might take a while. So patience is appreciated.

 If I were to take my own advice from the past and look at the bright side of my own situation, I hope that I remember this. I hope that when I open my heart again, I can be a better person to those I love. I hope I remember to listen.

Thanks for being here with me - I am grateful for your support, patience and encouragement. Truly.

1 comment:

Dave Lin said...

I am madly in love with this blog, having discovered it at 2:30 this morning while pooping and then being unable to go back to sleep because what I was reading was so amazing. Thanks so much for having it here. It's a light to me. And then it was a delight to get to meet you at Imago today.

On this post: yeah, I've never resonated with the scornful, peptalk-y "who cares what others think; screw 'em" line of thinking, because while there's truth in it, mostly it rings hollowly against the obvious centrality of relationships to so much of what is meaningful, and frankly my need to belong somewhere that I'm lately coming to terms with. The Brene Brown quote you IG'ed recently is much more helpful, about how vulnerability requires courage, because we lose the ability to connect when we stop caring what people think.

Looking forward to visiting Blue with Schaffners sometime soon.