When I opened up wordpress today, I was ready to rip two friends a new one on this anonymous blog. Friends who I love dearly, but who have both, in their own ways, separately, unrelatedly, managed to hurt me this week in very deep ways. One, making judgmental statements about another friend of hers who is divorced, among other things that made me feel small. The other, bringing marijuana as the ‘3rd wheel’ whenever we want to do something together. (Aside: What people choose to do recreationally is obviously not my business, but when it starts impacting a relationship negatively, something’s gotta give.)
But as I sat here, staring at the blank page, typing and deleting, venting, ranting, bemoaning how rough my week has been and how this weekend didn’t turn out like I had hoped, I discovered some things that took me by surprise, and rather changed the direction of my thoughts. Ranting and venting only do so much.
- I used to be too numb to feel these hurts.
- It’s not my fault when others make choices (words or actions) that hurt me.
- Reflecting those choices back to those who made them, doesn’t make me a bad person.
- Sometimes I’m afraid those who knew me as I was, don’t really want the stronger person I am becoming.
Being thin-skinned isn’t necessarily an ideal, but sometimes we as a society push the other extreme as being better. Yet being thick-skinned, for me, became a way of coping. I didn’t feel that speaking up about my discomfort was worth it. I never felt important enough for anyone to consider I might be uncomfortable or hurt. I just pushed it aside and pressed forward. Yet like running through a forest, and ending up in a patch of blackberry brambles, all those little nicks and scratches add up, and not all of them healed well. It prevented me from truly becoming vulnerable and growing close with the people I considered my best friends.
To a healthy person, who has been surrounded by healthy relationships, it may seem odd to blame yourself when others hurt you. Yet being in an emotionally abusive relationship for so long, I was constantly subjected to pressure from my spouse that I was over-emotional and over-reactive. If I tried to approach him with concern, or hurt, or anything he didn’t like, somehow we would end that conversation with his storming about the house in the midst of an angry red aura of fury. Sometimes he would only scream, and yell. Other times he would hit walls, or kick things, or make a mess. But over a decade, you learn to internalize the things that put you at risk. You swallow back the hurt and find a way to cope. Sure, we all have to be responsible for our own feelings. But we also shouldn’t be the only people who care about whose toes we are stepping on. As much as I talk about boundaries, I am terrible about letting people know when they’ve crossed the line into hurtful territory. I’m always so afraid it will end up hurting me worse.
Leading in to that, I learned that communicating my pain hurt others, sometimes. I don’t know how to handle that, especially when it often led to me being hurt again. Really, although I tell myself I don’t bring things up because I don’t want to be the one causing pain, it’s because I don’t want to feel more pain; I don’t want to feel rejected, or alone.
Which leads me into that last point above, one of the things that makes me the most nervous as I grow stronger and understand myself better. I’m obviously not at a place where I know how to handle myself entirely in these situations, but I’m aware of them. I’m working to find ways to address things that come up, to communicate better, and be more genuine. More authentically me. But I worry over how people will react. I’ve been one person for ten years, I’ve been an easy friend, because it takes a lot before I get to the point where I will let problems get in the way of friendships. Not because I dealt with them in the past, but because I just tried to ignore them. My last decade, I have been blowing like a leaf on the wind, drifting wherever other peoples’ interests tend to be. (Sidenote: We all saw how that worked out for Wash, in Serenity… sorry, couldn’t help myself.) I’m struggling to avoid any extreme changes and working hard to figure out what I am doing and why… and also, what I want. What I need. The hard thing, now, is figuring out how to communicate this to the people in my life.
We can’t change others, but maybe if we give them a chance to see how their choices impact us, they will decide we’re worth the effort too.