To the fixers:
Maybe you don’t know what else to do, so you give a suggestion. Maybe my problem seems easy to you. Maybe you can’t relate. Maybe you see an easy solution and you can’t imagine why I haven’t seen it. Maybe I have. Maybe it’s not as easy as you suggest. Maybe I can’t do what you can do. Maybe your solution is just a step in the right direction, but that same solution is surrounded by obstacles in my life. Maybe I don’t need a solution. Maybe I don’t need you to fix this. Maybe you want to help and you want to take control and fix this. Breathe. Just take a breath and be here with me. This can’t be fixed so easily.
To the challengers:
I see my flaws. I know there are many things I need to change. I’m probably more aware of them than you are. You challenge me to have perspective. You challenge me to think in different ways. You challenge me to think passed this. I can do those things. And nothing you are saying is wrong. But you’re invalidating what I’m feeling. I’m in a vulnerable place and you’re telling me, “Hey. I know what you’re feeling. But stop feeling that. Because you haven’t thought about it in this way. You just need some perspective.” I am allowed to feel what I’m feeling. You make me feel like I’m bad because I’m feeling this way. Just stop. Just hear me. Empathize with me.
To the uncomfortable:
You asked me why I was crying. So I told you. So you made a face that said you understood. Then you looked away. And you looked back and talked about something else. You tried to make me laugh. You ignored what I said. I know you’re not comfortable. I know you don’t want to help me carry this burden. Then please don’t ask. If you can’t handle it, please don’t ask me why I have tears in my eyes. Please don’t ask me how I’m doing. Because watching you see my pain and then ignore it? That’s something I can’t handle. So if you want to engage in my pain with me, then please do. But if you don’t want to–if you can’t– then leave me alone.
To the distracted:
You heard me. You not only heard me, but you said all the right things. You are the closest I’ve gotten to feeling a bit of relief from the sadness inside of me. You have gotten my hopes up that maybe, just maybe, I’m not alone. But you are busy. And the hours and the days and the weeks pass by and you seem to forget everything I said to you. When you see me, sometimes I can see you still remember, but you’re hurried. You have to move on to your next task, your next meeting. You say we’ll connect again soon as you pass by. Or you are so busy and distracted that you never follow through. In any way. You don’t even ask how I’m doing. Either be one thing or the other. Either be my friend, or don’t. But do not get my hopes up.
To the listeners:
Where are you?
When you say ‘Sunday school teacher,’ I think of one woman. I’ve had many Sunday school teachers, but she stands out by far. She was caring. She was wise. She loved those around her.
I was young, so my memories of her are a bit foggy. I see her on very rare occasions now and her face always lights up. I always see her in passing now, which is rather unfortunate considering I spent years in her Sunday school class room.
She always told us two things that we had to remember. One of them was that our minds are like video cameras: they record everything we see and we can’t erase anything they record, so we have to be careful what we see and what we look at.
If I could do my life over, I would listen to that piece of advice. There are so many things I’ve looked at that I wish I could erase from my mind. And she was right. I can’t. And I’m such a visual person- I think in pictures. I can’t play those word association games. You know, those ones where someone says a word and you have to say the first word that comes to your mind. Those games actually take effort for me because if someone says the word ‘orange,’ I don’t think of another word. I literally just picture an orange. Anyway.
There was so much wisdom in that piece of advice. Clearly, I remembered it just fine. But I wish I would have done more than just remember it. I wish I would have listened to it; I wish I would have taken her advice.
So be careful what you watch and what you see. Sometimes you don’t have control, but sometimes you do. So be careful. Because when you see something, it gets recorded and stored up in your mind.
And you can’t erase it.
It’s hard to say when my mood dropped.
It could have just been when I realized how tired I was. When I noticed my energy had left.
It could have been when someone started paying a little too much attention to me, the alcohol in him letting him speak more easily, more freely than normal. It could have been when he made a place on the couch for himself beside me- too close to me- and then talked my ear off. About nothing. The strongest parts of his personality showing themselves without apology. Mind you, those are the obnoxious parts of his personality. It could have been when I literally moved to a different part of the house and he followed me. Three times.
But it could have been when I turned to my friend and, from the side, with the light just right, he somehow reminded me of you. Of the smile I missed terribly. I’d had to squeeze my eyes shut against the familiarity and turn away.
I’m not supposed to miss you still. It’s been three and a half years. I’m not even the same person you knew. I’m not supposed to still get glimpses of you when I least expect it. When I haven’t even seen you in months. But I do. I can’t even say I wish I didn’t. Because I feel like I need to remember you, because I never want to forget you. Because, honestly? Remembering you might be painful, but the thought of forgetting you is so much worse.