An Open Letter to Someone I Have Called Friend:
I have considered calling you to talk, but every time I think about it, I am not sure what to say. We have known each other a long time, and with what is going on with me right now, I am not sure that is a good thing.
I have come to realize that over the course of my life I have questioned myself entirely too much. I have had people around me that include you who have helped to reinforce the fact that I do that by having me feel like I was often making the wrong choice. I have often felt like I could do no right, and that my perspectives were often somehow wrong.
I have no idea how right or wrong my actions have been, nor how right or wrong my perceptions were/are, but regardless, the combination of factors has brought me to a place that I feel it important to shut out what others think. By shutting off the voices, it helps me attune to my own voice. It also helps me cope. When things are said by others, even when trying to be helpful, it can be more devastating, depending on where I am emotionally.
You recently said that I should let you love me. The difficulty I have with that is that in the time that I have been dealing with what I have been dealing with, I haven't felt loved by much of what you have said or done.
Here are some of the things that have been said/happened from my perspective:
1. At one point I was talking about how I was feeling about help I needed. You "jumped" on me because I did not seem to be grateful for what had occurred. The fact is, that while I was grateful, I still had a need. I still had emotions. I still had feelings. All of which were steamrolled over in your comment, and reaction, to me.
2. You were upset that I did not thank you for your contribution, and went on to say that if I was more grateful, maybe I would get more assistance. I felt badly enough for not thanking you, and apparently some others, and instead of trying to understand what I might be dealing with, and why that would happen, you made me feel worse. When I said something about the effects of chemo at one point, you were quick to point out chemo was over, as if that magically made the world right again.
3. You said I should let you, and others, help the way you wanted to, and made it about me when I declined. You made it about my inability to accept help when in actuality, I have no problems accepting it, if it is of help. If it is of not of help, it is a hinderance to me at this point, and makes things worse. People have every right to choose what works and doesn't work for them. I should not have to accept someone's offer for help to make them feel better. I never hold it against another if they can't or won't help me the way I want/need and I should get the same respect if I decline. It is not personal. And I have every right to speak how things are/how I perceive them to be.
4. At some point you said I was catastrophizing. (At least I think it was you. My apologies if it wasn't. I actually had forgotten about that until I was reminded of it while reading a past blog. I have done such a good job of being generic on occasion, I do not always remember who I am referring to. However, I am pretty certain it was you.) Telling someone in the midst of great pain something that tries to be helpful, rather than seeking to understand, not only undermines helpful, but can also be quite painful. I know it is beyond difficult to witness the pain and helplessness and despair of another, but the odds that there is anything that anyone could possibly say in that moment that could make anyone but the person speaking feel better are quite slight.
5. I have a financial need more than any other. It is something I hate in a huge way. I have talked until I am blue in the face, and I have also been silent. Both seem to net similar results. I never wanted to ask for help, much less beg for it, but it seems the times I have been my most desperate are the times that people seem the most willing to act in way that helps financially. It does not help me to be judged for the way that I speak about this. Words are too freely shared, but without action, they often mean nothing but aggravation. How you have been around this aspect in relation to me has not felt supportive.
6. Pre-diagnosis you tried to discourage me from doing my Cedonaah work, as no artist ever really makes a living. That, after I had told you I felt compelled to do what I was doing, and did not know what else to do. I am glad I did not listen to your well-intentioned, but off the mark, advice. I do not know what, if anything, it will mean, but it is a part of who I am. It would have been like cutting off a piece of me. I mention this because you talk about wanting to support me, but then - in the interest of trying to be helpful - try to slice away pieces that are in some way my very essence. In some ways, having that side to me has helped me cope through everything, and perhaps helped to lay a foundation to something that can be supportive going forward.
Do you have any idea how it feels to not have those seemingly closest to me understand what I am going through? Not only that, have them think that because they are closest it entitles them to speak to me in certain ways in regard to how I am coping, despite the fact that NONE of them have ever had to deal with what I am dealing with, and likely never will, because their lives are nothing like mine? On top of that, to feel judged in some way negatively because I did not handle things in my life in a way that I should have because if I had handled them "correctly" my life would not look the way it has?
I do not know how much you have paid attention to my blog and videos, but I have talked about these things, and others like it many times because many times I have had to deal with the repercussions of someone's desire to help me in the way they thought helpful - but wound up hurting me instead.
As you might be able to imagine, I am in a vulnerable place and because of that, I am quite guarded. It is hard enough to cope with the realities of my situation without having to spar with another about the choices I make, and the frustrations I face. I can't handle being told I am not doing something right - when it is the only way I know how to deal with it in the moment, and am too overloaded to sit there and try to be logical. In addition, odds are there is not much I have not considered or tried throughout this ordeal.
I have learned to just be me. Period. End of story. Not up for debate. Nor discussion. If people don't like it, I get it, but I do not care. I have spent too much of my life caring about what others believed and felt to the point that it hurt me. It is not my intention to hurt another, nor disregard them, but rather to cherish, nurture and protect myself.
If there is going to be a cost at this point, it will not be a self-inflicted expense to make someone else feel better. People say so much about others because of their own discomforts. We all have to learn to be better with ourselves, first. What good is it thinking of others, if we are cutting the legs out from underneath ourselves? We are called selfish if we do not do what another thinks we should. If they focused on how what we do could be of benefit to ourselves, what we do would not be about how it affects them.
If we were not walking around trying to please others, and weren't so worried about what others would think, or their judgments, should we fail, we would likely do more for ourselves AND each other. It is a tightrope that most of us walk without great ease. If we listened to ourselves more, and took more responsibility for our own emotional landscape, and did not feel reliant on others for things, we would be a lot less likely to feel disappointed or judge.
And I can say these things because it is the journey I have taken. People change their minds all the time. They fail to do what they promise. They fail to show up. They make choices I sooo rather they wouldn't. There was a time pre-cancer things like that would annoy me and frustrate me and make me mad. And that was because I was focused on me and what I wanted and how I was inconvenienced.
I was in such a tight box, there was no room for variances that were uncomfortable. Any variance sucked. Now I can see how life is often nothing like we want it to be, especially when it comes to other people, and the only hope I have of things going the way I want them to with any kind of certainty is to not involve anyone else, but even then - things happen.
You have suggested that I am keeping my distance because I am judging you. What I am judging is how I feel in relation to you. What I am judging is how I cope with who and how you are in relation to me. I do not judge you as a person. I think in many ways you are wonderful. If I did not believe that, we would never have been friends to begin with. But the thing is I no longer know how to interact with you, and just do not know if I have it in me to figure out, right now. That is why I have kept my distance and have remained silent. A part of me keeps thinking I should tell you all of this directly, but I get concerned it will open up a can of worms that I just do not want to get into.
As sucky as I have occasionally felt in my communications with you, I am on some level grateful as the experiences have helped me to learn, grow and better understand things about myself. It is very difficult to break away from the image others have of you that you in some way wind up believing for yourself. It becomes difficult to distinguish.
How do we know who we are? I do not think I have known who I am, beyond what I feel and know deep within me. The problem is that I have often questioned it when those closest to me acted like they somehow knew better than I did.
It is incredibly ironic to me that so many people have showed up in my life over the years desperately needing acceptance, desperately needing to be ok with themselves, and being true to their inner knowing. There I was, being a voice in support of them, but never for myself.
A piece was missing, but I never truly recognized that, and therefore never knew what it was. And that piece was PEACE with what is. It isn't just a matter of being "that" person or saying or doing that thing in spite of what others think. It goes past that. It goes to a knowing, an understanding, a love and recognition that who you are is OK - seeming faults and blemishes, and ALL.
It is not embracing another's judgments and being that way any way. It is not about being spiteful. It is not about doing it and feeling guilty. It is about embracing and loving the person you are in every way, and embracing the fact that others will disagree...butsofreakingwhat?
It is about speaking up for oneself, and knowing how to walk away when things aren't working without allowing someone's judgments of your actions seep in and undermine you. Anyone who does not like or appreciate what you do will likely judge you harshly or see you in a negative light, and say and do things in an attempt to make you feel badly, guilty or have you change in some way they prefer.
Of course, when we're not happy, guess what we are likely just as guilty of?
Yup. You guessed it.
At least, that is, until we come to a different place, a different understanding. When we better understand something, we are a better able to stop it, if we want to - and often we do.
Why did I write this letter here?
I am not sure if this letter is for you just yet. Maybe I need to sort through things for myself. Maybe it has nothing to do with you.
Why do I write this letter openly?
Because I think it speaks to several things on many levels that others can appreciate.
I have other things that have been feeling like they need to be released, too. And I am not sure how I am going to get them out. But the thing is, I know they need to get out. I can feel it. And it feels really important. Getting this out feels like a relief, of sorts.
I know if I were you I wouldn't likely like this. Several years ago a then friend would no longer talk to me. I didn't know what was going on, so I wrote him. He wrote back. Our friendship was over. Did I wish we could talk? Did I question how he viewed things? Absolutely. But it was clear it was not going to happen. I burned the letter, and then moved forward.
Is our friendship over? I do not know. Do I want it to be over? I do not know. But one thing I do know is that I am not trying to do anything to keep it. I also know that what I am doing feels right to me, and that is what I am listening to these days - unapologetically listening to what feels right. At the same time, I am doing my best to respect the choices of others.
We all are wherever the heck we are. It seems to me that we should be able to express how we feel, express our conflict to another, and be able to be at peace within ourselves. But instead, we often don't say what we feel, have pseudo inter-relational dynamics, and all that conflict and doubt gets turned inward.
I wrote this about a week ago, and have added and edited and added and edited some more. During that time, I had a huge breakdown, and I feel the need to do some purging. Is this a final draft? I have no idea, but I need to release it. In time maybe I will amend, change, or come to a new place around it.
Who the heck knows if this is "it?" I certainly don't. It just is what it is at this moment. Like much of life, things change, and perspectives shift. This is so much more about me than it is about you. It is my reaction to things that has me be this way. And the thing is, I am OK with it because at the moment, it is the best I can do.
A part of me feels like such a b*tch. But I can't help but wonder why. Why is it that expressing how I feel, and doing what I need to for myself would make me one? Where would I get that from? Do others feel the same way, too? If so, no wonder we rarely ever say what we mean and truly feel.
Every day the road I am on gives me new twists and turns. I am never really sure where I will wind up. I certainly never thought I would be here. I have spent so much of my life in a murky middle zone not trusting myself, and allowing the perceptions of others to come into play - but never fully enough for my inner core to be overridden by it. It was just enough to undermine, and create an uneasy level of uncertainty and questioning.
Now I stand on much firmer ground. Regardless of the outcome and perceptions of others, I am willing to claim myself and my life and be responsible for it. In the past odds are those who thought they somehow knew better than I did weren't happy with me, and are likely less thrilled now that it seems I do not care what they think when it relates to how I interact with the facets of my life. But here is the thing - I went from not being too happy with myself, either, to embracing myself. I got ME in the process. And I love it, and will protect it and would not trade it for anything.
While it may at times feel very lonely, there have been times in the murky middle ground that were even lonelier because I was selling off parts of myself to have what I did, and while others might have seemed to be there for me, it was often at a cost. Even worse, though, I wasn't there for me.
So, is this about me? You bettcha. And it is about damn time.
The more I think about "being responsible" for what I say, and how it makes others feel, the more I question it. I question it because more and more I have tried to look at things in the context of me. I try to figure out what is it about something that bothers me. In the process I will even come up with things that do not even relate to the person or circumstance.
Over time I have found myself less likely to be upset about many things. But there are still things that really get me - in a huge way. It is so strong and striking, it can be unnerving. But I am coming to see how to look at it a bit more objectively which allows me to take it a lot less personally. I am learning how to be more whole by being a whole different way.
There are times it means being in the discomfort without a neat and clean and easy answer. But it also means allowing me to be me.
I suspect if we could allow people to be more of themselves, and say what they really feel and mean, unfiltered, we would give them such an incredible gift. But there are times we have to just give ourselves the gift we want. We just have to be willing to roll with the repercussions because those who know us will not know how to handle what we do, or how we do it. We are so good for getting upset with another about something that has nothing to do with them, and really is so much more about ourselves.
I have been writing and revising this letter for a while now. How do I know when I am complete? I have written much more than I thought likely, and am pretty certain this is about a lot more than just "you." But you were a jumping off point, and I think I have sorted out some things for myself. I find myself wondering if you will see this, and further wondering if I want you to.
I think I am going to go with the thought that if you do see it, there was some reason you were meant to. Who knows? Maybe I will surprise myself and give you the link to it personally.
It is hard for me to end this, wondering what more I could/should say. There is a part of me that feels defensive in the sharing. I also if in some way I am contradicting myself by some of the things I have said.
But the thing is, no one is perfect. We all, in fact, have many seeming imperfections. However in all of that there still lies an inner core that needs to be allowed in whatever way it shows up, and I am doing my best to acknowledge it, love it, and protect it. It is hard to break a long-standing, lifetime, habit of questioning myself while feeling apologetic or badly about the things I do and say in my life. But, man-oh-man, am I trying.
Signed with Love,
PS To those who read this and you are not this person in this circumstance, perhaps you will find something in it for you, some perspective. It is not that I say my friend is a bad person, that person is however they are, and they have at the core never changed. I understand that. It is that the person who I am has been altered, and the new-ish me doesn't know how best to interact in the world the older me existed within - and it is in regard to much more than just this one person.
This is a journey that can at times be quite isolating as so many who never understood who I was before will have even less of a chance to understand where I am or why I am there now. The me that struggled before just took a much sharper turn away from anything that even resembles trying to be the person someone else thought I should be.
Anyone can dance however they want to to whichever music they prefer, but it doesn't mean we have to dance with them. And it doesn't make us a terrible person to find our own style and accompaniment. Yes we all want to be loved and to feel like we belong, but at what cost?
I once had a relationship that was so bad I felt more alone in it that I ever did by myself. The more we love ourselves the less we will feel inclined to give up a piece of ourselves thinking that we will somehow gain more.
Of course some of you will take this out of context. You will twist it and turn it into something that serves a purpose for you. It will be distorted and judged by what it looks like distorted, which is nothing like what it truly is, or was meant to be.
We do that kind of thing. We then judge people not for who they are and by what they do, but rather by who we think they are and who they have become in our eyes. We judge by the things we think we know.
It makes sense. It is how we have survived over the centuries. By knowing the "known" we know what is safe, and what will eat us alive. Better to find a way to have something fit a known so we know how to deal with it than have it be an unknown that can destroy us.
There is every chance I have done this in regard to this letter to my friend. There is every chance I am keeping at a distance a wonderful person who could be an incredible support. One day, should I be able to find my way to speak with them, and they're willing to speak with me, perhaps we will find our way to a new dynamic. Doors may be closed, but they aren't soundproofed.
Regardless of what does or does not happen, I am OK with it. And I have to tell you it is a very powerful place to stand. You don't have to know why something is as it is. You only have to be willing to trust yourself to go where you feel you need to go, and allow yourself to accept whatever follows.
Instead we often hold back and do nothing for the fear of what may be, of what others may think. By holding back because we are uncertain and fearful, we wind up not truly living this life we have been given. We have to stop saying the things that sound good, and start doing the things that don't feel so great, and then perhaps we will discover what we were trying to figure out all along.
I can tell you this, though, by doing exactly what I just said above, I have found things I never imagined. It worked for me. Maybe it can work for you, too. And if it doesn't, something will. You just have to be willing to claim "it" in the face of others telling you otherwise. Odds are if it doesn't fit the existing molds, that is exactly what will happen. If it truly fits you, I can promise you the battles, frustrations, and questions will be worth it. It also will likely suck. But it also will bring you to places you never knew you could get to.
And, more importantly, perhaps, it will bring you, you. There is no one better to love and support the person you are than the person you are. And the more you feel loved and supported, the more you can offer others, and the more we can ultimately offer each other.
This journey for me is more about me listening to myself and being myself than anything else. It is at times uncomfortable and unsettling and unpredictable, and a whole bunch of other less than desirable things. But in the end I will get to walk away with the greatest gift - self love, acceptance, trust, appreciation. And those things are more powerful and welcome in my life than anything anyone else could ever say or think about me.
The weights on the scale have certainly shifted.
(Last, but not least, I feel like I should say that I don't write what I do because I have figured anything out. I write what I do because as I go, I figure things out.)