It’s midnight, and I can’t sleep. For some reason my mind won’t stop processing. And what it is processing is relationships. Not romantic ones necessarily. Just plain old friendships, or lack thereof.
A certain person came to mind. I started thinking about how I didn’t really like this person, then began wondering why. I remembered that though we have many mutual friends and often hung out in the same circle, I felt rather ignored by the person. Then I remembered a few years later how the person had an issue with me, and instead of coming and talking to me, the person asked someone else to do it. An issue can’t thoroughly be discussed when I’m speaking with a middleman, so I took the critique. I didn’t protest. I tried to change. But I also felt the distance. I still feel the distance.
There are others too. Others who used middlemen to address areas of conflict. And I still remember them. I remember these instances, 2, 3, 12 years ago. I remember the hurt. And it gets in the way. Whether I’m thinking about it or not, there is still that bit of fear when I speak to these people. The unresolved issue that hangs between us, never addressed, just suspended in the air, like a an elephant chandelier that you can forget about, until you can’t. Because the slightest hint of rejection – in a tone, in an eyebrow, in a glance away – and there it is again. My feelings of rejection arise. Maybe it was because there was no clarity.
Clarity. That is what I long for. Are you the girl from my high school who never spoke to me even though she sat behind me in ninth grade English who I presume ignored me from day one because of how I looked. My hair, my clothes, my face, my body, something must not have been good enough, because she never gave me a chance, not once in those four years. Are you like her? Or did I do something? Did I say something that offended you? Were my actions insensitive? Because I admit, there are many things I have said and done in my life which I regret. It has taken me a long time to learn empathy, and there are many times when I was “corrected” by stares. I wish I could tell those people that if they had only called me on it verbally, I would have learned quicker. I wouldn’t have had to process that awkward moment for a few years until I understood what I should have done. To have a gentle guide, oh, that would have made my process smoother!
For I have had that too, the angry confrontation, yes, I remember one of those from almost twenty years ago. The angry burst. That even as a child I could see was in some ways about her and her insecurities, even as she called me out on legitimate faults. Then there are the gentle, “Here is everything wrong with you” confrontations from 15 years ago, and another from 10 years ago. How pointless those were, as my faults were listed, kindly, but not with any practical instruction. I carry no anger towards these two, not then, not now, but I also remember each person pulling away from the friendship soon afterwards. As if these drawbacks of mine were too much for them to bear any longer.
There are many more, so many more, who constructed kindly, gently, and constructively. With them, the relationship strengthened. I cannot think of a single person who gently and lovingly called me out to the destruction of our relationship. But that “lovingly” word is so important. For those who called me out only to explain why they wanted to push away, there was – there is – damage. It has been when people showed me my flaws, then drew me in to love me tighter, that I have grown the most as a person. And their love has often been the thing that melted the flaw away.