Monday, 7 February 2011

8 Days. Day 7.

Day Seven: The four most important things someone has said to you, and the four most damaging things someone has said to you

The 4 most important things.

1. I was talking to X [another teacher] and we think you have a huge, unexplored verbal talent. --Jean Hill, my Western Civ/American History AP teacher, senior year of high school

I adored Ms Hill. She kind of scared me in 7th grade, when she was all spiky, but when I ended up sitting next to her in my Western Civ class (she had a circle) and discovered we had similar dry senses of humour, we really clicked. I even rode down to the senior retreat with her and visited her daughter, Julie, when she was in Lower School.

It was, in fact, the day of the senior retreat that she said this to me. She'd pulled me into her office to find out why I wasn't going, and somehow, this came up as we talked about my parents and their expectations. I said something disparaging about my talent, and she responded with this and suggested that perhaps I shouldn't take them at their word when they said all I could do was maths and science.

It was too late for high school, of course, but not for university and beyond. Every humanities course I took, I got an 'A' in. And I learned that I love writing and am a pretty damn good editor.

Ms. H - as usual, you were right.

2. You were meant to go through the world two by two/You'll be a wonderful partner to some very lucky man/etc. --Various friends

I know that one of the reasons I never paired up - and only have the odd partner - is because of how trapped I felt in my family and how desperately unhappy my parents' marriage was. I was about 13 before I worked out that people married because, well, you know, they actually WANTED to. I still have a hard time with that, having known any number of dysfunctional couples who settled because they were afraid of being alone, or because their dysfunctions/wounds fit each other like an enzyme-substrate induced fit (look it up). Despite all the wonderful couples I know, these stick with me, as they elicit the claustrophobic near-panic feeling that I lived with growing up.

But another big part of it is this fear that I would be a horrible partner. Needy, clingy, sucking the other person dry. I'm terrified of this, even though it's not generally how I am in friendships, though I tend to feel that I am in close ones, where I'm more vulnerable. Every time, I think, 'OH CRAP, here I go again, they're going to think I'm completely devoid of humour, needy, too intense, clingy, OMG!!!!' So I pull back, but then, b/c they're close friends, need to talk to them again. Gah.

These quotes, from those who don't live in my crazy head, give me hope. Hope that they see me more clearly and that they are right. The fact that there are numerous versions of that quote over the years makes me hope that maybe they're onto something.

3. I want you/you're beautiful/If I were...

I'm used to being needed. Used to being liked for my humour. The fact that I'm capable. That I can listen. That I'll know what you need before you do. Those sorts of things.

But being desired, having someone think, 'God, you're gorgeous,' just WANTING me without wanting something FROM me...that's amazing. And far too rare. Thank you. You folks know who you are.

4. I love you to bits. I don't want you to change at all/Lose the edge, but not the passion?/Or not even lose the edge. --A close male friend, 20/2/10

I nearly cried.

The background: I had been a bitch. Not to him directly, but it mattered, and that's all you need to know. We'd touched on it a bit in writing, but it was this evening that the real work was done: this evening that we had the heart-to-heart where we spared each other nothing, where we were heart-achingly honest, this evening in our friendship where we knew we could be real with the other and we were absolutely safe.

I had been talking about how I felt hemmed in by all these people who seem to want all these bits of me that they really like, because they're useful to them, but they want X to change so they're more comfortable with who I am; something that makes me less wild.

And he just burst out with that.

I froze and stared at him, trying to read him, looking for the lie, for the reason to doubt him.

There was none.

The continuation of the exchange confirmed that, as has his behaviour - before and since. There is almost no one else with whom I feel so free to be myself, to just let go and be difficult, uncertain, dark me as well as competent, caring, funny, witty me. I do worry that I lean on him too much, because I know I can bring anything to him and I'm safe, but I also trust that he will TELL ME if I am leaning too hard. (Hint hint - you will be reading this, b/c I'm telling you about it :-).)

There aren't words to thank him for what he said that night and the support he's been through our friendship - laughter, listening, joint human observation ('Bossy girlfriend'/'OMG, that's a GUY? I thought it was a girl!'), just talking about anything and everything. AND he gets my idiolect.

I know how blessed I am to count him amongst my circle of friends.

Oh, he cheeks me and is as stubborn as I am - so voices will rise and gestures will fly - but I would trust him with my life. More importantly, I would trust him with the life of a child.

And yes, you, this was a chance to let you know how much this spontaneous comment of yours meant and to say 'thank you for being you' as much as anything else. Because even though I AM going to have to whack you with my cane more than once, our friendship is - to quote a Mastercard advert - priceless.


1. It's not important; it doesn't matter. --My father

This is what my father said when I told him his brother had sexually abused me.

2. Talk to me, I'm your mother. I won't tell Daddy [sic].

The evening chats when she wanted me to sit at the foot of her bed and have a cosy 'mother-daughter' chat where we shared our confidences. She told me how awful my father was, which made me open up and share how I was feeling. I should have known better: she never offered comfort, only asked more questions. I knew her well enough, that should have told me she was digging for information - but every time, I was stupid enough to assume she cared. That she was interested in my life.

Stupid me.

And yes, she always told 'Daddy', and it always came back to bite me on the ass.

And I was always stupid enough to trust her again.

3. You're flat. --Mr Wilson, 7th grade music teacher and choir director

That was in choir, and he wasn't one for teaching technique. He'd put me with the sops. *Waits for her friends to quit laughing*

From that day to this, I won't sing so I can be heard, even though, far more recently, I was told by another music teacher that I had a gorgeous speaking voice and she suspects that I CAN sing.

4. ""

All those things that I needed to hear, that people assumed I knew about how they felt about me, and were never said.


susan P said...

Admittedly, I don't often cross over from FB to your blogs, but I did this time and quite glad I did!

For the best- HURRAH! Though I have to admit Ms Hill ALWAYS scared me!

For the damaging, in reverse order:

4- EXACTLY! How I would have loved to hear my Mom say, "I love you!" Eventually I learned that meant I should let others know how I feel, even if it is as simple admiring the cutest shoes, or as deep as telling my Dad I love him.

3. My Dad cannot carry a tune in a bucket, yet sings constantly. Singing is joy. Rub some salves on those HS scars and SING!

2. You were not and are not "stupid." Children are expected to trust their parents, and back then any adult. Rather than seeing yourself as "stupid" and allowing these memories to be damaging, turn it around. Nothing your mother did was able to destroy your inherent faith in the
human being. If she had, I doubt you could be the counselor you are! You were willing to trust, to believe, and to give her every chance to prove she was worth all that. The failure was hers, NOT yours.

and so, to 1. I hear you, truly. I was still being chased down the street when I saw some kids I had been in school with the previous year. My breathless cry, "That man was going to rape me," elicited laughter. So I told no one else what happened for 14 years. Nothing can erase that, or make up for it. The event itself can be difficult enough to cope with when you have support. What he said to you was unforgivable and should be criminal.

CEAD said...


I've said it before, but I really hope I never meet your parents, because not only do I strongly doubt my ability to be civil, but I have a violent temper sometimes, and they're, like, elderly now.

With regard to your voice, I was in exactly the same place three years ago (*MORE HUGE HUGS*), and now look at me. You really do have a remarkably beautiful speaking voice, and you're so sensitive to music; if that doesn't translate to a good singing voice, I don't know what would. Your voice will be in its prime now; it's a great time to learn to use it.

I love you, she'enedra.


Anonymous said...

3. You're beautiful...yes, I agree with the many people who've said that to you. Could look at you for ages, but your humour and sense of fun would make sure that we interacted a little bit more than just having a passive gazing session...(not that anyone would particularly wish to gaze at me, unless it was a dog or cat wanting to be fed!!!)
4. I'm not sure I agree with the person who doesn't want you to change. Really, if I had my way qua you, I'd wish for you that you could be or would be all that you wished - and that, I suppose, would necessitate some form of changing, possibly...although the essential you would remain, the large part of you that so many of your friends love and maybe I do agree with what your friend said after all.

Irim said...


What a gorgeous comment. Thank you for crossing over this time :-).

Did you have her for English when she was Mrs Watts or the first year she was Ms Hill? I hear she was seriously scary then. That would have stayed.

What you said about my mother - YES, YES, you are right and I'll try that. It'll be hard, but one day at a time. *HUGE HUGS* That was a big breakthrough for me.

*GASP OF HORROR* Oh, hon, I never knew. I'm so so sorry. *HUGE HUGS* That's HORRIBLE.

Thank you for trusting me with that.

@CEAD - *HUGS* - thank you.

Anon - THANK YOU. *HUGS* And I think #4 meant in essentials.


Anonymous said...

Anon would like to thank you for that, and point out:
1. Anon is looking forward to the hugs...!
2. You are quite right about the comment on No4...but then precision of speech or philosophical meaning was never my strong point. (Here speaketh an INFP, who has even been known to get lost coming back from communion...)