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