I have written and rewritten this post so many times – that’s why such a long delay. I start with the intention of not allowing the hurt I’ve felt drive my words, but it’s clear that it still does. I fear if I don’t write them, they will clog my creativity so much I won’t ever write anything again.
I am still all over the place. I know what I want to say, then the words come on their own. I received an angry email saying I “misunderstood” the Gomeshi comment – and maybe I did, but for months every time I tried to clarify something I “misunderstood”, I was shut down with a “I don’t want to talk about that – it makes me feel bad. You make me feel like a terrible person.”
I don’t know what to say about that. When you tell someone how their actions make you feel, it’s an opportunity to clear up misunderstandings, or at least apologize. At least, that’s the way I was taught. If they choose to allow those misunderstandings to stand, then they become truth. And if that’s the truth, maybe a person should feel terrible.
Two years ago, I had a bout of pneumonia. The infection itself was treated, but the after effects – shortness of breath, exhaustion, a stupid cough that wouldn’t quit – lasted for months. I started running again way too soon. I wanted to be better, so I behaved as if I were healthy.
But some things can’t be controlled. They can’t be fixed on my timeline. Sometimes the effort to keep things under control is too much and sickness comes around again, as it did last year with another lung infection. This one, I let run its course.
I’ve spent a lot of time these past two years imagining, thinking, planning. Waking up in the morning, plotting ways to make myself heard and understood. There was always a sense of urgency – today I have to make things okay. And I couldn’t. I nearly killed myself trying.
Brené Brown, in speaking of truth, talks about the stories we tell ourselves. I think this is doubly or triply dangerous for a writer. Motivation is paramount. Resolution. Controlling the narrative, and building an ending that is perhaps not happy, but is satisfying.
I think about my vice-principal’s advice earlier this year, in the midst of an online harassment and gossip campaign, one orchestrated to look like it was another teacher hurting me. “You can’t control what people say and think about you. The people who matter know the truth.”
I think about my husband, telling me after my last blog that the “friendship” was never about mentorship. “I was there when you made the deal. It was an exchange – you help him, and he helps you with your music writing project, your stories, and your website.” I remember telling people this, now. As part of the valuation phase, he’d peppered me with questions about my novel, my characters, the setting. Why? How? Emails thousands of words long. He read at a different depth than anyone else had. I know now this is part of the game, but at the time, I felt seen. I felt valued.
I felt like I’d found a friend who had similar interests – but the fact is, they were all similar. I never realized how much of myself I put into my writing until it was catalogued for the valuation stage. Birds? Trees? Math? Piano? All my obsessions were right there, in everything I’d ever written. Ripe to be used.
The time for quid pro quo never came, though – my husband is right. People started asking questions. Why are you helping him? How can you give a reference to someone like that? (The impromptu Facebook poll on this was an eye-opener for me. But I did give a reference – by the fall, I was being blamed for all the non-successes and I couldn’t bear to be blamed for a rejected application.)
That disconnect is when controlling the story became even more important. It’s hard to admit you’ve been played. So “he’s busy, but he’s going to help” became my mantra. Controlling what other people saw. Making sure no one judged him. Making excuses for missed deadlines and late arrivals and forgotten commitments. Yet, finding out later he’d spent hours on an email to a neighbour telling her how university would be, or working on two other websites. He was not too busy at all, and made me question the time I’d invested in him.
Right from the start, I was hooked. It started with a sad tale of him all alone in an ambulance, no one around to take his call after a spectacular allergic reaction to satay. Later, he must have forgotten he told me that story, because in another version, his parents were there, they had raced to get there before the ambulance came.
That was only the first instance. I’ve deleted from this post six other instances where I found out he lied about the support he was getting. The point is – none of it was real.
You think a friendship is safe. “Am I safe?” Perfectly, he said. “I’m your friend.” But then came the truth: “Probably not.” And still, he came to me for help and advice.
It’s taken a long time to work things out – and I’m not done yet.
But I am tired of being angry. I’m tired of thinking about the responses he gave to how hard I tried to get it right- yogurt spit in my face, belittled and mocked and shoved. Pushed into bushes and stucco walls, tripped on paved pathways. Yelled at. Called names, told I was an embarrassment and a chore and stupid and annoying. Pushed and pulled. Hidden like some kind of ugly troll, but one with the power to make him feel better when he needed it. So much advice requested, and given.
I want to think about the way things seemed to be in the beginning. I want the friendship to have been real, I want an apology. I want him to see I never made fun of the things he told me, that I never told him all the little things that drove me crazy – grandfatherly complaints about back pain, and other (stupid) people, slurping coffee, the baby act. I just accepted things until I could no longer bear it.
But I know none of this even matters. I know I never could have been kind enough, supportive enough, helpful enough. I never could have given enough time, been patient enough.
I was his Supply. And in the end, knowing this has made it easier to put anything good that ever happened in a box, stick it with big red caution labels, tape it up and jam it on the back of that shelf where he always shoved me when I wasn’t perfect. The difference is, my box will stay there – there will be no dragging it down and sifting through it, picking and choosing the things that I cared about – he did that way too much – a box ripped open and taped closed over and over eventually loses its ability to hold anything.
I’ve been working with an intuitive healer – she talks about me being strong-willed but in a gentle way. I had forgotten the strong-willed part. The more I found the strength in myself to push back, the angrier he became, and the more he devalued my worth. The more he believed he could say and do anything and I would be there.
“You won’t go away.” Until I did.
“You aren’t going anywhere.” Until I did.
“You are my friend.” Until I couldn’t be anymore.
“You have my back.” Until I caved under the weight.
I’m not the only one who “misunderstood.”
I am strong-willed. My husband says I was born with a golden horseshoe firmly implanted – this is true, but at the same time, I work hard to make things happen. And if they aren’t perfect, I make them workable.
I have tried, as I did when I ran too soon after pneumonia, to push this healing. To be better.
But I need to let this run its course.
The deep disappointment I’ve felt is fading. The anger flares – there is more to the story, you can be sure of that. But there are too many good people and good things to focus on.
It’s time to finish all the stories and essays I’ve started over the past few years. Figuring out this ending has helped me see my way through to all of the endings.]