Maybe this is going to sound like I am in kindergarten but a boy was mean to me last week and it made me cry.
I was texting with someone who, admittedly, falls under one of the my 2012 lessons learned and isn't a fella I should still be talking to. But sometimes habit keeps a person around even when your brain knows they are bad news.
What started as teasing quickly crossed a line and I found myself being treated to a list of reasons "you are still single". Apparently a guy I went out with a handful of times and who I text every few months has me all figured out. First he gave me a few examples of my faults, none of which were news to me. Then he told me something that I just know isn't true about myself no matter what kind of blind spot I might have into my own personality. In fact, it was something that is the antithesis of how anyone who is truly part of my life would describe me.
It happened right at the end of the day so I was alone in my office and even though I should have been able to brush it off, I couldn't manage to pull myself together. Sticks and stones may break my bones sure, but preying on the biggest fear of anyone who is alone and doesn't want to be anymore? I almost don't have words for how deep that cuts and how hard it is to shut that little "it's your fault" voice up once someone awakens it. There isn't an unattached person on earth who isn't a little bit afraid that something is just fundamentally wrong with them and that's why they are alone. I don't usually like it when people use social media to air their insecurities but I couldn't stop this rising sense of sadness that night and I posted a little bit about it on Facebook. My friends were kind enough to tell me the two things I already knew which were 1) I am not that thing he said he was and 2) everyone has flaws and mine aren't any more fatal than all the other plenty messed up people who manage to get married. I got some great messages on and offline from people who know and love me and that probably should have been that.
But I haven't been able to leave the experience alone. It's had me thinking about two things I'm becoming more and more convinced of the older I get.
First of all, mean behavior is dangerous. I am a fairly successful, well adjusted person with a wide network of support and still I have spent five days spinning on this thinking, "well even though all the people who really know me think I'm a good person, this guy must be seeing something no one else can and maybe he's right and it's all my fault I'm alone." If I was struggling with self-esteem or didn't have the right people around me to tell me to knock it off, or if I didn't have the life experience to know that I should immediately delete this guy and cut off further contact, I can only imagine what sort of power this kind of person might have over me. I think teenage girls are probably some of the most at-risk people for falling victim to this kind of thing. Somewhat coincidentally (maybe), I was thinking about this quite a bit at church on Sunday and at the end of the service, I was assigned to go to Girl's Camp with the teenagers in our congregation this summer. I know I only get a few days with these girls but I'm really feeling the responsibility of helping these girls develop the skills to get through some tough years without too many bruises.
Secondly, while I'm sure there are some hard headed people out there who really do think they are perfect, for the most part, aren't most of us painfully aware of the pointy parts of our personalities? And aren't most of us doing our best to work on them? It's hard hard work to fix things that we don't like about ourselves and it seems like our progress is rarely clear to people on the outside looking for reasons to judge us. For me, all my emotions are almost always bubbling right under the surface. It means I am both quick to get excited and quick to freak out. It's a constant struggle to keep that part of my personality balanced and I am not always doing it well. But I'm trying. I'm always trying. And I get disappointed in myself when it gets the better of me. I do not need to be reminded by casual observers that this is a thing that I do. I'm well aware. I've always loved that Jackson Browne song "These Days" and the line "do not confront me with my failures, I have not forgotten them".
So aside from doing more yoga and trying to eat less Chik-fil-a, my major resolution in 2013 is more patience with everyone. More patience with the people in my inner circle whose flaws I know intimately but who should get more benefit of the doubt than they do because I love them and I know what burdens they are carrying. And more patience for the world at large because I have no idea what is going on in their homes/jobs/relationships and how that might be causing them to irritate me in the line at Starbucks.
It's probably going to take a few more downward dogs and maybe some flirting with a stranger to get all of the sting out of this. I guess in a weird way I'm always glad for a reminder that the world is all set on snarkiness, irony, sarcasm and unkindness, as for me and my house, we will be nice(r).