Letting In and Letting Go

It was an interesting week – starting with an incredibly insensitive “joke” and a smattering of (I assume, heat-induced) snippy-ness, which resulted in me escaping to Ithaca for most of the weekend to visit my extremely positive college friend Amelia (who is also a very talented photographer). Upon returning I felt refreshed, had a long conversation with an old friend about old baggage and said goodbye to a new friend at a rained-out BBQ. Oh, and then I saw a newspaper article about “letting things go” ironically written by a person who has yet to acknowledge that they recently hurt me deeply. Below are my thoughts on all of the above.

I’ll start with the article.

“It’s hard not to feel sorry for ourselves when odd or unfair things happen; to not turn inward and blame ourselves, or feel angry at the other(s)…for being cliquey or cruel, to wish ourselves to be different, or to give up on projects when they don’t seem to be going the way we hoped. What of the possibility of learning to let go of all of that? What if we forgot our shortcomings and those external forces that keep us from success, and just lived as though we were free agents?”

I find this quote extremely inspiring, despite my feeling that the person who wrote it hurt me by being, specifically, cliquey and cruel, and that her actions directly resulted in me giving up on a project that was no longer going the way I had hoped (because who wants to be involved in something in which they’re not wanted?). In fact, there were many times in the past year or so that I could have really used a friend saying exactly all of the above to me, perhaps even the friend that this person used to be. But that would have meant acknowledging that any feelings I had were valid, so I was left to be hurt on my own, and so I managed to work through it on my own…in my own way and in my own time.

And that brings me to the start of last week. I know that sometimes even those closest to us can say things that are a bit insensitive (and I’m sure I’ve been guilty of this myself), but what I don’t expect is that if I’m calmly trying to explain to the person why what they just said hurt my feelings by comparing it to a past situation that caused me pain, that they would then make a joke out of my past pain. And then, instead of apologizing, that they would twist the knife in further by saying that I shouldn’t be upset about that old pain anymore anyway. Talk about missing the point! What if I was still hurt by that long ago incident? How is it up to someone else to decide on the particular time span during which I should have recovered? And then to belittle me trying to explain my feelings by only responding with a “non-apology apology” – that’s the equivalent of someone laying their soul bare to you (whether it’s in person, on the phone, by letter or by email) only to ignore them completely, like they aren’t even worth the time it would take to understand where they are coming from.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m extremely sensitive. I’m sensitive to how I’m treated by others, how others are treated by others and how I treat others. Empathy for yourself and others goes hand-in-hand. And it’s not that I can’t handle criticism. Some of my closest friends tell me exactly how it is and I’m OK with that. It’s when the intention behind the comment is cruel and self-serving that I reject the bullshit. I don’t care if you think you somehow have earned the right to talk down to me, either by your supposed personal enlightenment or your familial relationship to me, or the fact that you’re an astrological sign who doesn’t know the difference between honesty and rudeness – come at me from a place of love and I won’t retreat like a crab into a shell. That’s when communication happens, when both people are talking, not just you.

But now I’m going to play devil’s advocate on myself for a second. I can’t expect closure from anyone. Nobody can. It’s human nature to feel like we’re never wrong and that we don’t owe anything to anybody – so why should anybody owe anything to us? This past weekend I had a long phone conversation with someone who is simultaneously one of the most important people in the world to me, and someone with whom I have a lot of unfinished business. And a large part of our conversation was about his (much more recent) unfinished business. It’s a pretty surreal experience giving advice to someone as they explain the pain of being treated in a certain way…when it reminds you of how they treated you! But in this instance my love for this person and desire to lift them up won out over any need I had to beat a dead dog in the name of closure.

Sometimes it is about you, and sometimes it has to be about the other person. Maybe if we all made this choice a little more wisely, we could all take a seat a little further up on the “evolutionary train.”

And there are plenty of people in my life who I feel occupy those seats already. A weekend that involved both old, very old and new friends reminded me that positivity attracts positivity. I have always been an adaptable creature, but when I can no longer mold myself to my surroundings, I am not afraid of change, because change inevitably brings good things and good people (even if it takes its sweet time in coming). Most importantly, I am proud of myself – for where I am in my life and how I got myself here. And these are the things I need to focus on when old hurt or new offenses rear their ugly heads, because the only person who has the power, and right, to affect my emotions…is me.

Please note: If you want to comment on this post in general, please feel free. I’m interested in other opinions on this very universal subject. However, if you want to comment because you feel I’ve called you out personally, then you have missed the point. Try calling me – you have my number.

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