Sometimes in my college writing classes, we’d talk about the damage writing can do. I find most writers value truth over anything, or at least the truth as they experience it. You can point to almost any writer, I’m sure–especially memoirists–and hear stories of ruined relationships because someone told their story. Interestingly, it’s usually petty. (I’m also fascinated by the fact that fiction writers aren’t safe because sometimes people in their lives see themselves in a character and think it’s a jab at them.)
I own my experiences and I tell my truths. I get angry or hurt or upset or sad and I talk about it. Technically, I do this publicly–and in a way, this is like training for when I’m published. But I feel this blog–which I don’t publicize, focus, or tend to particularly regularly, which breaks all rules of successful blogging–is a bit like me screaming in a crowded room while no one in the room is actually listening. Social media, however, is more like standing at a podium with a microphone with almost everyone’s attention–maybe someone wasn’t listening or was talking or distracted or left them room, but for the most part, everyone’s there. And there’s a difference between me in the middle of that crowded room screaming that something shitty was done to me and someone else at their podium attacking me as a person in the meantime.
Except I haven’t screamed in a month and to even hear me, you have to find me first. Someone did and then told other people where I was.
I’m not sure what the desired reaction was or even what the actual reaction was. All I know is I got a message Saturday night (order of events: I see rude Tweets Monday, get pissed and fire off some of my own because at this point I’ve nearly stopped caring, someone finds this Tuesday, I don’t notice the extremely high, suspicious number of hits until Thursday when I post about Monday’s events) from a neutral party more or less saying if we’re truly done with each other, be done and don’t drag it into the internet. Points were made that I really couldn’t argue with, though I did clarify that no one’s paying attention to this while the offending Tweets are just the opposite, plus I’d already decided and even stated here that I was done with focusing on the past.
I must’ve felt frustrated and overwhelmed because although everything was handled excellently for once, I got upset. I planned to go to a party, but I was at Paul’s and wanted to stay as long as possible. He had to serve mass the next morning, so I couldn’t take him with me, and he lives at home, so I can’t just crash there when I want. In fact, he was almost kicking me out for fear his mom would think we were getting down and dirty when everyone went upstairs. The last time we were there alone, his mom accused us of taking advantage of the empty house for sex, but that’s another story for another time. The point is I was trying to let him know I needed a little support without saying it in front of his entire family. So when he walked me to my car like he always does, I ended up crying in the middle of the driveway while he held me for about an hour. And that’s why he’s a saint.
I owed this person an apology for that one night in Mexico, so I took the opportunity. By Saturday, it was appreciated and accepted, and she admitted to having taken part in talking about me behind me back and teasing that crossed lines. She apologized and hoped I could forgive her. And I did. And then I received another apology from someone else later in the day. I’ve never felt actually wronged by her, but I appreciated it nonetheless. The ties I’ve cut remain cut and probably will for a long time to come. Very little can change that. Even if either of us were to have regrets or apologize, I still don’t feel those relationships would be beneficial or healthy to maintain. Unfortunately, sometimes people just have to go.
It’s the opposite of what I thought would happen, whether or not my expectations were reasonable. In fact, my expectations were part of why I spent an hour crying Saturday night, plus when I’m frustrated I feel helpless and just cry. I also rambled and don’t actually remember a solid 99% of what I said.
Now, part of the point of the first message on Saturday night was “let it be” and positivity. Ironically, I made a step towards that last month (another part of my frustrated tears was probably feeling like every time I think things are calm, they’re not). Beyond that, Amanda Palmer’s series of bullying blogs pushed me even further. First of all, every human should read all of them (there are three) and all of the comments, even though that’s basically impossible because there’s just so much. But there’s a lot to be gained and learned. It was a safe space of sharing and healing, and a couple of sort of weird things happened.
First, all of the discussion led to lots of insight about why people do the things they do to people, and the overwhelming understanding was that when someone is constantly making fun of someone, putting them down, and attacking them, it’s due to problems the attacker has that are often unrelated to the victim. At a certain point, perhaps way earlier than I ever considered, things said to and about me reached that point. I’ve been talking about things that hurt me but have been attacked for completely unrelated things in the meantime.
Second, some of those lovely people were able to be amazing in the midst of pain. Everyone was expressing love and support, but some were going beyond that and talking about putting as much positivity into the world as they could to counter the negativity thrown at them and others. Some even had these amazing stories that gave me chills about how they stood up for kids when they witnessed bullying and ended up being best friends or saving someone’s life. Seriously, one person shared a story about seeing a kid being bullied, reached out, they became friends, and learned later that the kid was going to kill himself as soon as he got home. I literally had chills. I physically shivered when I read that. Strangely, I only cried once when I was reading all these stories, and it was partly because I was already halfway there.
I decided that whenever I see someone being hateful, I will counter it directly. I will take not just what has been thrown onto me but what people throw onto others and maybe even take what I’ve thrown onto others and turn it around and be the biggest source of beauty and light in the world I possibly can. I know I won’t always succeed. I won’t always be positive. I still feel damaged, and I’ll carry that with me for a long while, maybe forever, despite having forgiven. But I can try.
As humans, we’re often understandably afraid to step in. We don’t know what will happen. It can be weird and awkward. We think we’re better off minding our own business and maybe most of the time that’s true, but sometimes the stakes are too high. I can’t read someone’s story about how someone is alive because they intervened and keep sitting on the sidelines hoping people know they’re loved and deserve better, no matter what, and yes, that goes for every single person who has wronged me, even if I don’t feel we should be in each other’s lives.
I started, in perhaps a strange, silly way, on Tumblr, which can be full of as much hatred as it can be cats. Somehow, I ended up following a fair number teenage girls’ blogs because we have similar interests and they post content I like. Because they’re teenage girls with their own problems and enemies, they get anonymous hatemail. Tumblr lets you post your messages and respond to them publicly, which is pretty cool for public figures who get asked lots of questions but not teenage girls, who get messages about how terrible they are or how no one likes them or how they’re ugly. Ugliness was the subject of one such post I saw on my dashboard one evening early last week, and without hesitating, I clicked the little reply bubble and basically said, “Fuck that guy. You’re beautiful.”
She thanked me the next day.
I haven’t seen much negativity since, but I’ve tried to reach out to people who are obviously in pain or struggling or feel bad about themselves or are having hate thrust upon them. And I’m not doing it to make myself feel better (although it has) or for my self-image or any other selfish reason. I’m doing it because it’s what’s good and right, because I believe in the power of positivity and always have, because I want to change the word and believe (perhaps naively) that I actually can and that all it takes is trying to pull someone out of the same emotional and psychological damage I was in and showing them there’s more, because that’s what we all need. I’m not talking about it to get attention or kudos but rather because this is my blog and I talk about my life and what I’m doing, good or bad, and this is what I’m doing. And for once, it’s good.
I want to be a source of light, positivity, and beauty in the world, and damn it, I will be.