I recently had an interesting conversation with some girlfriends recently. During this conversation, we talked about how relationships wax and wane, and how sometimes you walk away from relationships, and sometimes you hang on to them, and sometimes relationships are good, and other times they're difficult, etc etc etc...
It was all very deep, and being said over a plate of fried pickles, which makes every conversation even more poignant, wouldn't you agree?
So anyway...at one point in the conversation, I mentioned that I tend to be way too trusting, which is why when relationships go sour--which, sometimes they do--I wind up getting deeply, deeply hurt. (This is a long standing issue I have. When I meet someone that I click with, I give them my heart very quickly, and I invest 1,000% into the relationship...then I get crushed when the relationship doesn't work out. Just crushed.)
After I said that, one of my girlfriends (who is a kind, caring person who practices total honesty--which I love) said to me: "That's because you haven't been hurt enough times yet." And then my other girlfriend said: "Uh huh." And because I am weird and flighty, I didn't give it much thought at all.
I don't like to get into pissing matches, especially over things like "who has been hurt worse that the other." I am of the belief that hurt is subjective. Something that would barely leave a mark on me, might completely shatter someone else. And vice versa. My hurt cannot be compared to that of my fellow mans. It would be irresponsible to do that. So I don't.
However, upon further pondering that conversation between myself and two women I strongly like and admire, I was left with two unwavering thoughts:
1.) How sad is it that these two women have been hurt in life so badly that they truly believe that being trusting and vulnerable with other human equates to being hurt..... a lot.
And 2.) Why is my vulnerability and willingness to trust someone indicatory that I've not been hurt much in life?
(Again, this was said during a conversation that spanned over the course of a four hour hang-out session, in which we discussed many things, ranging from serious to inappropriate and hilarious. So this wasn't the only topic of conversation, and it was being said very casually, and completely without malice.)
So touching on my first point, I was raised with a faith base rooted in Christianity. I was taught that being trusting and vulnerable is a good trait. A trait that makes you open, and kind, and accepting of others. Trusting people is what you're supposed to do when you're trying to be like Jesus, right? It's that bible verse that says you're supposed to forgive people 7 x 70?
So growing up, I've found myself being very open and vulnerable to people in my life. When I love someone--whether it be romantically or platonically--I love them with my whole heart. I put my faith in them. I believe them. I support them... even to the point of looking foolish sometimes. I do this because I was taught by my mother early on that when you love someone, you love them warts and all. You don't hold back on them, because people deserve love and acceptance, no matter what. (She proved this by staying with my father, who was not a very nice husband, for 30 years before divorcing.)
I have to admit, over the years, I've evolved. I've learned to always love people, but to draw necessary boundaries in order to practice self-preservation. To remove toxicity from my life in order to keep myself as healthy and functional as possible. It hasn't always been easy. Sometimes it's been d*mn hard. But I've learned, slowly, how to remove folks from my life when necessary, and its served me well.
But that hasn't eliminated my childish, foolish tendency to give my whole self to someone when I make a new friend. Sometimes I can be like a puppy. Oh you like me? I like you, too! Let's be best friends! Let's hang out all the time! Let's get matching tattoos and take selfies! This is great! I love you...here's all of my deepest, darkest secrets...
|This is me, when I make a new friend. Like me! Like me! Like meeeeee!|
Not terribly functional. Endearing, yes. But also annoying. Especially when/if the relationship goes south, cools down....
Because I'm inevitably left feeling like this:
|WHY DON'T YOU LIKE MEEEE?|
Yeah. Not so cool anymore, am I?
But does that mean that being trusting and giving my whole heart to someone is bad? Or inevitably sets me up to be hurt? If so....then that doesn't make me trust humanity a whole lot. I'm not going to lie, the fact that my two friends I had this conversation with have been hurt so many times that they're so protective of their hearts that they avoid giving it to people makes me deeply discouraged. Why are we, as humans, behaving in such a way that we're now making folks feel like it's dangerous to show vulnerability to others?
That's just plain shameful. Trust and vulnerability shouldn't be considered weaknesses. They should be considered super powers, IMHO.
And now to my second point...
Does the world legitimately think that because I dare to love with my whole heart, I've not been hurt enough in life? Because if so, I wonder what constitutes real hurt?
I've been told by friends and relatives alike, at different points in my life, that my feelings were invalid. Sometimes it's because they don't like the way I've reacted to things, sometimes it's because I haven't reacted enough. Sometimes it's because they felt I was to removed from a situation to feel feelings as deeply as they did, other times it was because they felt I was too close not to feel more. Simply put, I've spent 41 years on this earth being d*mned if I do, d*mned if I don't, and being told--often--that my feelings, however organic as they may be--are wrong. It really ticks me off. Feelings are personal. Feelings are fundamental. One cannot--however much they may try--dictate what another person feels.
I've been hurt. I've had friends and relatives who have used me, bullied me, scapegoated me, turned on me, and dumped me. I've experienced a marriage to someone with mental illness and a drug and alcohol problem. I've been through a messy divorce and thirteen years of arguments, custody battles, insults, and threats since. I've been a single mom of two young children only making minimum wage. I've been through the failed adoption of a child I loved like a mother for a year. I've been lied about and blacklisted. I've been through the diagnosis and subsequent rehabilitation of a child on the Autism spectrum. I was raised in a tumultuous, alcoholic home--and all the dysfunction that encompasses. I was bullied in school and mocked for being different, less cool than my cool older brothers, and disliked by teachers who presumed I was stupid. I've been discredited and underestimated. Before my first publishing contract, I went through 4 books, and over 130 rejections, some of which essentially told me to pack it up, and give up writing forever.
"That's because you haven't been hurt enough times yet."
I respectfully disagree. That's because I have been hurt so many times.
I know hurt. I've experienced hurt. I just haven't let that change me. Maybe I should have. Maybe I wouldn't be so vulnerable now, at 41, if I had. Maybe there's something wrong with me that I haven't let all that hurt change me. Maybe I should have developed a hard candy shell, rather than remaining the soft, vulnerable marshmallow I actually am.
Why do we, as humans, feel the need to wear our personal hurts as some sort of strength badge? Not to say my friends do that. They don't, not openly. But they've been hurt enough in life that they've stopped allowing themselves to trust others. They proclaim themselves to have "trust issues," and hold everyone at arms length, whereas I continue to let people in, setting myself up for failure again and again. Why is that? And which one of us is right?
Are they right? Bearing their past hurts like a strength badge, and protecting themselves from ever being vulnerable again....
Or am I right? Keeping my past hurts in my back pocket, not really in a hurry to let them define me, and therefore opening myself up to being hurt or abused again and again?
Or are we both right? Or maybe neither one of us is right? Maybe we're all screwed up and need enough therapy to fund our kids' college tuitions? Maybe there's no right or wrong, and each human deals with their hurts in their own way.
I have no idea.
Here's what I do know:
I know that I've had hurts that might've broken my friends, and that they've had hurts that likely would've broken me. I know that I've shown vulnerability and trust to people who have not deserved it, but I've also shown it to people who absolutely deserved it, and have done nothing but loved and accepted me in return. I know that it is impossible to know exactly what someone else has been through when you haven't been through it yourself. I know that as much as I have tried to change the way I am--and believe me, I've tried--I cannot change the core personality traits I've had since I was a toddler...and vulnerability is one of them.
I also know that I am lucky to have some astounding friends who will have provocative and thought provoking conversations with me over a plate of fried pickles. This is something to be treasured.
For now, I will continue being me. Sometimes trusting and vulnerable, giving my heart away like the eager puppy. Other times I will be strong enough to remove toxicity from my life swiftly and cleanly, so as to preserve my own sense of self. I likely won't be predictable about it, because I'm me: dumb, dorky, messy me, and that's okay.
My friends will keep doing what they do, as well. And I'll love them for it. As my daughter would say, "You do you, boo."
I will always pray that each of us will stop being hurt, though.