People don’t always remember what’s happened very well. History may be real, but how we recall it is…complicated. But, as I’ve spoken with people over time, I find we all remember how we felt with a person. Whether they made us feel good, stressed, jubilant, terrified. We remember the feelings.
Do we let go of the past?
I originally posed this question to myself as, “Do we owe forgiveness?” But I tend to agree with the saying, “Forgiveness isn’t for them. It’s for you.” I would advocate for forgiveness, because otherwise the bad feelings eat you up. But because of that, the forgiveness comes from inside of us– and I don’t believe it ever has to go outside of that.
In movies, shows, etc they usually forgive in a nice, public display. A sweet reconciliation scene. All loose ends tied up. Occasionally, some show decides to present us with a bit harsher version of reality, but usually it’s nice.
But what if we don’t have that happy fairytale ending with our aggriever? The thing is, you see, you’re -supposed-to forgive. To be the better person. Christian charity or whatnot. Especially when it’s someone we’re “supposed” to love. And they change, for the better. I’ve seen it happen personally.
Except the new charity doesn’t erase the abusive past.
It’s wonderful that they are better now, a better mother or father to their new children. A better partner to their new girlfriend or spouse or partner. It’s great that, within a new environment, they behave better. But after being treated one way for years, it feels like further trauma to be asked to pretend like the past never happened. And sometimes the victim simply doesn’t care enough to try again. Actions and consequences.
Let me say that I wish for everyone to be able to forgive, internally, to make peace with themselves. It’s great if you can repair the relationship, soothe the hurt. But we never, ever, must say the words, “I forgive you.”
We don’t have to tell them anything.
is all damage “good damage”?
“Because if i don’t [write my book] then that means all the damage I got wasn’t good damage it’s just damage. I have gotten nothing out of it, and all those years, I was miserable for nothing. I could have been happy this whole time…what was it all for?”
Bojack Horseman, S6E10, Diane
Sometimes we gain benefit from our trauma. I won’t say “everything happens for a reason,” but, like the Japanese art of kintsugi, we find a way to emerge more beautiful after we’ve been “broken.”
I know many stories where the ugly duckling transforms into a swan. Where the damage is transformative, rather than purely destructive (which isn’t to say I’m glad it happened! but, yes, some good came of it…) I can’t say how common this is, but it seems these people often come into my life. And I’ve seen a bit of this firsthand…
So, yes, I’ve seen “good damage.”
Living in a time of isolation has brought that sharply to my attention. Seeing who dealt with it almost as if nothing were happening– and those who fell apart and acted like their civil liberties were under attack because they couldn’t get a haircut.
Of course, most of us feel somewhere in between. I didn’t know anyone who quite fell -apart-, but some handled it better than others. It’s a little bit funny how the people I expected to do well have had more trouble, and the people I expected to not be able to handle this surprised me.
— and no, the difference was not those who struggled with financial issues exasperated by the crisis, versus those who worked from home as usual, mostly unaffected by the stay at home orders.
Nor those with higher risks when it came to their health and the health of their loved ones, versus those who had relatively little to fear regarding their own health and the health of those close to them.
No, the difference wasn’t any of that. But those whose lives were a little more of a struggle than most? They seemed to handle it with an ease that almost shocked me. Many of those who struggled financially, emotionally, etc actually did better after the crisis hit. I thought their emotional resources would have been tapped, but no. It was almost as if they were used to weathering hard times already, and this was just, well, another inconvenience to get through.
Certainly, trauma can be good trauma. Or at least, damage can have a silver lining.
I am grateful for my “good damage.” I almost hope it on anyone in privileged situations, because without it, they can turn out shallow and weak. But while it’s almost hopeful to believe that all trauma is for a purpose, I cannot believe this.
Sometimes there is no reason for the hurt. No lesson. No…anything. Or at least, not much of any of that.
I do believe there is a limited amount of “good” that can be gotten out of “good damage.” And sometimes there isn’t anything at all to be gained.
What was it all for? Why did Diane live a miserable early life? She’s fictional, of course, but I’ve known Dianes in my life that were real people. Maybe Diane could have been happy instead of miserable. If she’d let go of her childhood and focused on the good people around her (and there were plenty!) Maybe she did waste all those years for nothing.
Maybe there was no reason. Maybe she did it to herself for nothing. And there’s no deeper meaning, which, as the show touches on, is something humans try to attach to everything. It doesn’t matter how deserving that event/situation/person is of said meaning or not.
Sometimes you’ve just gotta suck it up and move on.
Sometimes the trauma is worth spending time on. Sometimes you need to reflect on it, or turn it into art. But sometimes there’s nothing there. And I can’t tell you which is “good damage” and which is plain, old “damage.” You’ve gotta realize it for yourself. With this trauma, whatever good you got out of remembering and trying to process your bad feelings is over.
That book you’re trying to write, or that awful breakup you want to turn into Taylor Swift worthy lyrics, will never happen. It’s time to simply move on and be happy. And it sucks that you wasted those years, but it won’t do anything to continue wasting your life. You might as well be happy now. Diane finally did figure it out and wrote stilly, fun young adult books. Because she enjoyed it and it made her happy. And I hope you do the same.
Because sometimes that trauma that tags along after you needs to
I can’t promise you will ever leave your trauma in the dust. Mine follows me along, annoyingly. But mostly I ignore her, that unwanted feeling and those unhappy thoughts. Because she’s no longer good damage. She’s just..damage. And she’s no good to anyone, least of all me.
Sometimes it makes us more beautiful…and sometimes…it’s just junk. Toss the junk.
…what makes you happy? Are you holding on to any unhelpful damage that is keeping you from it?
My friend shared a story today. She’s an emotional person, empathetic, thinks with her heart. Also happens to be a hard skills, no nonsense, get the job done career woman. But– she has a soft spot within a relatively hard exterior. Like a caramel M&M.
She just pulled over, in her car, today. And she cried. She didn’t even know why (well, she did, but not the precise reason). I remember doing the same thing, years back. I don’t need to get into the details, but I remember playing Imagine Dragon’s, “It’s Time,” over and over. I’d pulled over and the tears streamed down my face. A flash flood. I never cry that hard. And I just couldn’t stop it.
I imagine she felt the same. She has different problems than mine, of course. I had felt alienated, strange. She feels alone, unwanted. I didn’t want to admit it. I was in a good place, living in this amazing place with a job you might easily dream of. But I sat in my car and the tears flowed into my lap.
She’s in a good place, too. She isn’t worried about supplies or dying from this new virus that’s sweeping the world. Even her hometown (and probably mine, soon.) But the truth is, she does have her issues. And they are real, even if they are not as dramatic as others.
And we both acted on the same impulse, took the same action. Odd how life works like that.
I think about how this affects us, not physically, but emotionally.
When life is tough, something like this can just push you over the edge. All the frustrations, fear, anger. All the people dying. Trapped in their homes. Cut off from their families. You wonder, why should I feel bad? I’m whole, I’m safe, I’m healthy. The world is hurting, but I am not. Why am I crying? Why do I feel bad?
Except it’s not about that. It’s about the fact you are lonely. You don’t feel worth much. Something else happened to you. You’ve been patiently waiting out a hard time. Whatever it might be.
You might be hurting right now. No, you are not at risk. You are managing life fine, but you are hurting because others are hurting around you. You feel for them, hurt for their sake. And perhaps you are not in the most wonderful, stable place at the moment. Normally you could handle this, no problem, but right now you just can’t.
Be kind to people through this craziness.
Always be kind, of course. But, perhaps now, be a little more so. It costs very little. A few extra moments of your time. A thoughtfully crafted message.
Take the time to sign that petition to help people in need. Make the donation. This is not the time to panic, but it is the time to step up and help our fellow humans.
And, just a word. Beyond signing petitions or making donations, look out and provide a kind word to the person you are sure needs no extra financial assistance or mental health access. Please don’t ignore the friend that has it all together. Somehow, nobody ever asks them, “Are you okay?” Because of course they are. Because that’s the person who pulls over to the side of the road and cries alone.
Right now, with the problems of the world, it can feel like a very sad, weighted blanket that cannot be shrugged off. And it’s not limited to a few of us, it’s all of us, feeling that collective worry and strain as a whole.
So, please be a little extra patient with folk. Maybe they saw a post that pushed them a little more than they expected. Heard a tough news story. Experienced -another- small disappointment. And every little thing can push them closer to the edge. Your act of unkindness might be just what pushes them over.
Don’t be the reason someone cries today, please.
Are some of us superbeings?
Stronger, faster, able to leap tall buildings? More capable of empathy, love, devotion, honesty? Are some of us more perfectly suited to succeed and be happy? Some would say that those of us that fall into a terrible place did so because it couldn’t be helped. They pity these people, or despise them. At worst, the racists and elitists think they are better than the idiot poor folk who are no good for anything.
Sometimes I would agree. Sometimes the circumstances are beyond anyone’s strength. Other times, I’m not so sure (certainly I don’t believe that some races or cultures are superior to others, unless your culture involves treating people like dirt).
Sometimes I’ve done better in life, comparatively speaking. Sometimes I have done worse. I didn’t know if it was me, if I just wasn’t good enough at something, or I was particularly good at something. I just hoped I was doing the best I could.
I may sound corny, but I sincerely believe all humans are created equally.
I was not predestined to succeed, while others destinies were to fail. It is what happens afterwards that changes us, and some of us overcome and some of us become broken. I hold no anger or judgment or superiority toward anyone, unless the person truly deserves it.
Because you see, I happen to have a doppleganger of sorts. Someone whose life very closely mirrors mine. Only we both made slightly different choices. And, now, ten years later, we are in very, very different positions in life. In every single respect.
I swam, where she- and others- sank, for three reasons. A bit of luck. The choices I made. And the support I chose to keep around me.
Do you think you’d be happier if you stuck your hand in a fire, or kept it out of harm’s way?
Why would our emotional choices be any different?
Why would we think we could be happy, while making destructive choices? We may think we’re superhumans, and some days, we are, indeed. But mostly, I’ve observed, we’re just human. We can only do so much to overcome our own self sabotage.
I’ll readily admit some of us, myself included, have superficial advantages— and they aren’t meaningless, either. Some of us are born wealthier. Some of us are “prettier,” in the sense of being blessed (or cursed?) with Hollywood beauty. (I suppose, with males, one would say “handsomer.” I’ll call anyone pretty, though.) Some of us are “smarter,” again, in the sense of being, perhaps, genetically inclined to be good at math and science and all the “traditional smarts.”
But it isn’t the smartest, richest, or prettiest among us that are always the happiest.
And none of us are born more inherently able to be happy.
Perhaps some of us are stronger or even “better” than others. I have no interest in making a judgment call one way or the other. It doesn’t matter. One person isn’t capable of changing and shedding our worst selves, while another is just “not able to handle it.”
I’ve changed. I could have resisted, hell, at times I have resisted! But I gave in, because it was move forward– or stop dead in my tracks. Letting everyone else pass me by. I’ve seen other people change, too, as they overcame personal challenges. Even so-called impossible challenges.
If SOME of us are “good” enough or “strong” enough to do it, we ALL are good enough. Whatever that means. Some of us might not have the support system or resources to be able to do so confidently or safely. But we’re all capable, with a bit of help.
Oh, and for what it’s worth, yes, some of us have done worse things than others or feel more negative qualities. It’s okay. Our toxic qualities don’t define us. I still haven’t gotten rid of all of mine, but I’m working on the pieces of myself I love least. Social toxicity is something toxic that society teaches us is healthy but hurts ourselves and others. All of us have to work our way through that, at some point.
None of that matters. Because we are still in charge of what happens next.
I don’t believe that any of us cannot choose our own paths.
We are all given the same chance to make ourselves whatever we want— although some of our paths may be harder to walk along than others. We all have our own curious mix of what we like, love, and hate. If you are not on the path you want, and you are doing all you can, maybe you need some help. Everyone needs help, but–
I have learned, whether it is true or not, that we are our choices, not our destinies.
I hope that is a comforting thought.
This may not be my best writing, but I wanted to push the words outside of myself, where they’d sit and fester.