As you can probably imagine, this bothered me. It bothered me a lot. So of course, I did what I do: texted people for a second (and third, and fourth) opinion (which, by the way, resulted in a beloved friend sending me a cheese care package -- yes, Jess, cheese DOES make everything better!) and then went to Facebook to do some grousing and get some reassurance.
My friends -- who love me, and who are the best people in the world -- immediately let me know that the person who said this to me was off his rocker. Of course they did. They're my friends. At that moment, though, that was what I most needed to hear. I needed an affirmation that I am what I believe myself to be: a person who is kind. A person who is approachable.
They made me feel one hundred times better.
Still, it's been on my mind.
On Friday, I had lunch with the person who said that I was being unkind and difficult. I should say now, to be perfectly clear, that this is a person who I really like and respect; this is probably a major reason as to why his words bothered me so much.
I was not prepared for the turn the conversation took.
"We have been through some difficult situations," he said. "You were frequently put in an impossible position. I think it has impacted you. I think that you sometimes react in ways that don't reflect who I know you are as a result. You're quicker to snap. You're slower to help."
The first time he said it to me, there was no framing. It was an offhand, and somewhat hurtful, comment. Framed like this, though? I had two realizations.
Realization one was this: this man is not trying to cut me down. He is concerned and is trying to help me. And he is right -- we have been through some situations that can best be described as scarring. I have also personally -- outside of his experience with me -- been through some other, equally scarring things.
Realization two was a bit more sobering, and that was this: it ws the truth.
And that? Will have to change.
I know some fundamental truths about myself. I know that I have literally given someone the shirt off my back. I know that I will not ever ignore someone in distress, whether it is a stranger or a friend. I have stopped to help at the scenes of accidents. I have held a stranger's hand while we waited for help. I have -- again, literally-- given up my home to assist someone else. I know that, fundamentally, I am kind. I know that, at the heart of things, I want to help others.
I also know that that has caused me some grief, and that as result, I may have put up some walls. I didn't realize I was doing it, necessarily -- I'm self aware, but not THAT self aware -- but I can see them now. They're not super high, but they are indeed present.
They're also not working. They're not keeping other people out as much as they're isolating me.
That's not protection from mistakes.
That's punishment for having made them.
Tearing down walls is painstaking, careful business. It turns out, though, that if you're lucky -- if you're really, really lucky -- people will be there to help you. One brick at a time.
Until you're fully back in the sunlight, which is where you always belonged.