Think before you speak.
Take a deep breath and stand back before opening your mouth.
It's more than okay to have a few seconds of silence between lines of dialogue.
You can't take words back. You can try. But once they're out there, they're out there. Like putting stuff on the internet. Or letting someone take a naked picture of you. Or both of those things at the same time.
One day, a long time ago, someone very influential in my life looked me dead in the eye and told me that no one will ever love me unless I trick them into it because I'm such a terrible person.
This person went on to say that I was well on my way to fooling people into thinking I was a decent person but smart people will know better and I'd either be surrounded by morons or run myself ragged trying to figure out new ways to keep tricking those that think they love me.
This person was a grown up. And a self-described psychic, so that played in. And was supposed to be taking care of me on a regular basis. Supposed to be teaching me how to become an adult. I loved this person. Or tried to. I'm not sure which. I wanted this person to love me back. Or at least try. I'm not sure about that either.
It's the sort of thing that sticks to you. Especially when it is accompanied by behaviors and situations and encounters that completely support this.
This person was a gem anytime someone was around. No one would believe me if I told them things that had happened behind closed doors.
This person tricked people into a lot of things.
Other people in my life were tricking people into a lot of things.
Tricking people to feel a certain way about certain things.
Telling me how to trick people. Teaching tricks. Turning tricks.
About what goes on in Vegas stays in Vegas.
Whatever Vegas was that day.
The Vegas du Jour.
For jours and jours and jours this went on.
For ans and ans and ans.
I don't know French.
I think that means days and days and days and years and years and years.
Or it means "fried wonton" and now it's on my left shoulder forever and ever.
I was an adolescent when this happened. Probably 11 or 12. Maybe 13. If you've ever been a pre-pubescent child, you know that you often see yourself as weird and abnormal and awkward and ugly from the outside in and the inside out and you try really really hard to hide it from the world. Eleven or 12 or 13 year olds can think the whole world hates them, and they try very hard to get into the good graces of their parents and teachers and friends and neighbors. Try very hard to convince everyone else that they are normal. People with little more than a decade of life experience don't have much to go on, and they wonder if they will ever be good enough or pretty enough or loveable enough and they rely on those older and wiser than them to let them know if they are becoming good and pretty and loveable.
It has taken me a long time to believe that the people that love me don't just love me because they have to. Because I'm their family. Or they're my family. Or that I'm not tricking them into thinking I'm a good person because I wash the dishes when I'm at their house or listen to them when they speak or give them a big hug when they are feeling sad. Or that they aren't tricking me into thinking they are good people because they wash dishes and listen and hug.
It's taken me a long time to believe that people are actually glad/mad/sad when they say they are glad/mad/sad and they aren't just looking for attention by tricking other people into reacting to the statement of being glad/sad/mad. And sometimes I'm sad/mad/glad too and not just appealing for sympathy and/or empathy. And whether sympathy and/or empathy actually exist or if it's just something we are making up to make ourselves feel better about ourselves and falsely connected to humanity. Like altruism.
It's taken me a long time to believe that I don't do the kind of job that I do to make amends for being such a terrible person. To show other people that I can't be all that rotten inside if I make it my life work to help people when they need a bit of help.
It's taken me a long time to believe that people aren't gullible. And they are able to see inside of me even though they don't tout themselves as psychic and what they see isn't all maggots and spiders and rancid and when they do see something icky they help me with it and through it instead of poking at it with sticks and reflecting sunlight into it with a magnifying glass.
Words cut deep.
If that was said to me when I was 6 or 7 or 8 I would have thought it was a joke. If it was said to me at 16 or 17 or 18 I would have fought back. But it wasn't. It was said at the time and place where I was most vulnerable.
Hurt people hurt people.
People who are happy and healthy and well don't say or do things that make other people feel terrible inside. Or outside.
I was a child, and not responsible for this person's hurt.
It was displaced upon me because I was an easy target.
Maybe I reminded this person of themselves.
And it's not my fault.
Not then, not now, not ever.
There is a saying that the way that other people treat you is their karma. The way you react to that treatment is your karma.
What someone does to you has very little to do with you and speaks volumes about themselves. What you do with their behavior has everything to do with you and very little to do with them.
Good and bad.
And it's cyclical.
And we can get ourselves into some knock out drag down spirals with people if we let it happen.
And we can lift ourselves and others up in quite the same way.
Cycle up, cycle down.
It's best to break the downward ones, of course. But that can be very hard to do. Especially if we've been kicked and beaten and dragged through the mud.
Ethical Dimension, it's called in the field. I think it's something worth looking into, if one has the time.
I'm doing quite well lately, thank you for the texts and emails and phone calls wondering if this was the case.
So very well that it's almost embarrassing to talk about. To write about.
The topic above comes up because I was talking to a co-worker about how lovely things actually are and she accused me of lying. Of tricking her into thinking that I was happy and content and enjoying things just the way they are.
She looked around the room to see if anyone was in earshot and she looked me dead in the face and a cloud came over her normally-sunny expression and said to me that there is no way that things can be so good for someone and I must be hiding something or trying to make her feel bad about her own problems with her house and her children and her partner and her work because I think she is a failure as a housetender and a mother and a wife and a worker.
I know that it has nothing to do with me and everything to do with the way she is feeling about herself. I know that her words and her actions came from a place of insecurity and hurt and maybe even a little bit of jealousy and the disbelief in my words comes as a reaction to her past experiences with housetenders or parents or partners or co-workers. But it has nothing to do with me.
And that's a very freeing thing. To be able to walk away from that situation and send a bit of love and luck her way in the hopes that she will work that shit out on her own time and without hurting too many people in her wake.
Also, I think I've just invented the word housetender.
Housekeepers devote their entire livelihood to keeping house. Like Alice from the Brady Bunch.
Housewives are traditionally wives that stay at home and cook and clean and mind the dogs and little ones. Like June Cleaver.
Housetenders are people that do their best to make the house a safe and clean and peaceful home when they have a chance to do so between all the other tending they have to do. Like Roseanne. Or something.
I'm a housetender. Sometimes. Right now I'm a wordstender, but I best be on my way to be a worktender so I can get things done and have a bit of time to be a Loratender before I have to be a childtender and a theatertender. Taking time out in ones day for oneself is of the utmost importance.