Before I begin, let me preface this week's article by 1) apologizing for posting this late (I've been busy studying for finals, if you didn't know already) and 2) stating up front that this isn't directed at any particular person. Don't get cocky enough to think I'd write about anyone in particular. ;)
It seems like most everyone I meet has a past. No, not a past, a past, the kind of past that haunts them, that scares them, that changes the way they live. Some have had bad relationships, family instability, histories of drug abuse, and so on. And it's depressing to see, time and time again, because the people I meet usually don't deserve any of it.
My knack for bringing out the horrid pasts in other people has made me somewhat of a cybershrink online. It's not uncommon for close friends to talk to me as if I'm their psychiatrist. I've been in situations like theirs before, I know what the beast looks like. I know how they feel.
The apprehensions show themselves quickly, usually within the course of the first real conversation. A snipy comment or off-color remark brings out a very bitter attitude towards something like love or gender roles, and I know I've run into another person, scarred by someone else's past irresponsibility and negligence. What am I supposed to say? How am I supposed to act? I've seen it all before, but I'm always boggled in coming up with a suitable response.
I'm honestly confused about encountering victims of such malice. I can tell how addled I am simply by how choppy this essay has developed so far. Usually these women are the sweetest things you could ever talk to, yet they make themselves distant, in a way. You're talking to them, but you're not. Luckily, I'm good at chipping away the protective wall and seeing what's really there. To a degree I know what's already inside -- it's who that person seems to be, or who that person wants to be, and that is an interesting thing. These women are usually trying to be a certain way, trying to be nice and sweet and good-natured.
Perhaps this almost excessive level of goodness is a product of their past. Perhaps, in a way, it's good to be a victim of one's evils. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, right?
It disturbs these people at first that I have the ability to get inside their heads at this level, but I think they know I'm not going to do anything harmful while I'm in there. What I am worried about is how these people will adjust to being a little more open about things with people in general. I certainly wouldn't harm these people. But what about others? Would others take advantage of a new "weakness"? Is it worth the risk? Despite what could happen, I'm inclined to answer, "Yes, it's worth the risk."
Because these people add so much to the world with their warmth and love for everyone. They make people feel good about themselves, and they make others feel comfortable around other groups of people. Someone who did not appreciate goodness like victims do would not be able to contribute so much.
Getting back to the original question, how am I to respond when these people hint or tell me of their pasts? I'm not good at being supportive, nor am I good at being extremely emotional. That is not to say that I'm cold and don't care, it's just that I don't express such feelings well.
Let me think back to when I was feeling depressed for a long time after some twisted events happened in my life. I remember not wanting to talk about the past event, preferring to talk about something else instead. The friends who just accepted me for me and who were happy to just talk were the ones I appreciated the most back then.
I think that's what I should do. Learn by example. I should just make myself available through my web page, through e-mail, and in real life. So those who just want to talk to me to pass the time, or read my essays to have something to think about, can. I'm there for them whenever they want to communicate. No strings attached.
I think that's all people want.
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