A little background on this post for those of you who don’t follow me on Facebook. When I posted my “Un-Fuck the World” post on FB last week, I received an update from FB about how the post was doing (on FB, not from the blog itself). Well, it told me that one person had found the content offensive and “hidden” it from their timeline. I found this funny (more on this in the post), but they weren’t done. Later that week, I got another report that said someone had “un-liked” my page, not just the post. This means that they, essentially, had un-joined the To Know We Are Not Alone Facebook page. To my knowledge, this is my first lost customer. This loss deserves some reflection…
To my first Un-Liker:
My temptation is to say “I’m sorry,” because in the past, I have lived in utter dread, every single moment of my life, of someone not liking me…of doing something that would push someone away from me. You see, I have what are called abandonment issues, and as illogical as it is, whether it’s the waitress at the Waffle House where I’m sitting and writing this at 4:47 a.m….or a friend I’ve had for a week…or a long-time friend…a serious girlfriend…a parent or child or wife…I live pretty much petrified that someone will walk away from me because of something I did. I’ve gotten my feelings hurt a million times by “losses” of people who probably couldn’t remember my name two days later
This is not an ideal way to function
I’ve worked on this issue, M(r)(s)(rs)(iss) Un-Liker, for decades. I know why I operate this way, and I could articulate it for you in about 4 sentences. Knowing my issues has never been my problem; changing the way I respond to life’s inevitable losses has been my problem. My friends lost their child; I have relived that loss every day for three years as if it were my own child. No doubt their pain is deeper and far more acute, but I don’t think I ever look at my children without thinking of their friend who has been gone for three years. My daughter’s best friend’s dad dropped dead three years ago; I think about it every day and wonder how to comfort my daughter about my own longevity. My dog died 6 years ago, and it’s still too painful to think about without crying. I stepped on an ant in 1982, and I’m still looking for its family to try to make it right
I’m sad for the drunk 20-somethings sitting across the Waffle House from me because I know that they kind of fun they are having doesn’t last very long (not meaning the hangovers they’ll have in a few hours, but meaning the few years from now when being awake at 5 a.m. will be for reasons more like mine than theirs (I’m not drunk (this time)). I’d sad at how damn happy all the people who work this graveyard shift seem, wondering why my own standards for my life are so absurd when happiness obviously doesn’t just come from job status or pay grade. I’m sad for Whitney Houston’s daughter who’s apparently never going to wake up from that suicidal coma. I am sad for Bruce Jenner (and proud of him), and I am also sad for his children and family. I mean, how in the hell is it possible for someone as cynical as I am to feel empathy for how much Khloe Kardashian is hurting because of Bruce’s decision? Or to admire Kim Kardashian for how thoughtfully she managed the family meeting about Bruce’s decision? See how far I’ve fallen? I feel proud of Kim Kardashian. This is cataclysmically scary.
As a friend told me this week, I have a “superpower” called empathy. It’s a bitch.
But back to you, Un-Liker. I hope you’re still reading. I can tend to ramble. As an English teacher and writer, I call this “using lots of detail.” When my students do it, I call it “rewrite it and make it much shorter!” So, you see, I am a “feeler”…emotionally unstable if you want to put a clinical term on it…and the number one thing that brings out this instability is other people’s rejection. And you’ve rejected me. In this context, I think you’re the first. Statistically, I know this is bound to happen. Somewhere between 300 and 400 people read these posts, and 1 out of 350 isn’t too bad, but to me, it might as well be 350 out of 350 who have unfollowed me in terms of how it feels to me.
Strike that: In terms of how it — USED to feel to me.
So when I discovered your departure a few days ago, guess what I did? I laughed. More importantly, guess what I felt? I felt genuine amusement and pride. Not the teeth-gritted this-is-how-I-want-to-feel sort of amusement, but the genuine, oh-well-not-everyone’s-going-to-like-what-I-say sort of amusement. Every time I have thought of it since, too, it has seemed funny to me. And I beam with pride as I look at my inner child and see that he’s growing up a little bit.
What sent you away, Un-Liker? I’m still curious about that. Maybe it was the overuse of the word “fuck” or maybe it was the message that everyone needs to try to make the world around them a little bit better…I don’t know which of the two turned you off. But whatever it was, I’m #sorrynotsorry. I’ve spent my whole 39 year life obsessively monitoring my status in the people’s lives around me. I get far too devastated by “losses” that don’t even cross other people’s radar screens at all – not even blips. Not too long ago, I wrote a post about how I care too much about the feedback I get on this very blog. I talked about how consumed I become by how many people read it and how many people “like” it and how many people respond with a comment. I’ve probably decided to quit writing the damn thing at least 30 times, and not so long ago, your “un-liking” would’ve undoubtedly been the final straw for me.
But something has changed in me of late. I think I’ve found the rock solid, proverbial “bottom.” It’s sort of like a grand finale at a fireworks show. You know how there are always a few times during the show when they set off a bunch of fireworks at once and you think “I guess it’s almost over”? But then it keeps going and eventually, when it really is the grand finale, there’s no doubt that THIS is the grand finale. I’ve had plenty of “is this the bottom” moments in the past few years, but this one even has other people telling me, “Tim, you’ve found your bottom” (it was in my pants the whole time!).
I’m not going to share with you how I know this is the bottom, but trust me on this one, Un-Liker: Where I’ve come from over the past month or two only has one final, lower rung – 6 feet lower to be precise. I know, I know, this sounds dramatic. Well, it has been dramatic. It will make for some very good blog posts once I’m removed enough to share the stories (you actually might want to re-follow me in a year or two for some doozies).
But the best thing that happens when you hit the bottom is you finally realize that the bottom is a softer landing spot than you ever would’ve thought. It’s soft enough that your friends and family will still visit you at the bottom; they’ll even still accept you and love you and root for you, even if you did plenty of the things that landed you at the bottom of your own free will. You’ll also meet great new friends at the bottom – the other who have landed there around the same time. You’ll be surprised at how similar they are to you – surprised that the “bottom-dwellers” aren’t all living on the streets or doing meth or pregnant by a guy they met on Marta. Most of them have respectable jobs and nice clothes and families and degrees, and most of them are suffering with the exact same affliction that has landed me on the bottom: the ICan’tDoThisButGoddammitI’mTrying affliction. I’m pretty sure that’s the one common diagnosis in my current treatment program.
It takes a long time to get to the bottom, and I’m not sure anyone can will themselves there any faster than the gravity of their lives will allow them to fall. But I do know that that final turn on the road to the bottom is on a street called YourRightYouCan’tDoThis. It’s the moment of surrender. Not a religious surrender, though for some it takes that shape. Certainly not a surrender to any new dogma that will only serve to reinforce how little you actually know about anything. No, it’s a surrender to failure and uncertainty and human frailty and death and I’llNeverMeasureUP and SoandSoWillNeverUnderstand, etc.
Here at the bottom, I can look square in the face at the fact that someone out there in the world does not like what I have to say. I can accept that because I finally, genuinely see that there’s no amount of effort I can exert that will change that fact…because I know that, when you’re at the bottom, you’ll realize that some people aren’t going anywhere no matter how many times you say the F word in a blog post…because the bathroom mirrors at the bottom tell the whole truth: that you have some ugly spots and some beautiful spots, and sometimes they overlap in ways that make it hard to tell which is which…because at the bottom I finally believe of myself what I have long accepted in others: people aren’t good OR bad; people are good AND bad (stolen from Robert Penn Warren’s All the King’s Men).
I am good AND bad, and I am no longer capable of pretending that, if I only work hard enough, I can be completely good…or even that I can make people think I am.
So, Un-Liker, I’m tempted to send you off with an F-bomb farewell, partly for irony’s sake and partly to have the final word in this anonymous feud we’re having. But what’s funny is that I have absolutely no desire to get you back or to tell you to F off (see, I didn’t even try to sneak it in right there). I feel no animosity toward you whatsoever. I’m not sorry, but I’m also not mad. Maybe I’m a little sad that humans can’t communicate with each other more clearly, but that’s not about you as much as it is about the human condition. The human condition still makes me sad, and I doubt that will ever change, but who knows? Un-Liker, I actually wish you well. I hope you will find writers who say things in ways that help you, not hurt you. I understand as well as anyone the power of words to both help us and to hurt us, and if my words were not helpful to you, you did the right thing. Find someone who says things in a way that helps you. That’s my parting wish for you. I don’t think I’ll ever quit wishing for everyone I come across to “get my drift” at all times. But you, for one, don’t. And I’m cool with that while also wishing it was different. I think this is called intrapersonal growth, and I appreciate that you’ve given me the chance to see it in myself.
With the utmost sincerity, I wish you a great fucking weekend!
PS. Come back in a year or two when I’m ready to share the stories of my reaching the bottom. Some of them are very entertaining, and by then I will most likely have quit swearing.
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