I have been hurt.
I know what it feels like to scream. Not crying, sobbing, or that cry-yell thing we all do; pure screams, coming out of a black hole in the middle of my chest vibrating with anger, hurt, and confusion. I know what it feels like when there is a gaping hole in my chest, raw at the edges, where the scabs that form can, and are, easily broken open by even the gentlest of winds carrying a reminder of the past.
I know I’m not alone. People can suck; they lie, they work to their own benefit, tossing aside the emotions of others, they manipulate, they twist words, and they can do things to hurt us. Sometimes it’s a friend that’s committed some act of betrayal, a family member that has torn you down, or a significant other that has been unfaithful. I’ve experienced each one of these things, and it doesn’t feel any less painful every time that hole in my chest is punched anew. The only thing that has changed is my belief in myself and my strength as a person.
I used to feel very responsible for these things. My “friends” have stopped talking to me? I’ve obviously done something wrong, I was too weird somehow, not interesting enough, not attractive enough, simply not enough in some manner. My parents are upset at me? I have a character flaw, I’m an awful person, maybe my grades didn’t hit that straight-A standard. And, that last thing, the one that hurts worst of all? Being cheated on.
If it’s not a feeling you know, I both envy you and don’t. I envy you because when it happens, it sinks into every pore and cell of my body. Yes, I said happens, because this has been something I’ve experienced more than once and hope to never do so again. I internalized it; maybe that’s not something that everyone does, but it became my fault. Not pretty enough, cool enough, funny enough, smart enough, not as interesting or beautiful or wonderful as whoever I have been abandoned in favor of. I recognize that not everyone does this or feels this way, but it was my experience—and it led me right to that screaming I opened with, lying on my bed with my arms outstretched wondering how and why this had happened to me.
But, that is a risk you sign up for when you make yourself vulnerable, right? By signing your waiver to experience the highest of highs, the fine print warns of the lows that you prettily ignore in the hopes of never having to face them. For the luckier lot of you, that fine print will never come to fruition or mean anything in your life. For those of us that have been cheated on—not even necessarily this one evil, but being hurt by someone you care about, or being violated by a stranger—the fine print suddenly grows from 8-point font to a looming phrase that screams: you are defective.
Now, is this really true? No; the person who betrayed you is the one who is lacking. But it is hard to remember when the black hole is wreaking havoc on your psyche.
Remember how I said that I envy you…but I don’t? I don’t because it would not have given me the strength that I have now, the space inside of me that I have filled with none other than myself and have, in this way, finally healed the gaping wound. I have realized that I am no less wonderful because of someone else’s idiot mistake, to put it bluntly. I am not responsible for their actions. It is not my fault. That realization is so very freeing. It may seem like an obvious thing to an outsider, but it feels like the anchor and shackles weighing me down and keeping me closed have been broken.
To be vulnerable is to be capable of or susceptible to being wounded or hurt, as by a weapon. Thank you, dictionary.com. That weapon comes in many forms, and I have already recounted to you some of which I believe to be the most painful. Because of those pasts, I am both stronger now and less vulnerable. The loss here lies in that many of life’s sweetest moments require a sensitivity, a vulnerability, that make them so enviable. What I have experienced has left me a little rougher around the edges, a little lacking in that softness that allows for the tenderness of a moment. I still have it somewhere, I know I do, but now I need to home in on the perfect harmony of strong and vulnerable.
One day, I’ll find it. I hope that you do too.