Sometimes, while doing the best you can to show up to your life every day, you might come up short and disappoint yourself.
(If you don’t relate to that, please take one for the team and donate your still-beating heart to comprehensive scientific research.)
Finding yourself disappointing is one thing, with its own set of potential problems. But if you do it regularly enough, you’ll learn to forgive yourself and self-soothe as a survival mechanism.
Realizing your actions or lack thereof are a disappointment to others can be trickier. For me, anyway.
In my heart, I have a constant yearning for people to just get along.
I often feel that if no one ever came after me with judgment, hostility, encroachment of my autonomy, or condescension, that I would simply never be rude, judgmental, or demeaning to anyone, ever. I don’t know if that’s precisely true or not, as I haven’t been able to emulate the conditions necessary to test that theory. Maybe someday.
My most common way of letting other people down is by not showing up. We make plans. I flake out.
The thing is, I know what it’s like to be on the other side of that. I’ve been angry before, with friends who didn’t show up for me when I thought I needed them to.
More often, I’ve been totally understanding. Sometimes, I was happy when they canceled on me (so that I didn’t have to cancel on them; dignity spared!).
At times, people have taken my inconsistency at showing up, as personal attacks, degradation of their character, or blatant disrespect.
When that has happened, it caused quite a ruckus within myself. I find myself aghast at their lack of empathy or whatever.
I don’t make up BS reasons for backing out. I tell people the reasoning, as directly and clearly as they are interested in hearing. Whether it be anxiety, an overbooked schedule, abysmally low energy levels, depression, over-reliance on vices, etc. That transparency is my attempt to be respectful to others within the limitations of my current mental state.
It would be ideal for people to see a hurting, disheveled human in these situations rather than a villainous abandoner.
If I had my way, I’d show up for everyone I know, every single day.
I get that it’s essentially my own responsibility to take care of myself, manage my priorities, have healthy coping mechanisms, and whatever else, in order to have the energy and determination to be consistent and stable.
But when I slip up? Not exactly a conscious choice. Maybe there were exceptions to that 1% of the time, when I screwed up on purpose to back out of priorities. Okay, maybe more like 99% of the time back in high school (back when I learned how to make myself throw up so I could stay home and watch Golden Girls). But this isn’t high school.
When I slip up? Not a personal attack. No disrespect intended.
But all of this. It’s just me striving to be understood. And that’s virtually pointless.
Everyone you’ve ever met has their own version of you in their mind. There is no objective you. There is no objective me. There are only interpretations…
Each interpretation is built out of the interpreter’s own thoughts, emotions, beliefs, and preconceptions. This means some versions of you are way saucier than others. The you that exists in other peoples’ minds could be an antagonist, hellbent on poking all of their wounds.
When someone hates you for no apparent reason, it’s not necessarily because of you. It’s because that version of you is built out of mental monsters, traumas, and pain.
When others are disappointed in you for being a hurting, disheveled person, maybe it’s because they are hurting and disheveled too.
We could all keep ourselves and each other trapped in a loop of letting each other down forever. Or we could work on our interpretations of others and their reactions to us. Snap the cycle in the butt with a towel. Dump some cold water on its head.
Hey. I’m sorry to anyone I’ve hurt during times of anxiety and solitude.
And I forgive anyone that I’ve been hurt by when they had their own reasons for backing away.
Let’s all do our best to align our interpretations of others with what’s reasonable, accurate, and equitable. Maybe project a few less grueling phantoms onto our expectations of others…
Because, hey. We can all get better at this. We can reach a point when our setbacks are just faded memories. We’ll get there more efficiently with one another’s support.
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