An open letter to anyone who wants to know me…

I didn’t know where I stood:

A guy at work acted hurt when I implied that another coworker knew me better than he did. I don’t know if his demeanor was genuine or not (I can’t always tell with this guy what is genuine and what isn’t). I hate that I may have hurt him. I actually like the idea that he wanted to know me, or at least that he wanted to be the one who knew me better than anyone else. Truth is, before this particular argument I didn’t know where I stood with this guy and I hated not knowing. Now, I have a better idea where I stand…sadly though, I don’t really like my location.

The day everything seemed to change:

It all started with a prank. One day, while I was on vacation, he tried to pull one over on me by having someone text me to say he was quitting. I like working with him and so of course I’d be sad to see him leave. The real argument came when I returned to work after vacation. I won’t bore you with details about the incident but here is a quick rundown:

He pretends to be mad that I “found out his secret”.
I am hurt that he wanted to keep it a secret. I thought we were friends.
I find out it’s a prank and that many people in the office were “in on it”.
I get embarrassed by the idea that people were laughing at me.
I overreact before fully processing my thoughts.
He gets mad that I didn’t take it as a joke.

There are a lot of details missing but I think that’s the basic timeline. Ever since then, we haven’t been the same. I didn’t like the way it was before – not knowing where I stood – but I really don’t like where we are now. He thinks I got really mad and now believes I can’t take a joke. Truth is, I wasn’t mad, I was hurt. It just looked like mad. And my hurt wasn’t at the joke itself, it was in the idea of how massive it was and the implication that I’m not allowed to care what is going on in his life.

Further discussions have proved ineffective in smoothing things over. The chasm is now much too large to build a bridge. I fear that once his good opinion is lost, it’s lost forever. I just wish I’d realized it was a good opinion before all this happened. Perhaps I would have taken the whole thing as the joke it was intended to be.

The car ride that went horribly wrong:

Several years ago a really great friend of mine and I started spending a lot more time together. We travelled, we had sleep overs, we talked a lot. There were some things I was dealing with that I didn’t really want to talk about. I think it hurt her that I wouldn’t tell her everything that was going on with me.

One day, she knew I was mad about something and insisted that I tell her what it was. She hated when I’d tell her “nothing, I’m fine” when clearly something was bothering me. I get that. It felt like a betrayal to her that I wouldn’t share.

So, at her insistence, I told her what was going on in my mind. She didn’t like what she heard and became upset and hurt. Then, in the process of talking it through, I came to the conclusion that whatever it was wasn’t a big deal and nothing to really be mad at and I quickly got over it. However, the damage was done. Things I’d said during my “processing” had stung her and I couldn’t take them back.

The first time I learned how to read me:

It was during this time that I learned how to read me. I learned that when I get mad, I need to stop and ask myself a few questions:

  1. Am I mad or is there another emotion that I’m mistaking for mad? (Even if it turns out to be another emotion, it always comes across as mad at first.)
  2. If I’m mad, what am I really mad about? Is the anger about something legitimate (was I really wronged in some way) or is there an underlying thing that is all mine with which to deal?
  3. If I’m mad, is the anger really going to accomplish or change anything for the better? (The answer to this is usually a resounding “NO”!)

This process can take anywhere from a few moments to a week or so depending on the severity of whatever happened or whatever I’m dealing with. After the horrible car ride, my friend said she’d rather I process in silence before sharing. She just requested that I not say “I’m fine” if I’m not. If I am somewhere in the process, just say so. Anything less than that felt like a lie to her and she was not a fan of that.

What I wish wasn’t the case but is:

I over-think. I can’t help it. My brain never shuts down. I always have scenarios in my head. I’m always parsing dialog, even from months ago, to figure out meaning or look for subtext I might have missed in the moment. I’m always trying to determine what I think about a person, place, thing, or idea and I’m constantly trying to reconcile my feelings and thoughts with what is actually true. All of this takes processing. I am a processor. I wish I didn’t give things a second thought but I can’t stop myself from getting even as far as the 10th or 20th thought.

I’m trying to figure out how to be me while also trying to function in a “quick, give me your answer now” world. I don’t know how to be/do both. I am not quick to the words and opinions. It takes me time to form cohesive thoughts that don’t seem like a rambling mess of words that either make no sense or shouldn’t be spoken in public.

I guess the only thing I can really say to others, whether you understand where I’m coming from or not, is that you please be patient with me while I process. It could take a while and several re-returns to a conversation you thought was dead and gone.

The lonely side of this:

It’s easier to get shut off from people when you’re like this.

Just say you’re fine even if you’re not and keep your thoughts to yourself.
No one wants to know all you’re thinking and they wouldn’t understand if you shared.

That’s the rationale I’ve come to several times. So, I get locked into my own head. It’s not necessarily a safe place to be. It’s an illogical place to be sometimes. I even get lost up there. A merry-go-round of what-if’s and what-did-that-mean’s. There have been people who’ve tried to get me to stop being this way. Even Prank Guy at work has insisted that I think too much and should just stop. But, I don’t know what it looks like to not think.

I’m trying to learn how to “think better”. How to prioritize my thoughts as much as I have my emotions. If I’m mad, I have the 3+ questions to ask myself. If I’m overwhelmed by some other emotion/feeling, I know how to deal with those things too. However, when my thoughts run amuck, trying to organize/prioritize can feel like herding cats or getting my 3-year-old niece to sit still for more than 5 seconds. (Both seem virtually impossible.) The only thing that helps is writing, journalling, blogging.

So, if you have stayed for the entirety of this blog, congratulations, you have more patience than most. And, I’m sorry you were subjected to this mess of thoughts but if you really want to know me you should be forewarned,…I come with a mess.

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