Ish – this is a hard post to write. It’s always difficult to hold a mirror up to yourself and see something ugly reflected back, but I would guess that these kinds of self-discoveries are the kinds that help us grow – make us really LOOK at ourselves and reflect. I’m all about reflection – it’s just sucky when you realize you have some maturing to do.
The backstory to this begins in high school. I’ve written quite a bit about a friend who I hold dear in my heart. Someone that has meant a lot to me throughout my high school years – someone that I lost touch with in my 20s but reconnected with in my 30s. Someone that I loved and idolized. Admired and wished to emulate. Someone that I held to be all the things I felt I was not. That’s a lot to put on any one person – no one wants to be on a pedestal because at that point we cease to see the real person; we only see a being towering above us – if you can’t see right into someone’s eyes, you miss the real story. She was someone that I felt a deep connection with on many levels, mostly in our common core beliefs. Someone who I thought had a pretty good life despite early trials, tribulations and tragedies that the best of us would find hard to survive without some internal damage. I knew there was damage – but until a couple of years ago I didn’t realize the extent to that damage. But that’s her story to tell – the hard part, for me, was when I started to read about it in her writings.
She started blogging, anonymously, in the area of addiction and recovery. I never knew she was an alcoholic. I never realized that during our time together (and we spent a lot of time together) she was desperately trying to numb herself from her past – pushing down the demons. I knew she had demons but I thought she was in control. That’s what happens when you keep looking up – you see what’s on the outside but miss entirely what’s on the inside because, like I said, you cannot see into their eyes.
And here’s where it gets difficult. I started reading her stories – and whilst part of me was filled with sadness for her and a deepening love for her courage to talk about her life…part of me, the part that I wanted to just stuff inside myself and not acknowledge – that part of me felt betrayed. Betrayed that she was sharing this secret pain – some that she’d shared with me – to everyone. I felt like I didn’t know this person – and I felt hurt. And not even in a way that I can really explain with words.
And then the big news came. The news that completely rocked my world. She told me she’d become a Christian. Growing up, she was always pretty flippant about western religion, we both were interested in Eastern religions in our teen years and very liberal in our social views. I’m a solid agnostic with a Catholic upbringing, she’d always had no religion and had more of an atheist bent. I was so taken aback – and very afraid. Afraid I’d be judged and found wanting, afraid that we’d have no common ground. Afraid she’d be praying for my corrupt soul. Afraid she couldn’t or wouldn’t be my friend anymore. Afraid I couldn’t be her friend anymore. And then I went through a period of wondering if our friendship had been based on anything solid. Was it all a sham what we connected with in our teens? Did I ever really know her?
And then the realization HIT ME LIKE A FREAKIN’ TON OF BRICKS. Everything I was worried about – EVERYTHING came from my own selfish point of view. It was all about “I” – and how I felt about her situation and how it would affect me. I did slow turn in the mirror and saw an ugly monster staring me in the face. It was humiliating. Or maybe it was humbling. I’m not really sure –maybe it was both things. But I do know this – I wanted to change that.
So I talked to her. I never said anything about feeling betrayed or the selfishness I’d discovered within myself, but I laid out my fears on the table in written form, because that’s always been our way. We can write and write and write – that’s one of the things I love about her the most. Anyway, I suspect she knew I would have them because she wasn’t able to actually tell me of her conversion when we were hanging out one day – she wrote to me about it the day afterwards, letting me know how hard it was for her to share this with me. I don’t think she would have thought I’d have been angry or scornful, that’s not who I am, but she knew it would have surprised me to say the least. And, because she’s the most atypical converted Christian I’ve ever met, she laid all my fears to rest. She is not evangelistic. She is about her own relationship with God – and that’s all. She is not anti-anyone nor needs others to agree with her own beliefs to have them validated. She’s made me more thoughtful about her beliefs and we both respect each other’s points of view. I may or may not believe in God, but I believe in her belief of God. Does that make sense?
After all this, I went back and re-read a lot of her posts with an entirely different mindset. With more empathy rather than sympathy. And suddenly, I didn’t feel betrayed. I didn’t feel cheated and I didn’t feel that our past was anything different than what it was. I’ve taken her off the pedestal so I can continue to look into her eyes and see who she really is. And I hope she can see who I really am. Human – yet a little less selfish.
I leave you with some Flogging Molly