One of the Ways I’m a Terrible Person

When I was a kid, an adult did something shitty to me. Not like life-shattering betrayal of trust shitty, but just ordinary shitty. The kind of ordinary shitty, though, that kind of ruins a little bit of being a kid for you. Like “Oh, this person is just pretending to be nice and pretending to be friends with these other adults, but really, she’s a liar who is deliberately doing things to undermine the people who think she’s their friend.” Until her, I didn’t really understand that grown-ups would lie. I thought they might not always tell the truth, but it was just because they didn’t know what the truth was, not because they had some agenda that was furthered by just trying to fuck things up for people.

Anyway, something terrible has happened to her community. She is fine. But I saw her on the news, hugely upset, going on about how she and the members of her church were staying late to help the victims of this terrible thing, because they’re Christian and that’s what they do.

And I felt this kind of rage burn through me so quickly and then burn out and then I laughed. And I realized I was laughing because she was so upset and scared and miserable.

I would like to be a more forgiving person. Not for the sake of the people who have wronged me. But just for my own sake. But I hadn’t thought about this woman in a million years. Isn’t that the benefit to moving away? Folks go on with their lives. You go on with yours. And you don’t have to give a shit about each other anymore. If you’d have asked me yesterday morning about her, I think I would have had to struggle to bring her to mind. My first memory of her would not have even been the shitty thing, but the really awesome thing she’s well-known for in the community (which I’m not mentioning, because it would, I think, make her immediately recognizable).

I didn’t know, in other words, how pissed and hurt I was still by her. Yesterday morning, if you had asked me if I had forgiven her. I would have laughed and said yes, of course. That was so many years ago. And I would have believed it.

But seeing her face. It just opened up some part of me I didn’t even know was walled off. And there I was “Ha ha, this time it sucks to be you.” And it felt good to see her crying.

So, here is my question. If you design an interior space in your psyche that lets you navigate life with as little continuing trauma as possible, if you just wall off the unpleasant shit you have no way of resolving and learn to maneuver around the spot you just don’t use any more so deftly you even forget it’s there, and you base your ideas of yourself on the interior that no longer includes those walled-off spots, how can you truly know you’ve moved beyond something? That you’ve truly forgiven someone? If the wall is there, just waiting to crumble, how can you ever, really, move beyond old hurts?


2 thoughts on “One of the Ways I’m a Terrible Person

  1. I just finished “The Whole-Brain Child” and it talks about this. When you move a memory from implicit to explicit, it allows you to fully deal with it. Yesterday your brain was ever-so-slightly different from today and now, as a result of the realization you just had, you can set about processing it in a healthy manner.

    We internalize things that we didn’t realize–as you said–but that doesn’t mean they have to sit there like that forever. That was step one. It’s very normal and healthy.

    I mean, if you’re gonna call yourself a terrible person, you gotta come up with something better than this.


  2. We’re human beings. We hurt each other a lot: deliberately, negligently, accidentally, unknowingly, you name it. And thus we get hurt a lot. I don’t think we have enough time in our lives to deal with each hurt done to us individually, so a lot of what you call walling-off is really just us dismissing things as insufficiently important to pay attention to. Other parts of it are a genuine walling off, a putting things aside until we are ready to deal with them. doing that doesn’t make you a shitty person so long as you do deal with them when they come up again.

    It sounds like you may now be ready to deal with what this woman did. At least, you seem to recognize now that she’s really not self-aware, and you can remember positive things about her, too, so you seem to have put her into a context you can understand and so you can get rid of the residual bad feelings. It’s OK to laugh at her, because she sounds rather absurd (ooh, you’re staying late? such a sacrifice!) Let it go.

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