That Time I Hurt Someone I Loved

I’m really struggling over this post.  I started this blog to be transparent with the world, about hurt, and trauma, and triumphs, and shortcomings.  That last piece is really tough.  I mean, it’s one thing to share with whoever may stumble into this world of mine that I’ve been scarred by the words or actions of others.  But to confess that I have undoubtedly scarred others by my own words and actions?  Ouch.  Big ouch.  Pain-in-my-chest-like-I’m-having-a-heart-attack-but-really-it’s-an-insane-amount-of-anxiety ouch.

Here’s the reality of the situation:  we are ALL guilty of scarring others.  Sometimes we leave little knicks with a snide comment or a bit of gossip.  Sometimes we rip somebody’s chest open and machete the crap out of their heart with words we don’t even sincerely mean, but that can never be fully forgotten or reversed.  And sometimes we chip away at the same wound over and over until a tiny tear is suddenly infected and in need of the type of healing that we aren’t able to offer.  I am guilty of all of these.

My natural inclination is to simply leave it at that.  Hey, well all mess up.  I’ve messed up, I’m human, and I don’t claim to be perfect.  So here’s my apology, world.  I’m sorry for not being perfect.  But that apology has about as much depth and feeling as a #sorrynotsorry meme, and if I’m going to be committed to being raw and real with all of you through these posts, then I need to be willing to share my uglier moments right alongside my moments of strength and triumph.  Here are some mortifying confessions and apologies.  My hope is that some of you will read these and know that you are not the only villain in the world.  I hope you see my mistakes and know that you can rise above ANY mistakes you have made.  I hope you see my heart and it encourages you to pursue your own confessions and apologies, because in those moments of truth there is healing, not only for those you have hurt, but for yourself.  Names have been abbreviated to protect the privacy of anyone implicated.

When I was in the sixth grade, I had a friend who was super cool in my eyes.  Not necessarily “popular” cool, but she owned her hippie style and listened to Pink Floyd when the world was obsessing over Boyz II Men.  I envied her, because I was always hyper-aware of what people thought of me, and she could care less.  She was a great friend to me, and during a time when I was desperate for any escape from what was happening with my step-dad and I at home, she provided a calm, no-questions-asked reprieve as often as I wanted.  I should have been severely protective of our relationship, and willing to go to bat for C at all costs, considering what she meant to me.  Instead, one day she decided to skip school to hang out with her next door neighbor (who was a couple years older than us and a couple notches higher than me on C’s friendship list) and I immediately threw her under the bus (not literally; I was vindictive, not deadly).  I went to one of our teachers at school, and just to make sure no stone was left unturned, I told my parents as soon as I got home, as well.  C got in a lot of trouble, and a part of me felt good about that.  I told myself, and her when she asked why I betrayed her, that it was for her own good, that I didn’t want her to start heading down a bad path, that I cared about her and wanted her to avoid hanging out with bad influences.  On a level, all of that was true.  But real talk, I wanted her exposed poor judgment to somehow reflect how good and honest and responsible I was in comparison.  C, I don’t know how or why you forgave me, but I’m so thankful you did.  You are my oldest friend, and even many years and states removed, you are so loved and cherished.

This next one is a two-part apology, and it’s a big one.  I was barely 16.  A new boy had joined our school and one of my best friends was immediately in love.  He was a bad boy whose parents had sent him to live with his grandparents, and his grandparents asked T’s parents if their good girl daughter could buddy up with him.  T was happy to oblige.  She made it no secret to me that she was interested in him, and a good friend would have respected those boundaries and steered clear.  Not only did I disregard my friend’s feelings by pursuing this boy for myself, but I lied to her about it and snuck around with him behind her back.  I knew that it would upset T if I told her that I liked this guy and wanted to date him.  But if I’m honest, I was way more concerned with protecting my image than with protecting her feelings.  I ended up giving him my virginity.  Here’s where it gets super ridiculous.  I was so worried that he might have impregnated me, that for a couple of weeks I would regularly throw my stomach into my bedpost, hard enough to leave visible bruises all over my mid-section, in hopes of “breaking up” whatever might be forming inside of me.  T, I am so very sorry that I had such little regard for you when you were nothing but loving and giving to me.  I’m sorry that I lied to you and made you question your instincts.  I’m sorry that I was truly a shitty friend to you, because you were, and are, a person who deserves better than what I offered.  To my own body and womb, I am tormented over the naive and terrible choice I made to inflict pain and injury on you.  I am haunted by those actions of mine on a regular basis, and especially as month after month, year after year goes by without the presence of a child growing inside the safe haven that I am constantly worried I might have destroyed single-handedly.

Lastly (at least for the purposes of this post, because I could fill an ocean with my shortfalls), I would like to offer a public apology to my husband, and a confession that pains me most of all.  Yours is an injury I’ve been working on for years, one that I continue to reopen time and time again.  I don’t even know how to word this with finesse, so I’ll just come out with it bluntly.  When I feel hurt by you, my weapon of choice has consistently been to remind you that you’re not worth the fight.  I am so quick to remind you that I wasn’t even sure that I should marry you to begin with, and that I should have trusted those instincts; or that I gave up on us a long time ago, and I’m only still here because you convinced me to stay, but I will easily throw in the towel and move on if you don’t keep me happy.  I’m sure this go-to of mine could be explained away with a myriad of old wounds of my own, or reflexes to protect my own heart, or other similar excuses.  But at the end of it all, I still choose to cut you with words that, in those moments, I’m hoping will make you feel small and inferior and worthless.  That is horrible.  Please know that I will continue to work on removing this wretched behavior from our life completely.  Know that I do love you, so much, and that I am severely grateful that you are my husband, despite the fact that I convey the exact opposite in moments of anger and frustration.  I am especially grateful that you have chosen to continue to work to love me better, to make me feel more loved, even when I haven’t reciprocated.  You are my rock, and I don’t ever want to do this life without you.

My fear right now is that those of you who read this will think less of me, will stop wanting to read what I have to say, or, if you know me, will prefer to bow out of our relationship.  Really, who would want to know a person who has shown such little regard for others?  But maybe someone will relate.  If so, it would mean the world to me if you shared.  Have you ever hurt someone you loved?  Have you ever pursued your own gain at the expense of someone else’s loss?  If sharing in the comments is too daunting (I don’t blame you), you could go the more ambiguous route and tweet me a simple #Imessuptoo @thstangledheart.  If you stick with me after this, THANK YOU for seeing past my failures and loving me anyway.  It means more than you know.  il_570xN.755451938_iorq

That Summer When I Was Ten

***Trigger Warning: This post is very raw for me, and it contains some mildly graphic descriptions.  Please be aware that this post could be a trigger for some.***

It was summer.  For any ten year old, summer means two things: no school, and tons of time with friends.  For me, it meant those things, as well.  But it meant something else, too.  You see, my dad was in school, working toward a degree in Meteorology.  My mom was working full time, so during the summer, my dad took time off from school to watch us, so that my brothers and I wouldn’t have to go to daycare.  In theory, this was a perfect setup.  We got to stay home for two months, playing outside and watching old sitcoms, lounging around in our pajamas until whatever hour we felt like changing into play clothes.  And that’s pretty much how it went for my brothers.  For me, there was a different routine.

You see, every morning that my mom went to work, my dad invited (translation: forced) me to join him in our family room for daddy-daughter time.  At the start of the summer, this felt like the most special time for me.  I had always been a daddy’s girl, ever since my mom married my step-dad when I was five.  Never having met my biological father, and having had a rough start to life with my mom’s first husband, I had embraced this man with an open heart.  He was my daddy, and I was his baby girl.  Like all daddy’s girls, I knew I could get my way most of the time with a bat of my eyelashes and an extra tight squeeze around his waist.  At ten years old, I thought of this behavior as playful and loving.  I would come to realize much later in life that my dad received it as flirtation.  So when our private morning times began, I secretly felt like the “favorite” when my dad wouldn’t let my brothers come into the room while we sat and watched The Price Is Right together.

I can’t remember when the change started happening.  At some point that summer, my dad began having me sit on his lap while we watched TV, instead of sitting next to him on the couch.  I remember feeling uncomfortable because he was always just in his robe and underwear.  But I thought, even at that young age, that there must be something wrong with me that I would feel weird about sitting on my dad’s lap.  After all, he seemed perfectly happy and didn’t act like it was weird at all.  So I grinned and snuggled and acted like I was happy, too.  Sometimes my brothers would try to come into the family room, either to tell on each other for something, or to ask for a snack, or if they could go play outside.  Every time they would try to come in, especially if I was sitting on my dad’s lap, he would yell at them to get out.  That started feeling weird to me after a while, too.  But who was I to question my dad’s authority?

One morning, I came into the family room with a nervous request.  The day before, a friend had invited me to go to the movies with her and her family.  I had completely forgotten to ask my parents while my mom was home that night.  So there I was, at my morning visit with my dad, and I had to ask him if it was ok for me to go.  I wasn’t nervous that he would say no.  I somehow knew what I would have to do to get him to say yes, and that made me nervous.

It was the first time I remember kissing my dad on the mouth.  We might have exchanged a mutual peck on the lips, like most parents do with their little ones, before.  But this was different.  This was…

“Daddy, can I please go with Susan and her parents to the movies today?” I held my breath.

“I don’t know, baby, it’s going to cost you.” He grinned.

“I have money, daddy.  I have it saved up in my bank.” Problem solved.

“No, I don’t mean it will cost you money.  It’s going to cost you something else.”  He touched my leg and I shuddered.  I didn’t know why.  “It’s going to cost you a kiss.”

“Ok!” I bounced in for a peck.  That was easy!

“No, this is going to cost you a much better kiss than that.” Silence, and that grin.

I had never kissed a boy, but I knew what he meant.  I felt something similar to what you feel when you lean in for that first real kiss with your middle school crush.  But it didn’t feel like butterflies.  It felt like rocks, pelting the inside of my gut as I slowly moved my face toward my dad’s mouth.  His lips were a little wet, and they were opened just enough that he was able to close them around my lips as we met.  It felt like a year that I sat there, not moving a muscle, completely unsure of what I was supposed to do next, praying that this would be enough.  Finally, my dad pulled away from me, picked me up, and plopped me down on the couch next to him.

That time, it was enough.  I got my movie date.  And for a short time, my dad didn’t have me sit on his lap during our morning times.  We sat side by side, watching The Price Is Right, and I wondered why I had felt so weird about what had happened between us.  After all, it was just a kiss.


This is the first time I can remember second guessing my instincts.  I knew something was really wrong, but I told myself that I was making a big deal out of nothing.  Because he was my dad, he loved me, he was a grown up, I never told him I was uncomfortable, and a million other excuses that floated through my head.  That summer developed into a pattern of me second guessing my intuition, until I no longer listened to it at all.

That feeling isn’t unique to an innocent 10 year old girl and her experience.  As adults, we ignore our instincts all the time, and we justify other people’s poor behavior with a million different excuses.  He’s my boss, she’s my friend, I don’t want to be embarrassed, maybe I’m reading this all wrong… Certainly, if a child confides in you that they feel uncomfortable about ANYTHING, please listen to them.  Children don’t tend to make stuff up that makes them feel uncomfortable.  But even if it’s not a child.  Even if it’s your own head telling you something is off, or a relationship isn’t right for you, or a work environment is weird, LISTEN.  Listen to that still, small whisper in your head telling you to run.  Listen to that voice that says you shouldn’t be talked to that way, or looked at that way, or asked to do those things, or told not to do those things.

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I was given a book years ago by a dear friend who helped me through one of the toughest situations I’ve faced as an adult.  I was struggling with a LOT of self doubt, and I was faced with making some big decisions that I was scared to death I would mess up.  My friend gave me a book called The Gift Of Fear by Gavin De Becker.  It was one of the most insightful books I have ever read.  If you struggle with self doubt, with second guessing yourself, please go get this book and devour it.  And please know that your mind was created to function FOR you, not against you.  You are so much smarter and braver than you think, and you are capable of making the BEST decisions for YOU that nobody else can.  No go be bold and love yourself!

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