Three Letters

Note: For the sake of clarity, the two Ks who are mentioned are different people.

Dear M,

I was at the grocery store yesterday scanning items for checkout when Stereo Hearts came on the speakers. That wasn’t when I noticed, though. I didn’t clue into the fact it was playing until the final chorus, when I realized I was singing along.
I haven’t been able to listen to that song for seven years. I skipped it whenever it came on if I could, I walked out of the room if I couldn’t. It reminded me too much of you. It hurt me too much.
Yesterday, though, I sang along, and instead of the hurt and sadness which I have come to expect, I smiled. I could picture you walking our high school campus with me and L, one of her and one of your hands linked with mine, your other one up in the air waving your phone back and forth while the song played from it. I could picture the three of us singing and laughing, the words to the verses falling from our lips in a tangled, nonsensical jumble. We thought we were ever so clever, changing the chorus’s final line to say “sing along to my iPhone”. I think it was your idea, and no matter how many times you played the song, we sang that line the loudest.
I could picture your characteristic, ever present laughter so easily. I could picture your special brand of kindness that appeared to never fade, no matter the circumstance or target.
It was you and K who taught me to appreciate my ability to laugh. The world in its darkness and horrors will do all it can to break us, but there will always be beauty to be found within it. My friends tease me, now, for how often I laugh. I think they think me silly and frivolous. I don’t mind. Thank you for teaching me not to mind.
It’s been seven years and I was finally able to listen to the song. I remember you once telling L that it was okay not to be sad, and maybe it is. I know I always will be to some extent, but maybe it’s okay to be okay with what we have left of you. It’s okay to be okay with the lingering memories. It’s alright to hold onto them instead of hiding from the loss. I don’t think I’ll skip it anymore.

Dear K,

You probably thought I was strange, this girl who got in your car and who couldn’t stop talking. You were probably confused by my rambling sentences, my embarrassed laughter, the graceless, stumbling way I told you my stories. You maybe don’t even remember me.
The oddest part about our encounter was how easy it was for me to talk. You couldn’t have known, but I spent the duration of our fifteen minute trip feeling like I was observing myself from the outside. You couldn’t have known that the girl I saw was unrecognizable to me. You couldn’t have known that you are likely the only person who has seen me unencumbered by anxiety like that in a decade. You would have had no idea that my comfort with you was a miracle.
I’d love to say that I overcame some hurtle to be there like that. I wish that I’d found some switch in myself to make conversation easier, the magical thought process I need to go through in order to make it enjoyable to be the center of someone’s attention rather than excruciating.
I don’t know if it was because you let me talk without interruption or that you answered my questions kindly but succinctly, not allowing me my usual trick of getting the other person to talk the whole time so I don’t have to be even slightly vulnerable. I don’t know if it was because you circled back and asked about small details I’d mentioned in previous answers, leaving me feeling like you were actually listening to me.
I am not sure what it was about the circumstances or the way in which you interacted with me that made me feel like I had the right to take up space, but I do know how rarely I allow myself to feel that way. I probably won’t meet you again, but thank you for showing me what my life could be like if I learn to live more separately from my anxiety. Thank you for making me feel seen for those fifteen minutes.

Dear my past self,

I set a boundary yesterday. And you won’t believe it, but it was a real one, not one of those vague things I historically liked to convince myself was sufficient. It wasn’t just me telling someone how they were making me feel and thinking that was good enough. It was a true boundary in which I drew a line and said that, if it was crossed, I would remove myself from their equation. Have I ever done that before?
I think you’d be proud of me. It did not feel good, but oh, the relief of having done so. It was as though I could physically feel the anxiety slipping off of me at the knowledge that I not only had but was using the power to keep myself safe.
It wasn’t truly until afterward that I realized how miserable I stay by never establishing boundaries either with other people or even simply with myself. I tell myself that “I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it”, but then I drown in the panic of what ifs. I tell myself I can keep going instead of allowing myself to have a breaking point. I tell myself that the pain of hurting someone’s feelings or of complicating their life will be worse than the pain of whatever they could do to me. It isn’t true, of course. But the stories we tell ourselves really do bare the weight of familiarity and comfort sometimes.
You never thought you’d be able to do this. You never imagined you’d be strong enough to decide your own worth. You never thought you’d feel safe enough in the world to assert your place within it. You never would have dared to suggest you had the right to decide how you wanted to be treated.
But you did it. I did it. I hope you’re proud of me. I am.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.