Pardon my Quills
I guess I’ve done it again. I can tell by your flinch that I’ve poked you.
It’s probably hard to believe that it wasn’t my intent. My closet must be full. The one I stuff my emotions in.
When I don’t deal with my emotions, somehow the hurts overpower everything and before I know it, my quills are out.
I don’t plan on poking others, but it still happens. And I’m not sure who’s more surprised. Okay, that’s not true.
I was only kidding…
I used to use satire, you know, quips. I did it a lot, until one day.
I was at a casual woman’s event. Food, laughing and people kidding around. One of my favorite people, Debbie was there.
I liked Debbie because she and I would volley words back and forth like nobody’s business. And I thought it was nobody’s business, but I was wrong.
She’d hit one over the net, and bam! I’d return it. I’d put one over and she would smash it back. It was pure art.
We had fun with all the back and forth-ing we did, without realizing quipping isn’t a spectator sport. Someone in the group didn’t find it funny at all.
This is to help you…
My friend, Jan called me the next day. She started dancing—I could tell she had something to say, but she wasn’t saying it. I recognize dancing because I know all the steps.
“I’m only telling you this because I care about you…I’d want to know if it was me,” she said.
This is gonna hurt, I warned myself.
With a little more coaxing, Jan continued. “You know how you were kidding around with Debbie last night?”
“Yeah,” I answered, watching my knuckles turn white from hanging on.
“Well Cindy didn’t know you and Debbie were friends, and she said, “What’s with Anne? She sure is critical.”
I quickly tried remembering which one was Cindy.
Being misunderstood hurts
Jan’s words burned and I tightened up.
Critical? I was only joking. It was hard pretending those words didn’t hurt, they did. But I kept reassuring Jan it was okay, even though it wasn’t.
You see, as a child in a rage-filled house, I learned how to dance. It was never safe to disclose my feelings.
I learned to hide them behind a giant smile, but the smile kept slipping.
That’s when I learned to fold up my feelings, place them in a plastic bag and store them in the closet of my mind. The plastic kept the hurt fresh.
Later I’d take them out, unfold them and hurt all over again.
And somehow, when I’m wrapped up in hurt, my pesky quills would stand on end, and innocent people would get hurt.
I’d apologize when I heard the scream. I was sorry. But my pain trumped everything.
The story’s not over
I’d love to tell you the story ended there, but it didn’t.
Years later, I was on Facebook and Cindy, the remark-maker friended me. Over the years I did get to know her, but I kept my secret.
At first, we simply instant messaged each other.
And then one day, I took my hurt out of its protective plastic. I sat there holding it, feeling myself tense up. My gut said, “Don’t do this.”
But I had learned how to ignore my gut and to keep going. By the way, I strongly discourage anyone from doing this.
I broke Jan’s confidence and brought up the issue from years ago.
Stored hurts turn rancid. They morph into resentment and bitterness—not a pretty sight.
Bitterness I had met a long time ago.
“Aunt Jeanette, guess what? I graduated.”Returning to school after twenty-five years absence and graduating IS a big deal.
“You graduated? You could have done that years ago,” she said.
Or the time I said to my dad, “I met someone and we’re going to be married. He’s in the army.”
“He’s in the army? I told your brother to go in the army, but did he listen? No.”
Yes, I knew resentment and bitterness.
So what happened?
Cindy denied ever saying anything negative about me.
She could have forgotten, but I didn’t believe her.
Most people would have stopped there. Actually, most people would not have traveled down this road at all, but I wanted to prove I was right.
Well, Cindy unfriended me. Actually, I would have unfriended me if I could have figured out how.
I did learn some lessons, but the price was exorbitant.
Hard lessons learned:
- Breaking a confidence is never good.
- People matter more than being right.
- You need to process your feelings, not store them.
Feelings have a way of coming out, like a beach ball held underwater. If we deal with our feelings, they won’t grow. Unresolved issues do not just dissolve.
Hurting people hurt people. Had I worked through my feelings, well things would have been a lot different. Quills are alright for porcupines, but for people? Not so much.
Note: All names have been changed but mine.
About Anne Peterson
I write words you can feel, sometimes they rhyme. If I'm not writing, I'm telling stories from my head, to little ones who call me grandma.