At the funeral, I had the pleasure of meeting some of Mr M’s friends. Pity it was under such sad circumstances but pleased to meet them I was. I’ve battled to make friends my whole life. I joke with acquaintances that “To know me is to love me” but there lies no confidence in that statement, at all. Another saying comes to mind, “Fake it until you make it”, perhaps that’s where I am going.
I say I’ve battled to make friends because I was bullied as a child for two years in junior school. After the hell of junior school ended, my brother began a difficult struggle of his own with panic disorder and agoraphobia and took out his frustration on me for the next five years. We fought constantly and bitterly. This pre-conditioning made me quick to anger and even quicker to speak as well as highly distrustful of people and their motives. I am not naturally friendly because I am highly suspicious of people and their motives and to top it all off, I was painfully shy as a result of the bullying. Afraid to draw attention to myself, say anything deemed to be ‘stupid’ or singled out for any kind of attention. I was always an introvert and this treatment at the hands of my peers threw my internal world further into chaos and made me retreat further. To this day I refuse to do anything unless I know that I will excel at it. Needless to say, this has held me back from experiencing a lot.
My ex-husband’s family disliked me intensely. I never knew what I had done to warrant this behaviour and I was never afforded the opportunity to discuss it and clear the air, perhaps dispell inaccuracies and half truths or apologise. I do know that my ex never spoke of the good times we had to his friends and family, I know this because I was told as much by the girlfriend of one of his close friends. So when someone talks only of the negative, it’s very hard to see anything good about that person. It led to me being ostracized, particularly at family gatherings, where members of the inner circle would not speak directly to me. It didn’t take me long to realise it but it was impossible to get Gerald to see it. Being the passive aggressive he was, he refused to engage in anything that required some sort of confrontation with anyone. I tried to make the best of a bad situation and believed that with our wedded union, I would make them see how much I loved Gerald and they would accept me. It is all I wanted and hoped for. I especially believed this to be possible when his sister in law came to me at our wedding and said these words to me: “So, clean slate from now then?” I was completely taken aback, not out of delight but out of utter incredulousness. She had never deemed me worthy of ever discussing why the slate was dirty in the first place. In any event, I chose to roll with it. Needless to say, things never got better and eventually the marriage crumbled. This lack of acceptance and being treated like a pariah within my ‘family’ was one of the main reasons I chose to leave. There are many other things I came to learn after the marriage but they do not warrant discussion here.
The reason I’ve chosen to take you down this path to my past is because it goes to my character today.
At the wake, after the funeral, I had the opportunity to talk to some of the friends who live far away and I hadn’t met. I scarcely knew these people and at one point a man came up to me and said, “I’ve heard you are awesome!” Quite the first impression. He had enquired as to who that girl was with Mr M and the people who knew me had very complimentary things to say. As much as I want to believe this and take it to heart, I am unable to. I appreciate that people say they think well of me but because I am so mistrusting of people and their motives, I battle to believe it. I have gotten better at saying ‘thank you’ and meaning it, so that I don’t come off as graceless. This also does not mean I do not believe that they are sincere when they say it. It’s hard to explain.
The compliments though have not been in short supply and I have to stop and think that perhaps it was not me. Perhaps I was just one of those kids who got picked on, was unfortunate enough to marry into a family who never heard anything nice about me and decided it wasn’t worth making up their own minds about me.
Lesson learned. You cannot let what other people think about you affect how you think about yourself. Other people’s opinions of you are muddled with their own experiences and often, they are holding up a mirror to themselves. A very well known quote by John Wooden comes to mind here: Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.
It’s taken me years, and I am still not accomplished at it–I doubt I ever will be–but I care less than I used to about what other people think. What goes on in their heads is hardly of consequence to me or anyone other than them. They are walking their own path through this life, just as I have walked my path. We will each answer only for what we have done.
Thank you for reading.