I received a mean text message a few days ago. It took me quite by surprise as it came from someone I liked; someone I thought liked me; so much so that my first reaction was to think it was a joke. My reply asked just that: is it a joke?
Unfortunately it wasn’t. The mean message had been meant as such and a second more vicious one followed as an answer to my naive question.
This person brought up issues I was completely unaware of until now, issues that happened when I spent a short week at their house two years ago (That’s right! Two years!).
They called me messy; they called me inconsiderate; they called me a lazy slob.
I let the butter melt they said. I never did the dishes. I turned their kitchen into a pigsty.
I immediately felt physically sick. My heart was beating faster. My breathing got shallow. My temperature rose. My head ached as I tried to figure out what on earth could have brought this up. I put my memory into high gear to retrieve that week of my life, looking for clues proving that I had committed the crimes I was accused of.
I might have indeed left the butter out as I like it soft. It’s true I didn’t do the dishes often; surprising because I actually like doing dishes; to me it is meditation. Then I remembered they usually did them before I could. What I had taken for hospitality must have been a passive aggressive way to let me know I was falling short of their expectations. Except I didn’t get it.
I know myself. I know my faults. I know my shortcomings. I know who I am and who I am not.
I am helpful. I am kind. I am considerate.
I am not a slob. I am not messy. I am not lazy.
I’m also not anal. I have no problem with dishes being in a sink for an hour or two. I almost never make my bed.
I guess to some, that is unforgivable and clearly unforgettable.
When the second text message appeared on my screen, and the venom spewed had increased another notch, I realized this had nothing to do with dirty dishes, nothing to do with melted butter, nothing to do with me and everything to do with them; who wanted to lash out and wanted to blame and wanted to hurt.
I closed my eyes. I took a deep breath.
As the hurtful words jumped behind my lids and their hurtful echo rang in my ears, I asked myself:
“Do you know who you are?”
My heart slowed down. My lungs expanded as I took a deep breath. I steadied myself. I relaxed.
“Do you know who you are? I asked.
“I do” was my answer.
Nothing anyone says can change that. My sense of self is not determined by others.
“Sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me,” the saying goes.
I disagree. These words hurt me almost as much as a punch in the gut but they did not define me; they did not change me; they did not weaken me. On the contrary, they made me stronger.
The pain only lasted a moment. The lesson I learned will serve me for the rest of my life.
There were a hundred kind and decent ways to tell me I had fallen short of their expectations.
They chose vitriol over kindness.
They chose darkness over light.
Their darkness lies at my feet. It exists but does not obscure my world.
I refuse to embrace it.
I looked inside me.
I looked for the dirt they saw and found nothing. Maybe the dirt was only a reflection in the mirror of their own mind.
I sent my sincere apologies for my (unintentional) offenses and wished them well.
I know who I am.
This is my shield.
I know who I am.
This is my strength.
I know who I am.
This is my unshakable peace.
“Know thy self, Know thy ennemy.
A thousand battles
A thousand victories”