“Are you mad?”, my husband would ask, after some infraction.
“I’m not MAD,” was my usual reply, “I am HURT!”
“Oooooh, Mommy’s REALLY mad,” he’d wink toward our daughters, who were too young to understand, “she used the ‘H’ word!”
It’s true, hurt feelings are the worst.
It’s not that I don’t get angry.
I get angry about war, drunk drivers and world hunger. It doesn’t feel personal, though.
Hurt feelings are personal, caused by unfair or unjust treatment, or by unkind actions or comments.
It always feels – to me – that if I were a better person, I would not be subjected to poor treatment. That doesn’t make sense, I know, but that’s what it feels like. All childish feelings of inadequacy come to the fore. Tears follow; then defensiveness; then anger.
Then (my husband of thirty years ago would tell you), “Watch out!”
What follows then is a rant.
I was raised in a household where “speaking up” and “talking back” were strongly discouraged. As a fairly shy person, I’ve never been particularly good at it anyway. I can’t think of the right thing to say or the right way to say it. I can’t speak out without crying, which doesn’t give the correct message. The hurt feelings will not go away without getting it out. Fortunately – or unfortunately, as the case may be – I’ve always been pretty good at writing.
As a child, with sibling rivalry running amok in our family, I’d write long diatribes about the unfairness. I’d imagine running away from home…or maybe even dying…leaving nothing but the pages. Reading them, my parents would realize how unjust they had been. “She was our best child!”, they would mourn, “Why didn’t we realize it in time?”
As a teenager, every single bit of distress was put on paper, usually in the form of extremely bad poetry.
I started keeping a journal as a young adult. It was used as my sounding board, whenever my husband wasn’t listening.
Most of the time, I was smart enough to keep my writings to myself. The act of getting it all out was usually enough to dispel the feelings of hurt, frustration and anger, and I could move on.
There are exceptions.
Once, when I felt my mother had unfairly criticized my parenting, I wrote her a lengthy letter saying, basically, “you have no room to talk,” and outlining the reasons why. The next time I saw Mom, she patted my arm and generously said, “Let’s just let it go for now. We’ll talk more about it when your kids are older.” Well, of course, by the time my kids were older, I realized my pompous attitude was based on simple ignorance. I wanted to do nothing but whimper an apology for ever trying to tell this woman – who somehow managed to raise nine healthy children and keep her sanity – what she might’ve done wrong!
When I was in the process of getting divorced and was unable to keep up the payments on my land here on Beaver Island, I was served with foreclosure papers. I countered with a twenty-six page tirade to the man who held the land contract about his shoddy plumbing, poor book-keeping and inability to get me a working well. He called me right up when he received it. “Christ, Cindy, you sent me a whole book!” he said, “I could send it off to the lawyer, but even though she’s my daughter, she’s still gonna charge by the hour to read it…”
Last weekend, when an unfortunate encounter at work left me feeling sad and frustrated, I wrote it out.
On my blog.
Without a single thought besides venting my hurt feelings.
Of course, I assumed it would be read…by the forty-seven people that subscribe to my blog, up to a half-dozen family members that look in on occasion, and four or five Beaver Islanders that read what I write.
I watch the statistics. On the day I publish, I get my peak readership with about 25 hits. Over the next few days, a few others check in, less and less each day until I publish the next post; then it jumps up again. A nice little wave.
This particular post evidently struck a chord with many people. It was shared and copied and re-printed. It was read by people from a dozen countries on five continents. It may have been read by every single person living on Beaver Island! My statistics chart changed from measuring by tens, to measuring by hundreds of hits. I heard from former in-laws and old friends, from servers and chefs and restaurant owners, and from people in other areas of the service industry. Many told of similar encounters that left them feeling bitter. I was shocked at how many people jumped to my defense. I was amazed and overwhelmed at the understanding, the sympathy and the support.
Usually when I go on a rant about my own hurt feelings, I’m thinking primarily about myself. That was the case in this instance, as well.
I didn’t think about every Beaver Islander reading it, and drawing conclusions about who I was referring to. I certainly never considered repercussions for him, or the fact that I might hurt his feelings.
I should have.
I bear no animosity toward “Harry”. I was “over it” the moment I hit “publish”. I have since received an apology from him. I countered with my own explanation and apology, for any discomfort I caused him. I hope we can all move on, perhaps all with a bit more awareness and consideration.
The next time I go on a rant, I think I’m going to tackle World Peace!