I have a distinct memory of my dad, although I couldn't tell you what year it was. A story about a flour mill. And a God who peeks behind a curtain of stars. A desire to be fully known and completely loved. As I've gotten older, this shared desire makes me feel closer to him. I get it, I always think. If anyone saw all the bad parts of me, they'd run. Run fast and run far.
These are the words, which have been bouncing around in me head in the last couple of weeks since I decided it was time to start writing again. This post may be the reason the words haven't come; it's that necessary.
And I'm sitting here now trying to think of everything to say except what must be said.
Deep breath, jump off the edge.
I don't believe if people can see my flaws, they'll still love me.
I struggle, all the way to my core, with the belief that if you saw me get angry, if you can sense my insecurity, if you engage in an argument with me, if I talk too much, if I worry too much, if you're privy to my poor boundaries, if you've ever tried to criticize me, if you've ever tried to encourage me, if I've ever bossed you around... there's no way you'd find love in your heart for me. I assume, to be more articulate, if you know these flawed parts of me surely they're all you see.
That's certainly not how I see you. I believe I am capable of seeing others and recognizing their strengths and their weaknesses and loving them for their whole selves. But I don't trust you can do that. I don't trust you're capable of seeing all the bad in me and loving me because of it. Add this to the long list of my flaws. I'm not sure what word you'd tack on to this feeling, but God help me, it sounds a lot like emotional superiority. And that sucks.
I don't want to be loved despite my flaws. I don't want you to look at me and listen to me and do life with me and love me, even though... fill in the blank.
Because when I look at you, even though I may have known you for years, even though I may have been through hell and back with you, and I know those flaws and I see those personality traits, I have to go digging to remember them. I'm not ignoring them. I'm not sweeping them under the rug to make loving you possible. But for those of you I love, it's just all intimately intertwined. The goodness and the not-so-goodness.
Daily, however, I struggle with believing if you can see the bad parts of me then you won't want a relationship with me. A friendship with me. To be my family.
I compartmentalize a lot of my thoughts. I situate words and memories in my brain so some have to be dealt with and others can collect dust in the corner. The Time Warner bill is hidden in those shadows, along with my primary care appointments, and the way he called me a "slut" last week and a bad parent last year. I don't want to think about that shit. So. Any inkling I have that you might know me, you might see how messed up I am, gets shoved into the corner. Not because I believe it's not true. Not because I am believe I am perfect. But because I don't want to think about what you know.
Sometimes I sit across from the table at Qdoba with Rachel and I talked ninety miles a minute and I watch her face and I make myself slow down because I know I'm talking too much. And I am concerned I am a bad friend, that this makes me unlovable.
Sometimes other people try to encourage me and I am sit stuck, deep in a rut of my discouragement. I worry people are recognizing this difficult trait in me and I worry this will ruin their desire to do life with me.
Sometimes I talk to my family about my love life. Against my better judgement. And I worry they see my decisions and attribute them to my flaws and my failure. I worry they respect me less because I am almost thirty and a single mom.
I have started to worry Judah will love me less because I couldn't give him a family.
I worry my coworkers hate me because I am so easily frustrated. Because my voice gets loud.
So I push it all into the corner so I can function. I am actively trying to work on all these flaws. Every day when I learn about something less than attractive about myself, I try and make a point to do better. Those things don't go in the corner. But what I am afraid you think about me because of my flaws, straight to the corner it goes.
Because my greatest fear is if you fully knew me, you couldn't completely love me.
The last six months have brought this fear front and center.
A hot compress drawing infection to the surface, my experience was equally painful and healing. My daily prayer has become: I hope others don't see me the way he did. I hope the hatred he expressed when things went wrong is not the lens everyone else sees me through. While there was always a grain of truth in the hatefulness, I remind myself it was not constructive and did not come from a place of love.
I don't want to sit with anyone--not my boss during an evaluation, not my partner, not my friend, not my family--and talk about my flaws. I develop ulcers just thinking about it. This is a large part of why I hate criticism so much. Not because I believe I am above reproach,not because I don't want to admit I am fatally flawed, but because if I know you see the bad parts of me, surely that's all you see.
I resonate most deeply with this quote:
"I myself am made entirely of flaws, stitched together with good intentions."
I often entertain the thought, "it is not my place to identify flaws". My job requires me to navigate personalities. So often I feel we identify differences in someone and instinctively call them "flaws". In reality, most of our differences are not attributed to flaws but to personality traits. And the real challenge of having relationships with humans is to navigate those traits and explore them.
I'm working on this. I'm getting help with this. But personally, part of the getting better is always the confession.
As I write, realizing I'm almost finished, there's some apprehension about being so honest. I fully expect you to say, "Anna, you have to love yourself before anyone else can love you" and a bunch of bullshit like that.
That is not what this is about. This is not about self awareness or self love, although I have my blind spots. In the dusty corner sits the thought: there are flaws in me I don't recognize and they are driving you crazy. This thought goes there because it embarrasses me. However, I work daily on being aware of myself and attune to your reactions and responses to me. I'm not perfect. A thought I have pulled from the corner to dust off is, my flaws outweigh my strengths.
This isn't about self love and a lack of self confidence. Over the years I've worked to become more self assured. Done the hard work to identify parts of myself I love. That felt like harder work than this. It's not that I don't struggle with it... But it's just a different topic entirely.
I am just afraid after all the work I've done to become a better woman, all you still see is the bad.
I may be afraid this is why I don't have a family. Afraid this is why I struggle at work. Afraid this is why I've lost my community. I'm afraid the goodness in me can't be seen for the neon flashing lights, which are my flaws.
My intentions are good. I have some goodness in me. I just have to learn to trust you more. I have to learn to believe you are capable of loving me the way I try to love you. That you may believe there are parts of me you wish I'd work harder on, and there are days I am not the person you want to talk to, but even in my worst form I am a person you love. Wholly and fully.