It had been so long since we’d spoken, I had almost forgotten how just a few sharp words from you can change me.
The venom in your voice still makes my face flush. A lump swells in my throat, and though I will fight them, hot tears will roll down my cheeks to be brushed away by my shaking hands.
I used to beg for forgiveness, and apologize for things I didn’t do—anything to stop the shouting. That girl is long gone.
I’ve labored toward my healing, shedding skins of lies you wrapped me in to keep me weak in my own self-hatred. I’ve cut away any evidence of the marks you made on me. I’ve grown stronger with each day we’ve spent apart.
Still, listening to your raised voice spewing hateful words in my direction shows me that the tissue beneath my scars is still tender. If I allow you to poke at my wounds, I may begin bleeding again.
You weren’t the first to hurt me. I swear I’ve carried these wounds since the day I was born. Each cut a little deeper than the one before it. Just when I think I’ve stitched myself back together, you appear again to show me where I’m still broken.
You. Angry, bitter you. You’re the only one who can illuminate the nastiness that still lives somewhere inside me.
I remember a time when rage consumed my days. I was angry at the whole world. I was angry with myself. My temper showed up for occasions so trivial, it’s embarrassing. That was a long time ago. I haven’t seen that angry girl in years.
But, just a few minutes of dancing that same old dance with you brings her right back.
I didn’t cower or back down this time. I bit back at you. I followed you all the way down to your level for a moment, where I became someone I’ve never wanted to be.
You are the only person on this earth who can bring out that ugly, angry, resentful piece of me from years gone by. For this, I am truly grateful.
I’m grateful because, without the mirror that you are, I might not see where the pain still lives inside me.
Without you, I might not see the sorrow that remains under the surface of my scars.
Without you, I might think that my work is done.
Though I wish there were another way, dancing this old, painful dance with you teaches me something no one else can.
In those brief, screaming moments of rage—I realized that to forgive you would mean accepting an apology you’ve never spoken. To forgive you now would mean forgetting how my soul atrophied while in your care. Forgiving you now wouldn’t fix the broken promises or take back the years of hurt.
Forgiving you now wouldn’t change a thing for me.
I’ve already forgiven all I can.
I have let go of the animosity that used to fill the space between us. I’ve chosen to walk away from the battles we could never win. I’ve accepted my portion of the blame for all the ways things went wrong.
The one I must offer forgiveness to now is me.
The one who needs my unconditional love and acceptance now is me.
The only one who can change the way I feel about you, is me.
If I’ve learned anything from these interactions, it’s that anger is the cop out emotion. Anger is the mask for my fear. Anger is the immature expression of the pain that bubbles to the surface each time we engage this way. Anger is the way my heart says, “Goddammit, I wish it didn’t have to be like this.”
In the same way that I’ve relinquished the fight, I’ve given up on you. I know it’s not within my power to change, fix, or control you. I know I can’t fix things by myself. My anger is a result of feeling hopeless, defeated, and betrayed.
Anger is the voice of my sadness at the realization that we’ve reached a place from which we will not return.
I’m grateful that you still come into my life to bring these things to the surface. You are the most powerful reminder of everything I never want to be. You represent the shadows of my being in a way no one else ever has.
I realize that on some level, I must do the same for you. Maybe that’s why you’re angry, too. Maybe looking at your reflection through me brings back things you’d rather forget. Maybe you see your worst moments in the reflection only I can show to you.
Maybe that’s why we can’t fix it.
Just below my anger is a sad little girl who misses her friend. Thank you for bringing her to my awareness again, so I can give her the love and attention she needs.
Thank you for showing me where my healing is incomplete.
Thank you for bringing out the worst in me, so I can learn to be my best.
Author: Renee Dubeau
Editor: Molly Murphy