I spent the half hour before the kids got away to school going through the letters I have in my little Tin of Letters that I have hauled with me through dozens of moves, through dozens of years. Most of these are letters or notes I received from the first boy I fell in love with. Many of them are heartbreaking, because I know how the story ends.
I found myself wondering whether he kept any of the notes or letters I wrote him. I long to know what I told him. As I read his words, I remembered some of what was happening in my life then. It was terrible. And he was amazing. He probably still is.
Something that struck me like a lead hammer to the sternum was how mature he was, at sixteen. How he knew who he was, and how the insights he had into the way things worked in the Really Real world were, for the most part, spot-on. I should have listened to him.
One letter in particular…one letter. Apparently I had asked him to tell me what he was thinking. I had asked him to give me his opinion. I don’t know if this was when we had broken things off or if it was when we were still together or trying things out again…but he lay bare everything that had happened, and he didn’t pull any punches. I always have admired him for what he had the balls to say to me, none of which was very nice, and all of which was accurate and true. He hit the nail on the head. Many, many times.
He wrote about how I was selfish and uncaring. How I treated him, and others around me, like shit. How I used him. How I manipulated situations, and people, to get what I wanted.
I remember reading that letter for the first time, and feeling like I’d been slapped in the face. Not because I didn’t think anyone would figure it out, but because I hadn’t realised the ways in which my actions had affected other people. Because he knew things about me I didn’t know. Or wouldn’t acknowledge. Or couldn’t see. Or whatever. Now, re-reading that letter from more than 20 years ago, it became very clear to me that many of the criticisms he launched against me are probably still very much a part of my personality. Maybe not so much the manipulation, although I’m sure I do that too (I really, really try hard not to, though. I prefer to be forthright about my motivations and my intent), and not so much using people (I don’t think I do that any more).
What I think is still a very concise criticism is that I come across as being a know-it-all. I don’t mean to. I really don’t. I don’t know how I keep getting myself wrapped up in this one, but it has been something I have been told by more than one person. By more than one former lover, in fact.
It is true that many times…most of the time, most likely, people dislike discussing things with me because I am unwilling to accept that I don’t know all the facts. I don’t really know how to get away from this. I *don’t* know all the facts. And I *know* I don’t know all the facts. Maybe I need to focus more on asking questions, rather than talk out of my arse. Maybe I need to be more clear that when I say “this is how I think things are”, what I really mean is “this is how I think things are” and not “this is what I know to be true”. Perhaps my hypotheses are based on incorrect assumptions. That’s a fairly safe statement to make, in fact.
I don’t *think* I’m unwilling to listen. I don’t *think* I’m unwilling to accept other perspectives. But maybe I am. Maybe the reason I don’t like getting in to debates is because I don’t really like to be challenged. Someone once said that I am a control freak. I don’t think I am, but maybe I’m wrong about that. I do have control issues about *some* things. I don’t like group projects, for instance, because I have no way of …well… controlling what someone else does. And if it’s my butt on the line, I like to make sure that my butt is well covered. I don’t like depending on other people to cover my butt.
That could be part of it, here. I have issues being dependent on others. This is probably, the head-shrinkers would say, at least in part a result of being the child of an addict. Because I have very little practice with depending on others. Because I have been let down many, many times, and there are only so many times you can kick a puppy before he turns around and bites you. You know this about me already. I don’t know that that makes me a control freak. It does make me viciously independent. Maybe those are the same thing.
But at sixteen, I was still just a kid. And the young man I had fallen in love with was far too good for me, I think. Reading his words this morning made me want to slap myself in the face and tell myself to smarten the fuck up. I wanted to, as Bne did that one time, phone myself in the 80s and tell myself that I was about to make a huge mistake. Several times. The long-distance charges on time-travel communications must be ridiculous, but maybe it would be worth it.
Maybe I do have regrets. I do regret the way I acted with him. I regret how much I hurt him, and how much my actions ended up hurting myself. I don’t regret the outcome of all of that, because it did help me to figure out a lot of stuff about who I was, about who I wanted to be, about what love is and about what love isn’t. It helped me to realise what I *didn’t* want, and even though I wouldn’t find out what I *did* want for another eleven years, there is something to be said for ruling out some of your options.
I feel a bit sorry for the young man I went with after my first love and I broke things off for good. He never did measure up. He couldn’t. He didn’t have my heart.