The morning begins gently. I am calm and content, and well-rested after a relaxed weekend.

Coffee and a sunrise.

Coffee and a sunrise.

I woke still feeling a bit puzzled and hurt by words hurled at me (figuratively speaking) in a message yesterday, words heavy with pain and anger, directed at me by someone who has said they love me. I can’t honestly say “said by someone who loves me” because that kind of verbal violence tends to suggest pretty plainly that they do not feel that emotion. It does at least give me room for doubt. Attacks of the sort in which someone unexpectedly insults my creative work seemingly at random in an unrelated conversation feel very personal. It’s sometimes challenging to avoid taking such words personally – they are delivered as though they are quite personal indeed. It’s the sort of thing that also signals, in my own experience, that the attacking party feels very helpless in the conversation (or in life); they have begun lashing out at any available target that seems vulnerable, even human beings dear to them.

Be love. It's a choice. Love is a verb.

Be love. It’s a choice. Love is a verb.

I don’t tolerate personal attacks well. (I avoid making them, too.) I don’t find them necessary, generally, and if I feel moved to behave that way, myself, I know that the conversation is no longer productive, and has moved entirely out of the realm of reason, into the realm of emotion. Those are ‘no win’ discussions’ by definition – because it isn’t really possible to ‘argue with’ someone’s emotions – we are entitled to feel our feelings. Still, understanding what a human experience it is to be so moved that insulting someone, making hurtful personal remarks, or attempting to undermine their sense of self seems to be the thing to do, doesn’t make it acceptable behavior. Rational arguments don’t work against feelings, either. Most people ‘believe’ their emotions.

How we share our narrative is only part of who we are.

How we share our narrative is only part of who we are.

Some time ago… more than a year, maybe two – a friend insulted my creative work and intellect simultaneously in an online discussion that had, up to that point, been an interesting and reasoned discussion. (Significantly, I no longer recall what the topic of the discussion was, because the deliberate insult by a friend was far more emotionally important than the conversation in which it occurred.) She angrily directed me to “go back to painting vaginas” and advising me it’s all I’m good at. Now, aside from having painted only one such graphic picture in an artistic life spanning many decades (limiting the factual accuracy of her statement), it was clearly a hurtful remark intended as such, with the apparent goal of shutting me down in the discussion. Wow. How mean. I don’t generally do ‘mean’. Not deliberately. I gave some moments of thought to the friendship, and to the character of this ‘friend’, and with some sadness accepted that her idea of how she can treat friends, and my idea of how my friends might treat me were very different. In the 21st century, the solution is a simple click of a button labeled ‘friend’; I unfriended her and moved on without regret. I don’t place a positive value on treating people badly, and don’t need “friends” who are deliberately unkind with the intention of causing hurt.

"Gypsy Dancer" watercolor on paper, 1996

“Gypsy Dancer” watercolor on paper, 1996

Yesterday, a very dear family member – someone whose love and affection got me through some very dark times – straight up insulted my writing, my character, and my emotional and mental health. Wow. I was taken by surprise by the emotional sucker punch in response to something I said that was kind and supportive (aware of her humanity), and also vulnerable and honest. I would have been surprised had anyone at all said something so directly unpleasant, that it came from someone dear to me, who had often shared how dear I am to her in the past was very painful. My thoughts returned to it a number of times yesterday. I woke thinking about it today – and realized again how very like a poison these sorts of verbal hurts are. I remind myself that her pain is not my pain. That her anger is not my wound. She’s having her own experience. We each are.

Our pain creates a fog within our hearts, obscuring our view of love.

Our pain creates a fog within our hearts, obscuring our view of life and love.

There’s no particular need – or requirement – that I take the words another human being fires in my direction as any more personal than anything else they might say or do, at all. It’s not ‘about’ me. (Most things aren’t.) In both cases, the hurtful words were delivered in reaction to my boundary setting – in both cases, boundary setting that may have felt new to the relationship. Change isn’t always welcome, and frankly neither is boundary-setting. In both cases, hurtful words seem reason enough to consider ending the association entirely; I am struck by how routinely I tolerate hurtful words from men without considering ending the relationship. That’s something that warrants further attention. It’s significant, but out of context it is also meaningless, only hinting at further chaos and damage.

Stick with the basics - it's a great place to start.

Stick with the basics – it’s a great place to start.

This morning, I breathe and let it all go. The hurtful words showered down on me by others, when it happens, are of no more importance, really, than a passing rain shower. Those are not my emotions. Those words are not about me. It is something of a self-care miss, if I take the bait and get all wound up in hurting over hurtful words – the better choice, the kinder choice, being to let that moment of pain go by in favor of recognizing what a fucked up mess worthy of compassion that other human being is… although, if they are mean, perhaps I am not the one to stay around to provide them compassion, directly. We are each having our own experience, to be sure – and I don’t have to endure someone else treating me badly as part of mine. 🙂 The greater challenge is taking care of me without also lashing out at that other human being who has hurt me, maintaining a strong sense of self, firmly on my own path, uninjured and undismayed, and remaining gracious, understanding – and unrepentant about taking care of me. Did I mention there are verbs involved?

Beginning again.

Beginning again.

As I consider wrapping up my writing this morning, I’m aware how often in the past I’ve allowed someone else’s anger, hurtful words, or cruelty to change my mind, change my actions, even change my will. I’m sure that’s been the point of it, generally. Today is a good day to be who I am, doing the things I love, painting, writing, speaking my mind, treating the world around with me with consideration and kindness – and changing my world. “You have no power over me.” seems the worthy quote this morning. 🙂