In my last post, I wrote about the confidence of a childhood friendship, and being ten and knowing who I was and where I was going (x). The certainty that comes with a childhood relationship is powerful, it shapes you.
Since then, and especially in the last week, I’ve been thinking about the intimacy part of relationships. What a beautiful thing, to share an intimate relationship with someone. To be able to open yourself up, show your heart and share your truth, and trust that the other person wants and likes what you are offering.
But, the risk of intimate relationships is the vulnerability that comes with it. When I am baring my soul to a person, I am giving them the power to break my heart. Someone who knows you that well knows how to hurt you. What buttons to push. What words to say, what blows to take.
And when you’re in the middle of a heartbreak, you wonder why you would ever give anyone that power.
I have only intentionally given a few people this power in my life, and when that has backfired on me it has hurt me deeply and permanently. There’s a special kind of heartbreak that comes with the loss of a friend. It comes with a deeper wound, somehow. The grief sits on your chest in a certain way that means you can’t shake it, no matter how hard you try. No matter how much you want to. I have spent hours, maybe days, retracing my steps, trying to figure out what I did wrong, how I failed these people so much, what I could have done differently. As if I could write a letter or send a text or take some action that would make these people change their mind about hurting me.
As if these people are worth the ink. If someone wants to hurt you, they just will. There is nothing you can do to stop them. All the energy I have spent grieving and fighting and begging is wasted breath because I kind of asked for this. I handed over the reins. I gave someone that power. I felt that when I was fourteen and I feel it again now. The only thing that’s changed in the last ten years is that I have the capacity to love so much more than I could when I was a kid, so I have the capacity to be hurt so much more deeply.
But when they don’t hurt you, that’s where the beauty lives.
My friends are the most incredible group of people in the world. They are everything good. I only have a few close friends, but our bond is deep and special and beautiful. I cherish the closeness I have been able to share with them, I honour the stories we have created together, and I hold on to it tightly, sometimes beyond reason.
I still have a scrap cut out of the newspaper in 2006 because my friend promised me he’d buy me the Jimmy Choos on it. We were eleven years old. It’s yellow and faded and it ripped in half once so I taped it back together because I’m holding him to that promise, and I know he’s good for it. I’ve known him for more than half my life and I’m better for it.
My heart swells when I think of my girlfriends, from high school, university, and college, who love me unconditionally, who believe in me when I can’t, who hold space for my celebration and my joy and my grief and my pain. Who will listen to me tell the same story once a week because they know it’s part of my narrative, who will love people or hate them without question, whatever I need them to do. The coworker who took me to Chapters instead of work because she knew I needed to be surrounded by the calm quiet of books instead of the stifling silence of the office. The people who have rallied behind me when I have been so far underwater I’m afraid I’ll never see the surface again.
That’s why we give people this power. Because when people hold it gently and with reverence you have something sacred. The potential of getting hurt is worth it, if you get to share something that beautiful with someone who makes you brave and strong and better. Someone you can text at your lowest point and know that they will do everything in their power to lift you up. When your heart is broken and you can’t drive home, they’ll pick up the phone and listen to you sob until you catch your breath. Someone who makes you laugh and believe in love and believe in yourself.
Intimacy in relationships gives you the highest highs, and the lowest lows. It’s bittersweet and powerful and so, so fragile. It seems silly, giving all this power to others when we really have no idea what they’re going to do with it. But we do, over, and over, and over again.
I got hurt this week, more deeply than I ever thought possible. It knocked the wind out of me – I’ve dropped everything and curled up in a ball and all I can do is cry. All week I’ve been saying “I will never give someone that much power over me again.” Even so, as I’m sitting here with a knot of pain in my stomach, I’m texting my girlfriends who don’t necessarily understand but share my grief and will listen to me say the same things again and again because they honour my pain and my process. They can’t heal me but they’ll hold my hand while we wait. They have the same power as the person who hurt me, they’re just choosing not to use it.
When it’s not your week or your month, when people have let you down and betrayed you and taken advantage of the vulnerability you have shown them, you hide behind the people who haven’t. As much as they know how to hurt you, they also know how to fight for you. You just have to trust that they will.