Eyes on your own paper

Sunday night, I was indulging in an episode of “90 Day Fiance”. If you’re a fan, You know who Anfisa is. For those of you who don’t, she comes across as a Russian, gold digging bride who cares solely about money. I know there is more to her as no one has just one side, especially when portrayed in these reality shows. We are encouraged to see these people in a certain light. On this episode, it was a kind of “where are they now” thing and we find out how the couples are doing and if they’ve stayed together. Jorge and Anfisa have split, doesn’t really matter why, but here’s how it pertains to my post. She is physically beautiful although she alters her appearance with lip injections and botox, she’s in her early 20s so there’s that. But throughout the season, she has a very unattractive look on her face. She looks uninterested and bored with her surroundings even when out with her friend, she’s just bitchy. She doesn’t look like a quality person, someone you’d want to be BFFs with. Her scowl presents her as a miserable person, even when she smiles. Until this latest episode. I couldn’t help but notice how different she just looked. This isn’t something that is faked or fudged, not staged or presented. It was a glow from inside. She looks uncomfortable just like before, but she looks softer, softened. She looks at peace now, approachable. And frankly, without an physical attributes, stunningly beautiful.

Lately, I’ve been having a lot of internal struggles. I say lately but it’s really been most of my life, however I’m finally trying to pave a new path that might lead me to some hard earned peace. As I look forward right now, it’s a path that I most likely will struggle to follow. My parents divorced when I was around 5 or 6 and my mother’s boyfriend began abusing me soon after. He was much, much older than she and was seen as a respectable man by those who knew him. He tortured me and my siblings for many years, even after being accused on no less than 2 official occasions. Those are all the details you need to start to understand the following. He died when I was 21. He had cancer and my mother worked a lot. I had been homeless with my husband and 2 kids so we moved in and I cared for him. I held his hand and listened to him cry. I rubbed his shoulders and assured him I’d look out for my mom. I urged him to eat and I comforted him when he couldn’t. I gave him kindness he didn’t give me. He also never apologized to me for the nightmare he created for me. One that I still live with, that still colors every decision I ever made. The one person who always believed me was my own dad, and he was my hero. I was blessed and cursed to hold his hand when he left this earth 7 years ago and not one day goes by that he isn’t in my thoughts. Since then, I’ve gone through a long series of emotions which have lead to all but cornering my mom. She used to talk about my step father with endearment until the day I finally stopped being ashamed and asserted that he doesn’t deserve another kind word from me and I won’t reminisce about him anymore. She refuses to talk about it still. She’s never been approachable to me. I never found comfort with her. I know she loves me the best she can and I do realize it has to be hard to face what she allowed to happen. She says she didn’t know, but she had to have from a certain point. I still crave a simple “I’m sorry”. I probably will never have it and I need to focus on not punishing her any longer and being ok without the apology I’ll never get.

I remember kindergarten, when my parents were still married. They fought a lot, my mom was always angry and my dad was always sorry. But I was a happy 5 year old. I remember sitting on the floor drawing people dancing and my mom buying me playdough, the one memory I have of her being genuinely loving and encouraging. But then my life changed and changed me. I had a hard time making friends. I never seemed to be aware of what was going on around me. I found it hard to roll with the punches in my peer groups. I became the punch line, the dirty little girl that no one wanted to be seen talking to. I craved attention and longed to fit in, I just didn’t. So I adopted the phrase “I want you to like me, but I don’t care if you don’t”. I was determined that I didn’t care. I knew I was a worthy human being and it’s your loss if you don’t like me. I survived groups of mean girls and boys who played tricks on me, pretending to like me only to ridicule me in the end.

I married young, had children young and raised them. I’m on marriage number 3, and I’m very aware the blame lay mostly with me. It’s taken me a lot of years to get that but I own it now.  I’m proud to tell you I’ve been married to 3 wonderful men. One gave me beautiful children, another helped us raise them and the third has been patiently walking me through my grief of many things lately. I quite plainly don’t feel I deserved any of them.

I’ve had only a few close relationships as an adult, I still have a hard time making friends. For one reason or another, we grow distant until we no longer speak. It’s me mostly, I think I’m giving so much and getting little in return. I often find myself being taken for granted because I can’t say no. “What if I don’t (insert favor here), they’ll end up not liking me.”

I have RBF (resting bitch face). I’m reminded daily that I have it. At work, it’s not uncommon for someone to tell me, “wow, you’re really nice, I had no idea.”, “I heard you were awful, you’ve been so nice to me”, “you’re such a nice person once I got to know you”. Just last Monday, I laughed with 2 of my friends as the described me as “having a gruff exterior with teddy bear insides”. I really didn’t think it was funny. It’s soul crushing actually. Over time, I’ve slowly stopped saying a passing hello or even looking up as i walk through the building. People who know me, genuinely love me but they had to take the time to do so. Every time I hear another opinion about me like that, it makes me hang my head further. My sweet husband has learned that my sour puss doesn’t mean I’m mad at him, but it took years to get there. he told me just the other day that it’s my protective layer. He’s right, but don’t tell him I said that.

In the past few years, I’ve become very involved in quilting, even though I’ve been quilting since I was 14. I discovered a world of people who have the same interests as me. I’ve been active in groups, started this website and made my contributions in the quilting community. I actively quilt for charities, donating 100s of hours each year. I even have a podcast and very often overshare (I’m telling you something you don’t already know).  I still don’t fit in, at least it feels that way.  I pretend I don’t care. I’ve been pretending a lot of things lately.

Recently, in the past year, I encountered a young woman with energy, ambitions, and the ability to stroll into a situation and fit in flawlessly. I hated that about her, but only when I felt she’d rejected me.  I virtually come across as a person with RBF, you don’t even have to see me to see it. She instantly seemed to think I was doing all these mean things to her and I was so deeply hurt that I made it impossible to like me. I could’ve sat and talked with her, I did have that opportunity but passed it by. I chose to be the mean girl she thought I was instead of being supportive like we quilters and women are supposed to be. Regardless of how I perceived her to treat me, I chose to behave like a bitch. I fostered a hostile environment in the name of being fair and doing the right thing, all the while knowing deep in myself I was wrong. To all the outside players, I appeared to be justified. I said and did nasty things to make myself feel better. This has been happening throughout the drama of secret quilter groups being outted as sheet wearing hate mongers. All while we’re wearing safety pins on our shirts and pretending to be a safe haven for those who need comfort. All while proclaiming to be a good group of like minded women who love and support each other.

I watched as this woman made a comment and proceeded to be exiled from the place she once occupied. I can’t say for sure what her intent was, but it doesn’t matter. It was simply the scab being scraped away to start the bleeding. I can honestly see both sides. I will not explain or apologize for anyone else’s actions, but could’ve prevented it. I could’ve given better advice. I could’ve kept my mouth shut. I could’ve tried at any point in the past year. A few words and some understanding would’ve gone far. I indulged my inner mean girl and rejoiced at someone else’s pain. I encouraged hatred and meanness and justified my actions. I explained it all away all the while knowing deep down what a hateful bitch I was being.  Even when I stood by, I knew what was happening and used what little power I have to be a warlord. I’d become the very people I despised. My abusive step father, the mean girls who told me I was worthless, the boys who called me ugly and unlovable. I watched the aftermath for a couple of days, and the more I looked, the more I wanted to look away.

I love God and believe in a higher power. I am a Christian, seriously flawed, I swear too much and a host of other things but I believe God loves me anyway. But let’s take His name away from this conversation for a minute. Too many use Him as justification for way too much. Whether or not you believe in God, what I did or didn’t do is wrong. I’ve since done the right thing, or at least I hope it is. I’m so afraid I’ll lose friends over this. People I’ve grown to love as sisters. People I still love. I gave the wrong advice to people who were struggling with their own struggles. I wasn’t a good friend to those I encouraged to be mean with me. I want to be seen as the good and honest person I believe I am. I want to have peace and be forgiving. I have asked for forgiveness. The words that broke me, my own words “I can be a sneaky bitch, too”, sounded ok when I said them. But then I saw them. I don’t want to be her, those ugly words.

I gave my first apology to the lady who deserved it the most. Once she understood that I was sincere, she graciously thanked me. I’m not ashamed to tell you I still cry over that thank you. Forgiveness, whatever you believe, is so powerful. I’ve struggled with this post for the past 24 hours. I’ve been torn over keeping my apologies private as to not cause any further harm or garner attention from them. I want them to be valued and have worth.  But some of the hardest things I’ll ever do is to bare my ugliness right here. The people I’ve wronged deserve a public, genuine apology. I’m not making it at anyone’s request and I’m not looking for praise. I don’t deserve any.

What I do deserve is peace. I didn’t give the backstory of my life as an excuse because it isn’t. I do hope it leads to insight.  I’m hoping this will remind me to be mindful of my own words and actions, and to keep my insecurities in check.  Anfisa’s face has changed because she’s changed. I don’t know the details, but she’s made decisions in her life to bring herself so much peace that it shows on her face. I want to look in the mirror and catch myself smiling.

My final apology is to anyone affected by the events mentioned above.  You know who you are, even if I don’t. You may not have known the truth, you might not have ever known, but I do and I’m sorry for my actions. If you chose to remain in my life, in whatever manner that is, I’ll be grateful. If you don’t, I won’t blame you and I completely understand. I am truly, sincerely sorry.





3 comments on “Eyes on your own paper
  1. Kristin says:

    I know the situation you are talking about and I admire what you’ve done here–the apology and the honesty you have shown here–it can’t have been easy. I wish you all the best in the future.

  2. It takes a big person to apologize, especially in public. I’m sorry for the pain you’ve experienced- no one deserves that. We’ve all said and done things we regret, but what you do with it is what shows who you really are. Learning, apologizing, and changing are the silver linings of those moments.

    I hope you find the peace you are looking for. For what it’s worth, you have earned my gratitude and respect. (((Hugs)))

  3. What a post! Tina– this is so brave, and I’m sending you all the virtual hugs and blessings. You’ve shown me this week what it looks like for someone to respond to an incredibly messy situation with grace and humility. Thank you for showing me grace, and I’m thrilled for friendship ahead! ❤️

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