I keep worrying that I’m hurting people.
I’m shaking. My dog has gotten into trouble at daycare. He goes on two hikes a week with a daycare group and, they’ve reported that he has a difficult time sharing his toys. I have a meeting at the end of the day with the owner of the daycare. Perhaps he’ll have to wear a muzzle. In which case, I will not send him on the hikes anymore. Or at least, not as often.
I lose breath worrying that I have hurt my dog with poor training.
I then breathe more rapidly when I worry about a woman calling me on the phone and telling me all about it.
All I can do is think about my failure to meet expectations and the subsequent pain it has caused.
In the past month, I have become more and more curious about my anxiety.
I have learned that almost all of it comes from worrying that I will get in trouble for having hurt someone.
I worry: Some one will yell at me because I have hurt them.
I worry: Some one will yell at me because I have hurt anyone at all.
This past Sunday I had a date.
I didn’t go. I cancelled it.
The man I had planned to meet has been speaking with me on Tinder for a few weeks.
He is very sweet. Without imagining that I know him well at all (because it is so easy to get carried away with imaginings of one another), I can tell he is very sweet.
At first, his kindness was so unusual, I thought he was stupid. But, the small details of his past, large details of his current life, a lack of ego in his conversation, it’s just a refreshing sweetness.
We talk a lot about cuddling.
At least once a day he announces that he wishes he had someone to cuddle with and I agree, that would be amazing.
He has said more than once that he would come downtown (he lives quite far) to cuddle, I just need to name the time.
Does “cuddle” mean “cuddle”?
Our conversations never had reached a sexual edge and so I let it go, never taking the remark seriously, still questioning his level of maturity or awareness.
One night we had phone sex. It was “good” in that it wasn’t too gross but it was gross enough to be sexy.
After the phone sex, we both agreed, predictably, that it would be nice to cuddle. If he didn’t have work in the morning, he said, he would come down and cuddle right now “So serious, lol”.
We made a date right then and there for Sunday, two days away.
The next day I grew nervous.
I have never met this man. I cannot be certain that I will even want him to touch me when I meet him.
I scrolled through his pictures, trying to figure it out: Will I want him when he is really here?
What if I hurt him? Oh no, I thought, I will definitely hurt him.
There is no way to know what I will want from him, what he will want from me, once he is here.
Acknowledging my fear, I told him that I would need to meet him in a bar instead of at my house because I have never felt comfortable having a man I don’t know come to my home. He agreed to whatever would make me feel more comfortable.
I still worried.
He’s going to make an hour long trip.
If I have that drink with him and I don’t want to cuddle with him, I can just tell him. I have a right to tell him.
But, no one denies me of my own right to freedom more than I do.
I wouldn’t have rejected him. I would have kept drinking until I felt comfortable not caring and then I would have let him come home with me.
I would have felt pressure not to hurt him. Not to say: “Ok thanks for coming all this way but, in all honesty, this feels awkward and weird to me and I just want to go home, eat bread and sit with my dog on my couch…rather than cuddle with you or sit with you much longer.”
I cancelled on him. I told him I wasn’t feeling well which wasn’t a lie because I was feeling incredibly anxious and therefore ill.
I know it hurt him.
That was two days ago and I am still agonizing over the hurt this stranger experienced due to my ambivalence or even just due to my self-preservatory action.
I feel badly that I listened to my intuition.
How is it possible that I truly believe I did something wrong?
I didn’t do anything wrong. It might have hurt him that I wasn’t really ready to meet him. It might have dampened his expectations of me but: I am not entirely clear on the content of his expectations.
I wish I could more boldy ask, “What do you want from me?”
The daycare asked me for a meeting about my dog, I am sitting here worried that I am going to be “talked to” in a manner of penalization but why didn’t I just ask “What do you want from me in this meeting? What is expected of me? I feel a bit of pressure to resolve this problem before you even talk to me so, before I drive myself towards complete oxygen deprivation, can you just tell me what you will want from me?”
I am unclear on why someone would travel all the way across the city to get a drink with me so why can’t I just ask him “What do you really want from me? Why are you really doing this?”
Their answers would surely be evasive.
“We just want to talk to you about Mordy’s behaviour” Not helpful.
“I just want to see you and meet you in person.” Not true.
To the men and the world in general: I will never feel safe until you tell me what you want from me.
Please be honest about your expectations and, if you don’t know what they are, challenge yourself to know yourself better because until I trust that I know what you want, I will hurt you. I will worry about hurting you and then I will hurt you. I will cancel a date. I will message you to tell you we can’t speak anymore. I will un-fucking-match you. It will hurt.
I am a worried about, I am crippled by, what I do not know.
Do you really have no ego? Do you really have no want?
Everyone has both those things. If we can let go of them, we should let go of them but letting go is often a lengthy process, performed while secluded and given peace of mind enough to truly just…let go.
In person, we are wanting. Please tell me what you want.
I am sick of feeling like I am hurting you when I never actually knew what you needed.
Months ago, some of you may know, I was accused of truly hurting someone. I wrote these verses about it. I read them today. Yeah.
Please share to social media, friends. We can’t know our behaviour always and that’s truly ok but I do believe writing about it helps us publicly articulate what we could be doing better. For one thing, transparency. For another, connection. Share if you can. Thank you endlessly,
She got into the white van, being driven by a man she beckoned for without knowing him because we can do that now. She slams the door. He smiles. Sunglasses and dewy skin protect us from knowing that he was severely sunburned when he was a child and that’s why he’s dedicated to pain That’s why he’s so quickly labeled Insane featuring a comfortable intensity While the woman he drives Wears plaid on her way to somewhere. A room, Running water, Bottled liquor, No fridge, Bat shit on the floor in a corner (no one knows what it is), A painting of someone above the bat shit, no one knows who she is, Three chairs, a table and a clock telling us when is when is when is Now. The plaid shirt dismisses it’s own colour in the dark, The plagued wood of the table whines a bitter spark Of a note To the ceiling To the chairs To the air which has already decided that something good will happen here tonight That only the plaid will think is good That if we’re really sure of the bad behaviour resulting in good things then we can all decide that it was good behaviour anyways. But nobody does that. Sure, nausea Sure, restlessness Sure, gloom Tank topped and tanned she walks to the edge of the room, Plaid on the floor She leans She waits. The man she’s been waiting for is sweating, His bag and his brain are full of progressive magic and There is a turtle-like naked impulse between them that will grow To the beat of beats of beating breath To the explosion of the generalized hicky placement across her neck and the forgotten bruises still relevant but never known. Do we smoke for the sake of smoking or do we just like to grow Carcinogenic breath sometimes, Oh no Oh no There can’t be another answer to the only answer, She thinks, As from his bag becomes the night Of stale subway stories and energy drinks Of the aftermath Of the cruel No I Didn’t Of the Ok whatever Of the Sure These are the two but there’s another coming Another pure Ring of hey hey hey hey Okay you belong here too. Sometimes in the absence of rigor There is a standing mistaken peace The kind that seduces raw criminals Into believing lies at least Relating to nothing But then everything underneath Becomes a wreck Becomes a shortened version Of the prince who came already in heat. Comedy not Valuable maybe A prison sentence to the overjoyed preliminary crooks She walks across wooden floor Recovering from a cruel period of blame From that time someone came and reminded her of everything Of mania and christened Bad Parts of her Yeah I know Yeah I know The steps taken wake the neighbours who never sleep anyways. There is no reason for silence, Unless you really believe That creation is that thing chaos competes with. You’re wrong. Songs of another woman. She wears plaid Wears glasses Wears a disguise Just in case Sun warmer now, humidity rising Will it rain or will the world just leak of you— Sometimes he says, sometimes I am too And you just breathe me in to hear me. She flicks her cigarette at him She imitates the burning result, Laughing because what else, But then it isn’t him she came to see or touch or know She only came here because it was the next place, Fuck your silence, she says She says, it can’t help The only people who are truly silent Are the wealthy and the dead And do you know, she says, Or do you have no clue You have no clue There are no clues There is no you in this silent room where I’ve been waiting to remind the bats that I have that I blew the blue blood from all the raw and all the you of you of the you who but then The table collapses beneath his bag. Cleaned by no one he walks to squat Picking up the things he’s got he brought to her, No one likes you, she says, Wave a flag over your bed and breathe into a bag if it helps the concussion But I brought my version Of the discussion you forced on me and this is This will be The end of whatever you think I did. Salad on her breath Sore tongue from the chewing She grooms her opinion lightly Flew through her Once it did Sometime long ago she named her kid Frank And then never had him Never will These are the reasons why women kill For just one remembered name If that was her life but the life she lifed was just a fucking whisper of what he gets to yell. So now she has to know She has to know the ending. But it’s just just for the just again. And then Cigarette on the floor Comes the third person to pick it up and smoke it and be better than the plaid Or whatever else could be had By Frank’s mother In a room brought to her by a white van And a sunburned man. A grey van, She presumes, brought you here, the other woman, The other torn tear of an eye in the queer little version of the persevering opinion you have of me that I ruined you that you took my ruin and Through this Through this little table top conversation Brought up by only-ness and haggard grief We seep now Into toweled cruelties and lilied frost What does it cost you to assume my confusion is what is bothering your prettiness Nothing. Nothing But then maybe this time There will be a wave of a decade ushering in children who don’t grow up to be Anything other than Tall, Your height freaks my integrity Into believing that I belong To a generation of infantile long long away from home type servants Of an ungracious snake tribe in the depths of a cave called Yesterday please Cover your mouth for me Leave your hanging air for the sacred pleas of the see this and have it just for The rising dust The rising crusty fucked miseries that we don’t even know That live far from here and wait to die peacefully if that’s what they get But all they get Is your pollution. Slightly off kilter her need for nothing is stopped By the open eye drug The two couldn’t help but include Call it rude call it a suffocated immaturity or a “feud” or a Should-of had-to-of proved ending There isn’t any blood on the plaid Or the table Or the floor This is a boring complaint Figured here for your recognition Of my saintliness I know I know Whatever you need To feel better About not getting to bleed Seeds of you and him and this Getting back in a van she doesn’t know She will never miss His here now Her pissed coverlet of pain Let the sunburned man tell us How to cover up what’s insane And ride home For the growth of a cane-sugar sweet tomorrow While in the background they complain About understanding And a cryptic need for plaid-coloured rain