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You are not who you think you are.   —   Personal

If you sat in a room with yourself for a few hours, would you like you? Would you accurately guess what was going through your mind, what those facial expressions meant, and be able to decipher the meanings behind your responses and body language? Do you know what you're putting out there, the minutia of little things that you don't give a second thought?

I am an introvert. I can sit quietly, without distraction, and observe those around me. I am easily lost to thought and can spend long, silent moments musing on any little thing that has caught my attention, even when in company. When I was a student the teachers called me a daydreamer. I suppose that is a good word for it.

But I do not have a gentle face. My eyes can be penetrating, my brow furrowed, my mouth solemn. Sometimes I purse my lips when I think and I give myself over easily to heavy sighs.

Some may see this outward demeanor as aloof, that I am bothered or upset or distant. When inside I am mulling and debating and making lists and going on small adventures.

But how I appear to be is not who I am. We are all so much more than the sum of our parts.

It is true that I am not warm and fuzzy. I am prickly and dark and my sense of humor is both silly and macabre. I speak in even tones, self-confident, to the point. I am honest and forthcoming and while I never intend to be brash, I can see how I may come off as such.

But those who know me know that I am sensitive and heartfelt and silly. I care deeply about the people in my life and make effort to do nice things for them. I hate inconveniencing people or hurting their feelings. I am a good person, or at least try to be, but it is my understanding that there is something about me that makes people believe otherwise.

Recently I was told via a vague and misleading email that my writing group was disbanding. Among the basic excuses of varying schedules and places in people's current writing (whatever that means), was the cryptic addition of "personality conflicts".

This writing group is a group of four friends. They know each other's spouses, have been to one another's houses, and have been there for each other through divorce and the death of beloved pets and other such meaningful life events. They have helped each other write books and stories and have shared meals together, once a week, for many years. I, however, have only been a part of their group for the last five months. This email made me immediately suspicious, as I didn't think they would disband so readily, and so I responded. I asked if the personality conflicts mentioned had anything to do with me. I asked for some kind of feedback if it was the case. There had never been any conflict or ill will, no arguments or heated debates. So if I was being asked to leave, what had I done? I expressed my desire to grow as a person, to better myself through clarity. We can never work on our faults if we remain unaware of them.

That was over a week ago and I haven't heard a peep from them since. This silence is consent – a cowardly, deceitful means to an end, a childish dash to avoid conflict. Don't hear me out. Don't have a conversation with me like an adult. Just send me a Dear John letter under the guise of "it's not you, it's me".

Being a part of a writing group is hard. We are vulnerable and fragile artists handing over our babies for critique and discussion. I am not cruel but I will not handhold. I am there to learn and to grow as a writer so I would hope that I would be extended the same courtesy of honesty and thoughtful opinions as I give. If I am too harsh, tell me. If I am too quiet, tell me. Communicate with me before you dismiss me on misperceptions. But apparently that is asking too much.

I admit it is for the best. I hadn't been satisfied with the productivity of the group since day one. They seemed more interested to talk about TV shows and pets and everything else, that out of the three hours spent together, maybe one of them was occupied with the topic of writing. And I rarely received any constructive criticism. I cannot improve as a writer by vague compliments. That is not why I am there. Help me cut out the cancer. I may not always agree with you, but at least I'll know where possible issues may lie.

But I do not claim that I am without fault. Entering into this group I was faced with two people who don't write (or rarely write), and two people who had just written full length books - one of which was already on the way to self-publication. It made no sense to give feedback on something already being published unless someone needs a healthy dose of ego stroking. Otherwise you're just looking to second guess yourself. The other writer's book however was close to completion and I realize that I dropped the ball on that one. I simply didn't make reading it a priority, and for that I do harbor a regret. But on the other hand my five page Redburn entry submissions were not always read by the whole group so... this cannot be grounds for dismissal unless you’re a hypocrite.

It is my suspicion that they will continue to meet every month. Their next meeting will be a jovial gathering of relief because they did cut out the cancer: me. And they will sit there drinking their beers, the balance restored, feeling good about themselves, unburdened by the weight of their decision to lie to me, to make me into a clueless, defenseless fool. They may believe, even, that they spared me the conflict, the embarrassment, that they let me off easy with professional brush off, that I wouldn't be the wiser. Just a further illustration on how glaringly ignorant they are of who I am.

I have had no closure with them. A very large part of me wants to write them an email calling them out on their bullshit. But to what end? So they can say, “See, we were right, she is mean and aggressive and thank god she’s gone.” I will not give them any ammunition to make me out into a villain. So with this I am left twisting in the wind of injustice. I can levy a thousand buts but not one of them will make a difference or be heard. Instead my stomach knots with the idea that people who I considered peers are talking about me behind my back, pairing my name with words like unfriendly or hostile.

And so I will blog. I will blog to say that I am hurt and that I am bothered. I will blog to say that they are wrong. I will blog to wonder if they are right. I will blog to say that some people will never “get you”, and to say that sometimes you may not even get yourself.

But out of it all one thing is for certain -there is no room in my life for cowards and liars. I surround myself with strong women whose honesty and big hearts make me a better person every day, and I surround myself with men who would give me the shirt off their back. So I know this is a good thing. But I still may cry about it from time to time. Because that is just who I am.

Posted 1.17.2013 5:16:53 PM

stef wrote:
and that is who i am. i'm actually glad to hear that i'm not the only misunderstood woman i know, but sad that people can't be adults about these situations. and for the record, i love exactly who you are.
Posted 1/17/2013 7:29:01 PM
Judy Corp St. Arnold wrote:
And as you walk away from these people, throw your shoulders back, take a deep breath and know in your heart....you do surround yourself with strong,honest,and beautiful people.....beauty inside of people is the lifelong gift that we can give to each other as humans.....kindness and giving of ones self is priceless and life long.....you are who you are and embrace all layers of who you are,loving, honest,giving,funny, and the best friend,wife,daughter, and human being that anyone can have.....its their loss ...so my precious one ...I wipe your tears,hug you tenderly and love you to the Moon and back....don't ever change who you are and how you deal with the cowards in this world. Knowing you, liking you, laughing with you, and loving you is a great joy for anyone ! Love, Mom
Posted 1/18/2013 8:30:08 AM
Tom wrote:
This is my favorite piece of yours I've read. Really well done (I'm lame and haven't started the Red Burn Diaries though). That will be your best revenge, to keep writing.
Posted 1/24/2013 11:06:24 PM - Tom's website
Norah wrote:
This is an interesting topic - this disconnect between our self-perceptions and others. What would it be like to meet our own selves, what would we change or enhance? In the last decade, I have met a few women who are "versions" of myself -- usually a version of me from an earlier time in my life....often with more exaggerated traits. It amuses me to see a former self, and I probably think I understand them more than I really do. Sometimes it is just fun to see a mirror in other people. Anyhow, please do continue with Redburn, as Tom directed. I'm all caught up and ready for more Charlie and Victoria.
Posted 3/24/2013 10:01:52 PM
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