Hello long, lost blog. Hello and all apologies for being so absent. I have treated you like a fair-weather friend, but in the reverse, as I only spend time with you when I need something from you... when I need some sort of piece of mind or translation of my thoughts and feelings. I only come to you when I need help navigating my own mind, or finding answers to questions that keep coming up unanswerable otherwise. I treat you like my last option, my back-up, my therapy dispenser. I suppose it is a good thing you are not a living thing, and therefore not hurt by my neglect. One could argue that by being my outlet, the neglect I burden you with is actually neglect unto myself. One could argue it... and they would be right. I don't spend enough time processing and sorting and defining, at least not in the way I am able to here. Not like I can when I write. I can think for years, but it never comes to the same end as it does on paper. So, I am here.
Neglect... boy that word can mean and stand for so many things. I think we all envision a starving or dirty child when we hear that word. But doesn't it also describe someone starved for love or affection? Doesn't it also include someone not looked after or thought of? Doesn't neglect envelope so much more than the basic needs not being met? We don't like to use it for these things, despite its perfect definition as such, because then we have to face what our actions actually cause, both physically and emotionally. Everyone knows neglect brings terrible consequences, so if we define something under it, then we have to see that it has left scars or open wounds where before we thought all was healed. This was, and probably still is, the hardest thing for me to realize in my life... the hardest thing to accept. Because if I admitted that all of these things were neglect, in every single sense of the word, then I would have to see that there were results and pain and fear and that I was, in fact, affected. I keep using that word, right? Affected. I just feels heavy to say it in my head, let alone trying to say it out loud. Why? Because I have never struggled with my story. I have never questioned the accuracy of what I recall or the turn of events that has been my life. But what I have struggles with was the acknowledgment that I was harmed, changed, molded, and enlightened by all of it. I was affected. I didn't get out unscathed or impervious. I thought I did. That is why that word means so much. Because I have never been so wrong.
Everyone that is neglected is affected. Period.
There are no what-if's or not-all-the-time's about it. It may be a tiny or unnoticed scar, but everyone who experiences neglect carries with them a souvenir of that journey. It may change how they react to something previously not bothersome. It may make them cling tighter to something previously unimportant. Or it may leave them feeling scared to let in something that was once welcome to come in whenever it chose. When you neglect to show someone you love affection, they may be scared to show it to others as well, since those people may withhold it like you did. When you neglect to tell someone how you are feeling, they may think you are feelings someway you are not, leaving them to carry the burden of confusion or hurt. When you neglect to ask how someone's day was or tell your wife she is beautiful or tell your brother you love him... what does that do? What does that leave them missing?
It is easy for us to remember how badly the obvious instances of neglect can harm someone, but what about the little ones that happen more often? If you stack a penny every day, eventually you still end up with a dollars worth. It just takes more time. And it takes more time for them to realize that what they are getting is neglect. You could say, that might even be worse than sudden and severe neglect. That it might make for longer lasting and deeper scars.
For anecdotal sake, and lord knows I can provide plenty of evidence of this through more avenues than I care to count, let's look at how I went from wide-open to shell shocked, and hopefully am rounding the corner back to free again. Anyone who knows me would have no trouble saying that I was absolutely affectionate in my teenage/early twenties years. I hugged a lot, I told people I loved them a lot, I touched my bf/husband a lot, and I cuddled a lot. I had no fear. Well, let me rephrase... I had fear, but it was that I would leave people feeling unloved like my mother did. So, I made sure everyone knew that I adored them or liked them or appreciated them. I tried to anyway. I am sure I failed in some cases and there is someone out there right now who thought I was a bitch for some reason or another. The point is, I never thought twice about showing my feelings. It wasn't until I put my heart in the hands of someone right after my divorce and he played with it like play-do that it all started to change. He was nice to me in private, but in public he almost ignored me. Touching him could mean pushing him away. He told no one about us but made me feel loved when we were alone. I began to be scared to show my affection for him with people around, because it often made him withdraw. I know now that it was because he had no intentions of us every really becoming US. But at the time, that neglect left me feeling like my desire for acknowledgment and titles and public affection was unreasonable and needy.
And in true heartbroken fashion, I went after or accepted the advances of guys who acted just the same way for the next majority of my relationships. Eventually, it left me feeling like they were embarrassed of me, that I wasn't good enough, and that I was clearly just temporary. They didn't starve me or leave me out int he dirt or cold. But I was neglected. And I was affected.
As much as I have done well to know myself and recognize the things I am carrying onto the next stop in life, this is the lasting effect I have the hardest time shaking in new relationships. No matter how much I try not to make the next person suffer for the pain caused by the one before them, I have repeatedly caught myself struggling to remember that touching them or reaching for their hand won't send them running. I almost come into new relationships with the acceptance that they are likely ashamed of me and that I should let them set the pace for everything from affection to commitment. I still want to be sure they know I care, but I am scared to do it first. It is not fear of rejection so much as it is fear of neglect. If I reach for their hand and it pushes them away, they will withhold more than they already do. Or leave altogether. It sounds silly to say, write, and read... but it is the scar left after years of allowing myself to feel responsible when I loved someone neglectful.
For the first time in a long time, I am not scared to want someone... to need someone. I am not scared to touch them or smother them in kisses. I am not scared to tell them I miss them. For the first time in years, I feel like I did when I was a kid and all I wanted to do was make someone happy and protect them and make them feel so, so loved. It is a good feeling to have. It isn't all sunshine and roses... she is taking her time telling important people in her life about us and even though that is okay, it is hard for me not to default back to those feelings of not being good enough or being an embarrassment. It is hard to not feel temporary. It is really hard not to feel temporary. The circumstances are different, but the results can still be the same. I may know the reasons why, or at least the ones given to me, but the way I am affected won't waver much if the position of the players is the same. And frankly, even the reasons I am given will only be good reasons for so long. Some of them already no longer make a whole lot of sense.
The thing is, before, I looked at each new time I was being neglected as a chance to prove I could change it... and it just ate more of me away each time. It left me affected, but in two ways. I not only came out of it with fear but I also came out of it with knowledge. And that knowledge will prevent me from ever letting myself take responsibility for someone else's issues again. I may have taken a long time to see that I am Affected, but I am seeing that not all consequences are bad.
Being affected isn't always bad.