Unless you are willing to take care of me for a while, or take something off my plate, or spend time with me to ease the burden of aloneness, stop telling me to practice “self-care.” That’s a nice-sounding excuse not to show up. Self-care? How about community care? As Bessel Van Der Kolk writes in The Body Keeps the Score, “We barely exist as individual organisms.” A genuine thank-you to friends who have made a consistent effort without making me feel guilty for “taking” their time.
Unless you are willing to read what I write, ask to and then remember to follow up without being prodded, and share it with others when you think it’s good, stop telling me you “believe in me” and that you “support me.” Those are cheap, empty lines that sounds supportive without you having to do any actual work. A genuine thank-you to those who don’t tell me to “just write for myself.”
Unless you are willing to tell the truth about what you have done, said or failed to do that hurt someone you claim to care about, don’t pretend to be “honoring” them with your silence or vagueness. The only thing that does is feed the rumor mill and allow you to hide behind the ways the other person is acting out the pain you caused. A genuine thank-you to those who have apologized to me without my having to prompt them, for not groveling and therefore guilt-tripping me, but for being heartfelt and actually thinking about how their actions/inactions have affected me.
Unless you are willing to take away the condition of “calming down” or “not being dramatic” or “being rational” (as if “reason” is opposed to emotion?) when talking to me, especially if you’ve hurt me, don’t think you truly want to make it right. Dictating my mood, especially when engaging around something you have done to me, is called tone policing. It’s like shooting someone and then criticizing them for bleeding. A genuine thank-you to those who do not repeatedly remind me how “intense” I am and who understand that the reason I am so intense is because that is exactly how I experience the world.
Unless you have actual space in your calendar and in your life and can offer concrete times, stop telling me you “want to hang out.”That’s a cowardly way of saying “I want you to think I”m a nice person,” but doesn’t actually mean “let’s hang out.” A genuine thank-you to those who have kept their commitments of their time with me.
Unless you are willing to take off your own shoes before you step into mine, stop telling me you “see,” you “know,” you “understand” and start trying to. All premature declarations of understanding do is shut the person down; Bessel van der Kolk’s work with trauma victims has demonstrated that the most powerful tool for healing is not drugs, is not therapy, is not even EMDR or neurofeedback (though this has so far been very helpful for me)…but telling your story. And story requires non-clinical, voluntary but committed community. A genuine thank-you to the nonjudgmental listeners in my life.
Unless you have felt the depths of betrayal of the closest people in your life, stop telling me you’re “different” than “those other folks” and start showing me that you are. A genuine thank-you to those who have shown and are showing me this.
Unless you actually can prioritize it, don’t tell you’ll get something done “as soon as possible.” That’s an urgent-sounding line that in reality makes no concrete commitments but allows you to put me off indefinitely. A genuine thank-you to those in my life who offer specific deadlines and follow through.
Unless you are willing to help me, don’t ask me what I need. It’s a cruel set up that may sound caring, but really asks me to be vulnerable while you don’t have to be and is more about you feeling like you’re good at caring than actually doing the caring. A genuine thank-you to those who are making the effort to learn my love languages and teaching me theirs.
Unless you know how to know how to act your words, unless you know what it takes to honor someone’s trust that you mean what you say, unless you know how to let your yes be yes, your non be no and otherwise guard your tongue, then you don’t yet understand what words mean; don’t use my “gifts” for language and memory or my “intelligence” or “rare bird-ness” as an excuse not to try to love me. A genuine thank-you to those not willing to cop-out or hide behind me in all my “beautiful uniqueness” but who will show up with all they are and take responsibility for the choice to love me.