I don’t know what any of this journal-entry blog will have to do with writing other than it is something, the first something in a while, that I felt I had to write. Maybe there is a character study or book idea in it, or maybe it will remind you to write often . . . and honestly . . . allowing your journal to serve as inspiration for creating relatable truths in your writing.
I’m sure most people who have me blocked on social media and in their phone’s calls and texting are the same people I have blocked in my own devices and sites. I wouldn’t even consider trying to contact them, so I don’t run into that block and, because they are blocked from contacting me, I don’t ever have to deal, in turn, with attempts they may make at reaching out.
Today, in the midst of this pandemic that has created a collective COVID mourning of the lives we must accept may never return, I thought of somebody from my past. This friend and colleague was somebody I knew to occasionally struggle with depression and anxiety. I hadn’t thought of her in a few years, but my faith (something I didn’t have when we knew one another) told me that a person doesn’t pop into your head without your choosing to take action. So, I dropped a text to say just that:
“Not even sure if this is still you, but you popped into my head today. This is a difficult season and I hope you’re finding joy and silver linings in unexpected places.”
I got back a flood of auto-texts that told me I’d been blocked from sending messages to that number and I was really taken aback. She and I had related as we both were hurting in our lives at the same time. I had genuinely cared about her. She came across as wounded despite a tough raising, her casual rocker way of dressing, and her love of hard music (Avril Lavigne being the exception). She was the kind of person that I just wanted to wrap up in a big maternal hug and hold so that she knew she was loved and cared for in this big ugly world. I didn’t do that, though. I wasn’t as open with genuine deep affection then, and I didn’t even realize that my maternal nature was okay. It was easier to be young and cool in the way I communicated and behaved with others. I reacted to her pain with crassness and the sort of light-heartedness shared between sitcom characters–the only platform on which emotional problems can be solved in 22 minutes.
As I thought about it honestly for probably the first time ever, I asked myself, ‘Did I ever really talk to her about what was going on in my life? Did she know her pain was normal; that I was just as messed up as her, but I was a good actress most of the time? Did I ever just listen to what was going on in her life without trying to offer a temporary, one-size-fits-all bandage to her wound . . . and one that probably was already failing for me?’
I remembered who I was when we knew one another and, truth told, I REALLY didn’t like myself then, though I never presented myself as if that were the case. I didn’t have some of the very things that are part of my core today, things that I think make me a (much) better human being than I was then. I was arrogant, vain, immature, and self-serving; I was kind, but not always sincere; and I made callous choices when I was feeling hurt or empty. I realize, with the bitter taste of regret on my lips, that I projected those same poor solutions on her. I even played off more than one obvious cry for help from her. Desperately (and that word choice is intentional), I wanted to be the fun friend who made her forget, so I ignored the opportunity to be the true friend who helped her overcome.
It’s perfectly possible, I suppose, that I was blocked because I’m just a part of a time when she was hurting and perhaps all of us in that group have been blocked because we’re all wrapped up in her past pain, a time she doesn’t want to think about. Or maybe it’s a fluke or an accident. Maybe that number doesn’t even belong to my former friend, anymore. Regardless of what is true, I realized that I will forever be frozen in my once-friend’s mind as the coreless person I was from a season that feels like a lifetime ago . . . a whole person ago.
Technology allows us to do more than block out people; we can block out our own experiences and, with them, the wisdom we gained and the opportunity to reflect on personal growth. We don’t have to adopt compassion, forgiveness, or acceptance, either. Just as I am frozen time for my former colleague, I could leave people from my past as statues, stationery and incapable of further development, but only of weathering away. I can imagine my past enemies and offenders as villains and antagonists when surely . . . hopefully . . . they have changed just as I have. We can reinvent ourselves with new profiles, deleting the old, but it’s not honest. Our new profiles allow us to ignore our past selves and, with them, the consequences of those past selves’ words and actions.
We’re more than blocked; we’re erased.
As a writer, there is no uglier word.
I don’t know if my past friend will ever see this. It’s a little late, but I hope these words serve as the maternal hug letting you know you are loved and cared for in this big, ugly world. I hope you've received many of those hugs over the years. And—moreover—I genuinely hope you’re okay.