There’s a saying my mom frequently used (a variation of the famous Maya Angelou quote) that I think I finally understand.
“When someone tells you who they are, believe them the first time.”
I guess I never do believe them the first time. I always think there’s some hidden meaning, that something else that will reveal itself in time. It’s the, “I’m going to hurt you.” Or, “You deserve better than me.”
“You’re so amazing, but I’m just messed up right now.”
I hear the words. And I ignore them. Like some kid who just keeps sticking her hand in the flame, knowing she gets burned each time. I keep coming back. I keep doing it, thinking this time it’ll be fine. I keep forgetting what happens when you touch fire.
Maybe it’s being raised with a psychology professor for a father and this weird, innate desire I have to apply bandaids to any bleeding hearts I come across. “I like the damaged ones,” I always joke when friends caution me against my latest romantic interaction. And then I remind them we’re all damaged anyways. It’s a nasty word, damage. We all think we’re so damaged and broken. But really, it’s just a symptom of living long enough. We just prove how human we are.
I’ve dated, or at the very least lusted, after them all: the ones with addictions, depression, anxiety, the lost ones, the ones who need validation and love. It’s not that I think I can fix anyone. I know I’m riddled with my own set of issues. Perhaps it’s easier to focus on someone else. I enjoy taking care of people. I’m a whole lot better at it than taking care of myself.
I’d pour my energy into them. Because his depression isn’t as scary as mine. Mine feels ugly, whereas his? His makes me want to hold him. His makes me want to touch him and love him and tell him it will all be okay. I don’t like that I’m attracted to this. It’s not healthy, and I know that. I know all of this.
Believe someone the first time. Listen to what they are saying, as much as you want it to mean something else. We want it to be something else.
But here is the brutal truth, the one I forget too often.
When someone tells you that you deserve better, they are telling you to move on because they don’t care enough to be better. They will not put in the effort or energy they KNOW you deserve. I want to say it has nothing to do with you, because it is not your fault, but they will find someone who they deem important enough to BE better for. That person is not you and I’m sorry, that is shitty and horrible and I want to hug you because I’ve been there. They know you deserve better. But they are not going to be better. Listen.
When someone tells you they will hurt you, they will hurt you. I don’t think they are malicious or evil. They aren’t planning some massive destruction to your life and just sitting back, twiddling their thumbs, waiting for the perfect moment to strike. But they know themselves. We all do, whether we readily admit it. They are going to hurt you. They know it. And maybe down deep, you know it too. And when it happens they will say, “I told you. I told you this would happen.”
When someone tells you they are too messed up, they are warning you. It’s not that anyone has too much damage or too many issues. But this is an excuse. This is something ready to pull out and say, “I told you, I’m messed up.” This is blame and letting go of responsibility. This is the warranty they can point to and say, look. Sorry.
When someone tells you who they are, believe them the first time. I’m trying to.