11 January 2000

Dear Melissa,

Just about a year ago, Beth wrote an entry to Grace concerning a particularly harrowing night Grace had. I have never forgotten it, nor have I been able to properly express what it meant to me. This one is for you, to let you know you are not alone, and I hope it offers a fraction of the comfort that your entry gave me.

I have to admit, after first reading what you wrote to your notify list, I was surprised, even shocked. You and I didn't get to spend a lot of time together the weekend we met, but I was almost instantly envious of how confident and collected you appeared. I saw you in your element that weekend, the theatre, where I know you were frustrated, but also enlivened and energized by what you were accomplishing. I also saw you as a gracious and entertaining hostess, something I think is also your element, as it is mine: surrounded by friends and family, laughing and playing and venting and bonding.

I didn't see your deeper loneliness then, but I should have, because I share it. And looking back, I recognize it in your entry to me a year ago.

We are so very alike this way. I think we are both people who have an innate sense of other's needs, and we cannot rest until we offer help, support, and love in an attempt to satisfy them. Most of the time, I like to think it works, and we succeed. Our loved ones accept what we give, and they feel better, and we feel better. People grow to depend on us for it. They are upset when we aren't there for them, and that kills us. We feel guilty, as though we have failed them. Sometimes, we may even get our feelings hurt when our offers are, for whatever reason, rejected. We are endlessly reaching out.

And suddenly we realize that no one reaches back for us.

They don't understand that sometimes, just every once in a while, we have the very same needs we jump to relieve in others. They cannot imagine us as the ones who need an ear, a shoulder. They don't pick up on the same signs that we are so sensitive to in them. When we are bold enough to ask for it, right out loud, we are dismissed as though it is an impossibility that we, the rocks, could ever be fragile enough to crumble just as they do.

We may even have felt resentment directed at us for daring to shed light on that fragility. That part of us is an unknown, a third eye on our foreheads, something we have worked hard to keep hidden, and it is too shocking to those who depend on us when we finally have the courage to expose the flaw. No one seems to know what to do with it. It puzzles them and scares them. Sometimes they even run from it. So we rush to cover it up again.

I wish I had the answer, Mel, but I don't. I don't know how to break out of the role I've created for myself my entire adult life. I don't know how to let go of the feeling that what I need doesn't count, doesn't matter, so long as I can be there for someone who needs me. I can't escape the horrifying thought that I might let others down if I admit that I'm not the rock they thought I was. If I admit that even I am vulnerable and insecure and afraid.

What is amazingly ironic is what I have found here, through this medium. I have found people (yourself, for example) who can see through the front, the solid, comforting exterior, to the young woman who is afraid to ask for what she needs, afraid to admit that she even has those needs in the first place. I am eternally grateful for the kindness and sensitivity of my readers, but until they all move next door, it cannot fulfill what I search for in my day-to-day life. It may be presumptuous of me -- this whole entry may be presumptuous of me -- but I think that's true for both of us.

However, what I also think is true for both of us is that we're learning. As 28 and soon-to-be 28-year-olds, I don't think it's too late to reconstruct the role we've spent years enveloping ourselves in. We do not need to abandon our instinct, the one that makes us reach out to those who need us, because to do so would deny something that is an essential part of who we are.

But we will figure out how to get what we give. We will learn how to ask others to help us carry our burdens in such a way that eventually, we will not need to ask. We will get there.

Of this I am most certain.


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