This was written for my own selfish reasons. I needed some way to express the thanks I feel for all that Eric has done for me. It’s not something that I can ever send because it reveals too much about me. However, I did send a very short note that I hope captured the spirit of this letter.
I don’t even know how to thank you for the kindness you’ve showed me the past few weeks. You don’t know it, but by just teaching me and talking to me, you have helped me face one of my biggest fears. No, not that my computer will turn into a black hole if I mistype a command. But rather than all men will hurt me in some way if I let them get close to me.
I can’t even begin to describe to you how badly people have hurt me in the past. And I can’t tell you how difficult it is for me not to carry those past hurts into the present. By you just being patient and kind, it’s getting easier for me to see that not all men are like my father, grandfather and uncle. And that not all men are like my ex.
Logically, I knew that you were thousands of miles away. You weren’t going to march over to my apartment and starting beating me. But being hurt isn’t limited to physical assault. Words can be just as, if not more, damaging. Some of my ex’s most effective tactics were verbal. But you never called me names. You never told me to go away. You never lost your patience with me.
You have never made me feel stupid or inferior in any way. And when I called myself an idiot, you corrected me, pointing out that being inexperienced isn’t the same as being an idiot. You always continued to explain things that I didn’t understand in a way I could understand. And you continued to challenge me (gently of course) to try new things even though I was afraid of what might happen.
And as much as my inexperience (and confusion) annoyed me, you saw it as a valuable asset to you. My “fresh eyes” can help you make the documentation you have better. And in my struggles to try to learn something new, I’m making things better for the entire community.
I’m continually amazed that someone would care enough to take the time to answer the many questions I have and help me get started without expecting anything in return. You gave of your time and knowledge freely. So many people in my life have taken so much from me. And then there are those who needed me do do x, y and z, yet never would give back when I needed something.
It’s sometimes hard for me to accept that you are kind and giving. I get upset because I think you’re just “being nice” when you say positive things about me. I get scared because I expect to be hurt. In some ways, I’d rather you call me stupid and tell me to give up this foolish idea of learning to use Linux. It fits in better with the way I think about myself and what I expect from other people. In some ways, I’d rather you were a jerk. That way I could go on thinking all men are the same.
I once had a psychologist tell me that cognitive dissonance is one of the hardest things for an abuse survivor to overcome. We look for every example that we can find that fits into our mental schemas and try to ignore the counter examples because challenging our beliefs hurts too much. It makes us see just how terrible our abusers actually were to us. It’s sometimes easier to cope with the abuse if we simply say “It wasn’t that bad”.
I believe many people come into our lives for a reason. I believe we start certain things for a reason. We may not always know what those reasons are when we start or we meet that person. And the reasons we think there are may be true, but there are often other reasons that become apparent at a later time.
I’m starting to let the huge walls I’ve erected come down. I know there will be times when I find myself frightened enough to want to rebuild them. And even if that doesn’t happen with you, I can think back on the kindness and gentleness you’ve shown me and try to resist the urge to wall myself off from humanity.
With many thanks,