When I hurt someone, parts 1 and 2

Pt. 1: I’ve been avoiding writing this post all day. It pains me just to think about it. Because I seem to have inherited my mother’s empathy, it literally pains me to wound another. While I would never do so intentionally, I have, at times hurt people I love and care about inadvertently. And I’m sorry.

One time that comes to mind is when a friend shared with me a very private family tragedy. She told me to tell no one. Which was not a problem, because as another friend once said, I am a vault.

My mistake, however, was in not realizing that I was this person’s only confidante in this matter. There were two other people with whom this person was close–I dare say even closer than she was with me. So when one of those people asked me where our friend was, I assumed she knew.

She did not know. And my friend was devastated that I had revealed a part of her story. I had inadvertently betrayed her trust. I was devastated that I had betrayed her trust, because trust is something I take very seriously (hence why I am a vault).

This happened many years ago. And this person has remained my friend and put trust in me again. But I will never, ever forget the horrified look on her face or the heavy sick weight in my stomach when I realized what I had done.

Pt. 2: One day when I was just a punk kid, my younger (by only 14 months) sister and I were walking home from school. My mind tends to blend two distinct events into one, but in fact this was one of two incidents when someone was bullying my little sister. I don’t recall which one happened first, but I do know that this one is the one where I stood up and did something about it. (Pretty sure I yelled at the guy in my grade who threw a rock at my sister and hit her in the head, wounding her and causing her to bleed just a little. But yelling seemed sort of passive and ineffectual and makes for a boring story.)

This time we were walking home and a girl–I vaguely remember there was more than one girl in this group of older girls who were bad talking my sister, but only one who became physical and began pushing her around.

Something snapped. I was not going to stand for that. I lit into that girl like someone had shot me out of a gun. And while I imagine we both gave as good as we got, I am neither weak nor frail and I did not hold back.

While I used to embellish this tale with the line “and the construction workers working nearby had to pull me off of her,” the truth is more along the lines of “the nearby construction workers broke up the fight, most likely without laying a hand on either one of us. And we were probably about done pummeling each other anyway.”

I’d like to think this story makes me look good–like a good, protective sister, who would defend her sister to the death. But the truth is like most (but not the good) big sisters I sometimes gave my sister a hard time. And instead of saying “Hey! Nobody picks on my little sister,” what I may really have been saying was “Hey! Nobody picks on my little sister but me!”

[Day 49 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]