Once upon a time, a very long time ago when my first bras were still quite new and my teeth were newly straightened, I was given a big parcel of words. Most of them were quite nasty, in a neatly clipped, ordered kind of way, and the words “ungrateful” and “selfish” appeared quite a few times. They were (for me at the time, because I was probably very selfish and quite ungrateful) completely out of the blue. I had no idea such a parcel of words existed, and I had no idea that they applied to me.
These words were delivered, one by one, on a drive that took a little longer than an hour, and finished in an angry silence and the last, dreaded words “So you should be crying.”
I had no idea I was that bad a person. Nobody had ever told me before. I’d thought I was okay. After the drive the parcel-deliverer delivered me to my mother, and while I sat crying on the bus he unpacked the parcel again for her in the same, neatly clipped, ordered way, and I sat watching her face turn from warm to cold and angry as she took the parcel from him and unpacked those words over me again, one by one in the hour it took for the bus to get us home.
Well Megan, So You Should Be Crying.
By the time the bus got to our stop and we walked home I was exhausted and all cried out, and, at my mother’s behest, I called the parcel-deliverer, apologized, and was forgiven. I never really forgot those words though. I kept them close to my chest, because the one thing that I knew was that I never ever wanted to do that again, or have words plastered to me like that again. I used the parcel as a shield, if you like, to filter my interactions with people, to ensure that I never did anything again that would cause people to say So You Should Be Crying, or plaster me again with words like Selfish or Ungrateful.
I realized, as I grew up, the huge amount of stress that the parcel-deliverer must have been under at that time, exacerbated by the presence of an extra, talkative thirteen year old in the house, and magnified again by a bus that didn’t come and having to make a two-hour round trip to deliver said child back to her mother. It can’t have been easy for him. Every time I pictured that car ride, or the waiting at the bus stop, I forgave him again, or tried to, anyway.
Some things don’t go though, no matter how hard you forgive people. Some memories not only linger, but come up with alarming frequency sometimes. This one has been. I’ve learned a lesson now that I’ll hopefully remember for the future: when memories are thrown into your face unbidden and against your will like that one has been for me, maybe it’s because it’s trying to teach you something. Maybe it’s time to take out the parcel and unpack it and see what it says.
I did that. Last night. I opened the parcel I’ve been carrying around for all these years and looked at those words as an adult for the first time. I saw the tired, stressed-out-of-his-brain man who delivered them, and I realized for the first time that that parcel that I’ve been clutching so close to my chest for all these years wasn’t really mine to begin with. I didn’t need those words. Maybe half a dozen, perhaps, but not a whole hour’s worth in a parcel. They were his words, his feelings of the time that got dumped on me. I didn’t need to carry them forever.
I just got someone else’s mail.