The Undelivered Letter

A few months ago I did a thing I had vowed never to do. I sent a letter to someone I had promised myself I wouldn’t contact again. I had known for a long time that I was depriving myself of resolution by not attempting contact, but I had been prioritising avoiding the discomfort I perceived I may cause them by reaching out. My world would not let it go, and so I relented, changed my priorities, and wrote the damn letter.

If you’d like an interesting exercise, write someone you love a letter telling them all the beautiful things you’d like to tell them, and then read it back to yourself as if you had received it. If you want to make the whole thing a lot more uncomfortable for yourself, write them a letter that you actually send, keep yourself a copy, and read that back as if you had received it. Compare and contrast. Because those two letters, I’m fairly confident, are going to be different letters.

Though I hadn’t kept a copy, my letter in this instance was returned to sender, and so I had the very literal experience of receiving it. I hid it for a couple of months, unwilling to look at it. But my world would not let it go, so eventually I relented and opened the fucker up.

I had actually done the first part of the above exercise at some point fairly recently because a guy on YouTube told me to. I’d written them an unreserved, matter-of-fact love letter, which was a fine but hardly revelatory experience to read back, given the facts I had already written them countless unsent letters over the years, and I’d also very deliberately worked on using my experienced love for them to inform my newly constructed love for me.

The Undelivered Letter, though, that hit different. It was different. It was well constructed, it was warm, it was light, it was funny. It was self-aware. But it was also dripping with deference and apology. And, as I now have self-esteem to speak of, I found that particularly off-putting. As a person who loves me, I didn’t understand why I was so sorry to confess my love. Why was I apologising for taking up space, when I was there simply to wish me only good things? Sure, I was teasing myself about it, but why was I throwing myself at my feet? Why did I think I was so unworthy of my time and attention? The whole vibe fatigued me.

And that’s when I understood why this has been haunting me for so long. I lost a part of myself when I fell in love with this person, because I was so ashamed to fall in love with them. More accurately, I was ashamed of the part of me that couldn’t be without them once I had. The part of me that was desperate for them to reciprocate my love, and thus acted in desperation when they turned their back on me. I disowned that part of myself for many years, and I didn’t recognise it again until I read that fucking letter.

That was the resolution I needed. I needed to accept that part of me back, even though it was offputting. That part of me still craved my love.

This was a saga I had accepted would never be over for me, despite never being anything else either. So I was reluctant to believe that an Undelivered Letter could hold within it The Answer. But that point of focus that I couldn’t disengage myself from has dissolved. I simply don’t look there anymore. I can look there, but there’s nothing in particular to see anymore. My world has let it go. I have let it go.

We hold onto things for a reason. Often not the reason we think. Trying to let go through force of will may be ill-advised, but that doesn’t mean our fate is to keep holding on. Maybe we need to write a letter, or look in the mirror, or do the thing we’re afraid of doing, I don’t know. But I think our world tells us what needs to be done. I’m just particularly bad at yielding to its direction.

Stone cold fox

Sometimes, I look in the mirror and think FUCKING HELL, I’M FUCKING GORGEOUS! The world should be expressing endless gratitude for the privilege of gazing upon my fucking splendour, so magnificent is my visage!

Then, other times, I let out an involuntary vocalisation as I am physically accosted by my own tired, grey appearance. I wouldn’t say I recoil in horror, exactly, but I’m somewhere in that region. My reflection is jolting. I look amusingly bad.

The other day, though, I thought if I were an animal, I’d be a Tibetan wolf. And then I thought no, that’s the wrong animal. And then I googled it. And then I thought if I were an animal, I’d be a Tibetan fox.

Self portrait

Paid dues

I think I’ve made a decision.

It’s a decision I’ve made a bunch of times before, and then gone back on. But I think – finally – life has lovingly, firmly, backed me into a corner. There really is just no weaseling out of it now. If I don’t make this decision now, I’m categorically doing myself a disservice. Trapping myself in a life I don’t want. Denying myself a chance at what I do want.

And honestly, at this point, if I don’t make this decision, I don’t know what other decision I could possibly make in its place. So. Here we are.

The thing that has been holding me back most utterly is self-doubt. A lack of trust in my own ability to execute. A fear that all I’m good at these days is floating through the nebula. A fear that I’ve lost my agency. That my try is too atrophied to function. That, if someone won’t tell me what to do, I simply won’t do a thing.

Part of me is still succumbed to the track that broke me a few years ago, that I’ve been trying to undo the damage of ever since: That I’m doomed and defective. Doomed because of my defect. Undeserving of the life I desire but, what’s more, fundamentally incapable of it. It’s a track I had been playing in my head for all of my young life, until a personal cataclysm split the Universe in two and The Truth spilled out of the cavity. But before I could erase the last corrosive traces from my being, a man I loved and trusted whispered it back into me in my most vulnerable moments. My mistake to listen. My lesson to learn. I’ve been paying for it ever since.

How long will I keep paying for it?

When will I, instead, start paying myself?