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What Falling In Love Has Taught Me About Human Nature, The World of Dogs, Monsters, Viruses & Myself

Updated: Feb 12, 2022

An Open Letter To Any Boy With A Heart Like Yours Who Has Ever Fallen For A Girl With A Heart Like Mine

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TW: Emotional abuse. Although this letter is rhetorically addressed to a single person, I am writing to everyone who resonates with this letter. My love, and my gratitude, is for all of you.

Please Note: This is intended as a piece of creative writing only. I experience a phenomenon called "emotional flashbacks" accompanied by exaggerated guilt causing an overwhelming sense of needing to confess my wrongs. These are often disproportionate to any actual wrong. Writing helps me process these emotional flashbacks and gain insight into the inner workings of my psyche. Thus, herein are grains of truth magnified as boulders. If you too suffer overwhelming feelings of guilt, fear, despair, being a horrible person, or any of the issues expressed in this piece, please do not be afraid to seek help. You are not alone. I am right here with you. Click here if you would like to learn about emotional flashbacks to better understand yourself or a loved one. My intention in writing & publishing this piece is to examine an often swept-under-the-rug truth which is that victims of significant trauma are capable of becoming perpetrators of hurt onto others in the absence of honest efforts to see themselves and their wounds clearly. It is my hope that writing about it helps people who can relate feel less alone and less afraid of exploring their darkest inner truths with greater compassion and honesty, as well as validate the experiences of those who have been victimized in adult relationships by those with unresolved trauma.


Dear You,

I want you to know, I do not blame you. You strike me as someone who knows what it’s like to hang around the pound. The kind for dogs who are too broken & battered for adoption, fated to eventually be put down. Like you’ve tried to save them before, be the one to give them a normal happy life. You have that special kind of heart. The kind that brings strays home & nurtures them, that would teach a baby bird whose mother abandoned it in the nest how to fly & set it free one day.

Perhaps you have wondered why you are so drawn to my kind. I think, in a world where so many hearts are set to mute, the only hearts who can still hear the gentle rawness of a beating heart like yours—one which longs for something deeper, something meaningful, something far beyond the ordinary which only poetry, music & art can begin to grasp yet also so real you can hold it tightly to your chest at night, something simple & pure but humming with powerful mystery that can really pique that wide-eyed curiosity of yours—& the only ones who can really seem to appreciate the understated delicate quality of the incredible strength your depth of sensitivity possesses—a strength so rare yet the most potent & true there is—rather than treat you like the runt of the pack - are those hearts agape & bleeding, who beat so loud because they are full of stifled cries & screams, who can light up your world in how they seem to shine so intensely & brighter than the rest; not knowing they shine so bright because shining brighter than the odds against them is their lifeline, who can hear a pin drop of hope in a crowded room full of deaf ears & look up when a heart like yours walks in: Hearts like mine.

But you must know all too well by now that loving the broken breaks you. You have probably stuck around far longer than most ever do. I commend you for that. Not that that’s something anyone should ever have to receive commendation for. I can tell you have been bitten many times, probably completely torn to shreds, before. It seems you learned your lesson – finally got out & are on to better & brighter days. I’m happy that, if anything, meeting me might have been what pushed you over the edge onto the path a heart like yours truly deserves, even if that meant having to leave a heart like mine behind.

Maybe because you finally learned you deserve better than being bitten over & over, and that some things are not worth selling your soul to try & change or fix. Or perhaps—as I would suppose is the case—because you barely made it out with your life the last time – or at least anything close to what anyone could call a life, that is. I can tell by your gait that you know what it’s like to live walking on broken promises & apologies like broken glass made of the shattered pieces of your heart’s truest hopes & dreams in your own home, and being too busy trying to predict & sidestep emotionally loaded trap mines designed to destroy your soul—laid, set off, & band-aided over with deceptive innocence—until the fear of ever getting your hopes up again eventually overpowers the dreams your heart once had to the point you have to forget you ever had them in the first place just to get through the day without wanting to punch through a wall.

Are we really that different, then, you and I? How do you think I was made? My heart, after all, began as a heart like yours. Perhaps all hearts do.

I guess it did not take long for you to sense it is in my nature to be capable of delivering the same kind of bite that I surmise nearly killed you. A nature I was blind to, for it never had the chance to really come out into the light of day & harm someone like you. Not yet, at least. It has been through knowing you & by trying to look at myself through your eyes, in the attempt to understand what you might have seen in me that sent you running away & why you kept your distance, that I have finally begun to see the insipid truth which has festered in my blind spot, which your gaze reflects back at me, & have begun to see myself clearly for what I truly am:

Exactly one of the dogs at the pound I was stuck with & I tried with everything my whole life not to be anything like – to rise above, to stand out & apart from, & stay there far away from any of it. In the hopes that maybe it would lead someone with a heart like yours to pick me out of this treacherous lot one day & give me a home; the kind of home I always dreamed of, but never had. When I met you I thought, albeit wearily, that I was ready. After all, I had learned not to bark or bite or grovel, to follow orders with skill beyond my years, trained myself to be hyper-independent & had taught myself far more tricks than any of the others. I had gotten so good at it all, I was almost convinced I was actually never one of them.

But when you came by & looked at me like you truly saw me for who I was & where I came from, like you knew a heart like mine & could see yourself making it yours & taking it home & loving it anyways—and it was beyond clear you had the kind of heart which intends to provide a forever home—,seemed to make plans which promised a new life waiting for me on the other side of the captivity which had almost drained the last light left in me, how you seemed to be getting the adoption papers ready & everything…and then backed out at the last moment with a hasty “actually, never mind” – and then seemed to want to pretend like I didn’t exist or, when I hoped to see you again, like maybe you were just doing me a favor as the discarded charity case you just couldn’t take on right now, and I felt like the biggest most pitiful loser for even wanting your attention at all – when that happened, I became just like them:

Groveling, barking, whining in confusion, shaking, begging, in need of constant reassurance & validation, unable to be left alone without pissing all over the floor in anxiety. Jumping up & trying to do tricks for you. Honestly, at a certain point not even because I thought you would change your mind, but just because your presence was the only thing that could warm me. For, in this cold place on these concrete floors around all these other barking hopeless souls like mine, a warm hug or smile from someone like you every once in a while means the whole world. I am sorry I jumped up and got too excited and rushed around you in a frenzy. Then lost my mind. I was not used to the feeling.

At first, I really contained it. For months. Enough for you to want to be friends; maybe even enough to get you to begin to reconsider. That’s how good I had gotten at self-containment, self-denial, at being my own warden. At hiding from the truth and hiding the truth - not only from you, but from myself. The only way to contain it was to seal it as tightly as I could & bury it deep somewhere I hoped it would just suffocate and die if I forgot all about it, stopped feeding it, told it to shut up, and escaped the force of its gravity—which has always kept my heart & body in this unbearable cage—by flying somewhere else in my mind all together: A whole new world where I was this free, happy, beautiful, healthy, normal, artistic, fun girl. Like putting on virtual reality glasses which let me not have to feel the gravity of the scars around my heart, not have to open my eyes to see how terrifyingly dark it had become in that place.

Please understand, the light had completely gone out & I knew if I did not have any place to go, to dream of possibly going, some visceral sensation I could not consciously understand felt I would have to be put down. Like whatever was hungry for your heart would turn and attack me, put me down, if I could not promise it the possibility of becoming worthy enough of you. As though I was bargaining with an impending autoimmune response I could feel like a bone chilling wind about to take me—fate perhaps—and a chance with you just so happened to be the only bargaining chip it was willing to accept to extend me some more time. The worst part is, in running from intense emotions which felt like a predator after me by chasing after you to help me feel secure—all the while blind to the darkness driving it all which festered inside—is that I became the embodiment of the very fear of emotional chaos and insecurity which even I could not face and felt I had to keep my distance from.

It is said the root of all suffering is attachment; for those like me with fearful-avoidant attachment tendencies from unhealed traumatic experiences, the suffering is in how those we seek to connect with on an emotional level mirror back to us the internal unstable push-and-pull dynamics we place between a sense of safety and our own emotions. Encompassing our heart’s deepest needs, desires, hopes and fears, the longing to connect deeply and feel safe in doing so, and to heal the pain which keeps us on the run from these soft, vulnerable, wounded places whose acceptance we need to make us whole.

But one cannot fully know the self without the other, nor know self-love without knowing reciprocal love; and so, when those we seek to accept us for these wounded parts we never learned to accept about ourselves—because we all need someone to—only seem to confirm that we are not deserving of acceptance for these parts, it is near impossible to know we deserve any differently, to separate our identity from the limitations placed upon it by the world, the past, all of the experiences which have ever hurt us and we internalized as something wrong with who we are at a fundamental level.

Like Pavlov’s dogs – it only takes so many times for externally projected cycles of subconscious wounding to do with rejection, abandonment, betrayal, embarrassment, being misunderstood and outcasted, unable to trust, and being rewarded for performing otherwise for love, acceptance, and a semblance of connection with others to solidify into what we perceive as reality, for the identities which keep us feeling secure and worthy of existing in this world to become iron masks disconnecting the heart from authentic sources of nourishment.

You see, my kind go into a frenzy once we get a whiff of a heart like yours because it’s the rare kind that actually has any sustenance in this world anymore. But that’s what you have to know about these slobbering starving souls in here, you see: We are hungry, ravenous in fact, for your heart. And when you’ve been starved for so long, and feel backed into a corner by a reality which is marked by entrapment, you hunt it with all you can in clever and manipulative ways, just for a drop of something to soothe the pain of a hungering heart which has only ever known starvation. Just to calm the burn. And while we all might think we start innocent in this, eventually, the frenzy of unfed hunger may grow powerful enough that we are willing to eventually beg, chase, hunt, and even bite just for a taste.

Broken open, my truth was coming to light: I was in the making of becoming a monster. Just like the ones who hurt me. Repulsively out of control & dangerously unpredictable, blind to the threat their existence poses to the world and the people closest to them, indignantly demanding to be understood & coddled & apologized to while you’re the one whose bleeding out, blaming everyone & everything but themselves for the destruction their problems cause – problems you are apparently damned if you try to fix them & damned if you don’t. The crazed delusional look in the eyes of dogs like that who are set off into a trance by the slightest sound & start snapping at an invisible attacker of their past that might as well be the air but you’re the one who gets bitten because you are standing right there & the taste of your blood is the closest they will ever get to the taste of the one they always wished they had the power to bite, whose blood they really want. Actually, whose love they really always wanted but never got, so they just have to make do with blood to the point they can only see red anymore.

It’s a disease, you see. A virus which attacks the heart, buries the soul. One which progress if one remains blind to it and never heals. Once it reaches that final stage of only seeing red, it is hard to come back from. Perhaps not impossible if no one has been bitten too badly. Those who have bitten and cannot admit they cannot stop now that they have tasted blood, that they need help, and go on blindly biting and blaming and infecting others are the ones that might just need to be put down for everyone else’s & their own good, regardless of whether they deserve it or not. Of course not – none of us ever do.

In seeing myself in the reflection of your eyes I see a harsh truth: That I have always been infected with this disease and it’s been rapidly progressing in my blind spot & might have been likely to take over completely in a few years had I kept running away from what has needed attention and healing in myself. By the nature of how this disease functions, we are completely blind to it because we only see you. The one whose love & approval we crave, and are always reaching for, chasing after in avoidance of ourselves. Once it reaches the final stage, it is you who gets blamed for not having done enough and you who must work to free yourself from the burden that such a feeling of failure places upon another’s heart.

However, the world around me told me, as a girl, as an “empath”, what I was experiencing was normal. That deserving so much better justifies behavior much like Dudley in the first Harry Potter movie when he felt he deserved more presents for Christmas than he got last year.

That I am an empath who gives and gives and gives and you a narcissist who takes what they want without regard for my feelings. Apparently, in the fine print of our practice of empathy, sacrifice, selflessness, kindness, giving, and even “love” it has become written that non-reciprocity to ulterior motives may be held over one’s head and dropped as bombs if one cannot not reciprocate as to the specifications for how to play along as puppet to the benevolent ventriloquist’s unmet needs.

It goes both ways, you see. Kindness, victimization, and innocence often cast a shadow shaped just like the caricature of the narcissistic ventriloquist who sweeps you off your feet and then strings you along with breadcrumbs, false hope, gaslighting, etc. What is sad is that no matter where they may fall on this spectrum, a ventriloquist unconsciously believes that without strings like nooses around the necks of human puppets that anyone in their right mind would ever stay and love them.

But the catch is that these strings distort the purity of love which may sometimes truly be entangled somewhere in it all – and so it is hard to know how to love any differently until one disentangles that which is pure from that which distorts it. Like finding a needle in a haystack except the haystack is made out of the needles and the process might just feel like being cut into a million pieces and being caught in one’s own web at the same time as all of one’s subconscious projections of blame and hurt and needing rescuing turn inwards onto the self in surrender of how we truly feel.

All around me, these stories confirmed portions of the latent predatory mindset instilled in me by this disease: A subconsciously projected story of collective unworthiness so many feel, in fact maybe even most of us, to some extent at least relative to each other on different levels of the food chain. Depending on how we were trained to feel worthy and secure. Mine just so happens to be at the bottom tier. One which, at its worst, breeds an innate sense of subconscious unworthiness and deep insecurity masked behind a false sense of righteousness justifying manipulation and even violence in desperately demanding love & recognition from a savior. For that, I can never say sorry enough and am only so grateful I awoke to the truth when I did and began to heal before I could ever get close enough to bite.

And suddenly, something hit me in writing all of this: Why is it that, when I examine my reflection in your eyes, I see myself—a human being—as a pitiful whining starved dog trying with every ounce of strength to be good, not to snap and release the chaos of its strained sorrow and desire for love on you, out of fear of deep shame and guilt for wanting love at all that I must atone for? Is it because you see me that way? Or is it because I have always just seen myself that way? And it somehow took someone like you making me feel seen, and then not at all, to crumble a false identity, sense of security, and self-worth built upon the notion of becoming worthy enough for someone to save me from the way I have always just felt about myself and love me the way I have never been able to love myself.

And just like that, I snapped out of it. Remembered who I am. A human being. An adult woman. Complicated. Perhaps even broken. Yet broken like stained glass, in how the broken parts of who I am, those jagged discolored messy sharp edges, may find a sense of harmony and belonging in becoming a beautiful abstract arrangement which can filter light into a story; one which can possibly lend a sense of magic in looking at the dark places of what it means to be human like stained glass brings to hollow, somber corners of a church for those whose souls are in distress. And where maybe I can find some solace for my soul in the attempt to transmute that which pains me and terrifies me into a piece of artful prose that can mean something.

Perhaps therein lies the bridge between succumbing to the despair of an existential fate of injustice, hurt, and insecurity and allowing it to be the fabric which enables the weaving of one’s destiny; destiny being the meaning we choose to create out of that which fate has dealt us. No matter how dreadful it might be. Perhaps it is the key to freeing a trapped soul. Maybe even to freeing a whole world of trapped souls.

Well, then, I can say you certainly have saved me. And, for that, I am eternally grateful. For I now know I do not need someone else to pick me in order to be worthy of love. I can pick myself – up off this floor and nourish my own heart with the things I love and know I am free to pursue—writing, art, music, joy, inner peace, passionate love and life experiences—and maybe, just maybe, once I have freed myself from my own mind’s captivity, I might meet a heart like yours again and might find the love I finally learned to find within myself.

Had I not opened my eyes now to what I blindly was in the making of and not started to heal my distorted self-perception in the world, I might have eventually become the worst of my kind. I cannot deny the possibility. Or have put myself down before it reached that point of becoming the reason why those already rare hearts like yours might eventually choose to join the deaf at drowning out all those hearts who look up to you—and whose melody is luscious with soul just as rare and rich as hearts like yours long to find in this world—those who might actually still have a chance of being saved from a fate of becoming monsters whose blind consumption with their own pain might drive them to take it out or prey on the easiest targets one day: children, the less fortunate, the elderly, minorities, the disabled, animals. No wonder we live in a world of the deaf & blind where hate & apathy grows in place of love & truth.

I contend it takes two: a heart like yours to hear mine and choose to truly listen with an open mind, and a heart like mine to learn how to see my wounds clearly and choose to evolve with and towards an open heart. When the deaf and blind both heal, perhaps the world can be broken open and our truth brought to light: We are not dogs. None of us. We are worthy. We are capable. We are autonomous. We deserve love. We deserve to follow the dreams which nourish our souls, not starving hearts in a race against each other, not hearts who never learned they are allowed to free themselves from cages of oppression. None of us should have to beg for the right to do that. We are human beings. And we are equally deserving. All of us.

What gives me hope is that in this crowded room of barking dogs like I became just falling upon deaf ears like those who have been bitten too many times become, is that—at least for a moment—we proved it is possible for two hearts to hear each other beating & snap out of it all. I hope to show in my lifetime that hearts who have been infected like mine are capable and worthy of healing.

Who knows? When hearts like mine learn to nourish ourselves, hearts like yours and hearts like mine might just be made for each other. If nothing else, to teach one another and potentially the world a purer way of learning love for others and for ourselves.



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