In preparation for writing workshops and applications to writing fellowships, I dove headfirst into simply a lot of reading. In the literary world, there’s an emphasis on “show don’t tell”. By that, it often means that the writer goes great lengths to describe moments—whether it is necessary or not to drive home the emotion of a character, the motivations of the character, and the way the reader should be feeling.
Most importantly, at least for me, I have learned more of the human condition that I never realized. Do people really move like that? Do they really make decisions on such trivial matters? Do they really purposefully pull away when they are hurt?
It’s so surprising to me when I see this acted out on the page, perhaps because I have been so dense to all of it. It’s easy for anybody to think, everyone must act like me and make decisions like I would. So in trying to understand the intent behind the words, I realize that each person is so unique, so delicate, so complex.
I write because I want to understand others so that I can understand myself. But in doing so, I discover even more complexity. People pull away because they are in pain. Sure, that’s easy. Nobody wants their hands to be continually burned if they happen to brush a stove. And yet, to what level? At what intensity of the burn can someone withstand until the pain is too much that someone pulls away never to return? And the most curious, at what point does that someone learn: fire is hot and it hurts, I don’t want to feel that way anymore.
I wonder how the pain can be applied to things that don’t hurt as directly. The emotional pain of discomfort and fear. That when we see something so new, so unfamiliar…do we hurt let those things hurt us because we only want to return to the comfort of the familiar? I sit with a friend and wonder if the words that I have just said — perhaps revealing that I am afraid and angry about something so trivial. At that moment, I can feel the friend pull away ever so slightly as if afraid that I wasn’t the person that they thought I was. I can be harsh and direct, because I don’t believe in hiding, and filtering is a weakness. But what can I do anyway but be myself?
I only know this: we pull away because we want to feel better. So let that be. For now.