The gift for today is one I really didn’t want to give, and yesterday, I’m not sure I could have done so. No, wait. That’s not true either. Yesterday, I was not ready to forgive. Today, I am still hurt, but I’m going to make myself get over it because it’s not doing me any good to be hurt. One of the things Dan tells me constantly is that I am too nice, too giving, and too willing to share with others. Maybe that is true, but if I believe that the universe has enough for all of us – and I do, it only seems right that I share some of what I’ve been given as blessings with others. So that’s how it started.
If I have learned one thing doing public relations for all these years, I have learned that if you are really good at your job, the person you’re doing PR for will be a living dream to work with, and you’ll have three great years together. Then, when the person is at or about to hit the pinnacle of their popularity because of the great idea you’ve given them, the way you’ve promoted them, and the words you’ve put on the page in their name or told them to say, suddenly something happens. They start to believe their own press, and they start to think they have accomplished all this greatness all by themselves.
When that happens, invariably, they start to treat you differently. They put you down, treat you with disdain, act like they are better than you because they are so well-known and admired (all of which are parts of the personality you have created and fostered publicly for them), and appropriate things and ideas which were not theirs. It’s usually three good years, and then I always find myself looking for the exit because their ego takes over, and they’re not the same person.
Last night I found out that I’d lost another nonprofit ‘client’ to someone I helped get started, nurtured, and encouraged. It was like being kicked in the stomach by the horse; you always know it’s possible, but because you love the horse and take good care of her, you can’t imagine she’ll ever do something like lift her leg and nail you in the stomach. Since it wasn’t the first time it had happened with the person, it was even more painful, exacerbated by the fact that both clients I’d lost had been nonprofits I’d been donating my talents to as a gift. It was hurtful enough of them to offer to pay someone for professional work they’d been getting gratis because they were nonprofits whose missions I aligned with, but to call someone else and offer to pay them to do work they’d had no compunction about accepting for free was a slap in the face, made worse by the quick and happy acceptance of my ‘friend’ to take the jobs on without even a phone call to see if I minded her taking my clients.
I know what you’re thinking; I should be elated that I don’t have to do free work for a nonprofit so inconsiderate as to offer to pay someone else for the work they’ve been begging me to do because they couldn’t afford to pay for it. And that’s true – I should be elated, but it’s like being told that you’re good-looking enough to be a booty call, but not pretty enough to be taken out in public. It hurt a lot. I cried and let my ‘friend’ know how hurt I was, and she kept justifying her actions, changing her story, and finally saying, “That’s just who I am.” Yes, an apology eventually came, but by then I was so over hearing the justifications, excuses, and changing stories that I wasn’t ready to forgive.
I didn’t sleep last night because I kept thinking about how Dan might be right; maybe I am too kind. Maybe I do give too much and help people too quickly. And maybe I don’t discriminate or make them prove their worthiness prior to giving so much of myself. If that’s the case, I think I plead guilty as charged. It certainly helps me to understand why I would rather spend time alone with just my critters and Dan because at least they aren’t hiding a knife in their back pocket to slash me with when I’m not looking.
When I climbed out of bed this morning, bleary-eyed and fatigued from a night of beating myself up over being too kind, I decided it was time to stop letting someone else’s bad behavior and selfishness hurt me. I made the decision that I would spend the day working on my other work and trying to consciously forgive. But this time, even though I am okay with forgiving and letting it go, I’m not going to forget.
As Dan Fogelberg says, “The next time I ain’t gonna fall on my knees, and come out of love empty handed.” So while my gift today is technically forgiveness of someone else, who may or may not even be genuinely sorry, I want to give myself the gift of forgiveness because being kind isn’t a bad thing, and being generous isn’t a crime or something about which I should be ashamed. However, beating myself up because I didn’t see it coming and was blindsided by someone using me for personal gain – that’s wrong. I need to forgive myself for beating myself up over who I am and all the things about me which should be considered good and valuable, not hating myself for the values that make me who I am, made my husband fall in love with me, and keep me from becoming one of the monsters who is sucked in by my own press and falls victim to an ego fueled by creative writing and great public relations work.
I am okay just as I am, and I don’t need to become hateful or cruel or bitter, and I don’t need to turn away from my kindness in order to protect myself from others who are self-serving. I just need to keep my eyes open, disengage myself from those who are in it for themselves or don’t appreciate what a treasure they have in me, and I need to believe in myself.