My therapist this past week after our regular Tuesday morning session: “I’ll keep a Friday appointment open in case you need to talk after the poetry reading.”
Wednesday night text to my therapist:
“[REDACTED] kicked me out of the poetry reading. I could probably benefit from a session on Friday.”
I arrived a bit too early, so I went to the local art supply shop to buy some supplies for my new creative and therapeutic outlet: acrylic and watercolor painting.
At about 6:50 I wandered down to [my local indie bookstore cafe] and put my stuff down on an empty chair that turned out to be at a table a friend was sitting at. I put my name on the open mic list (I had a kick ass poem I couldn’t wait to read) and tried my hardest to avoid [REDACTED name]. Finally when he cornered me, I wasn’t really surprised.
“I don’t feel comfortable with you being here. I want you to leave.”
“I’m not leaving.”
“If you don’t leave, I’m going to go up there (points to stage) and cancel the event and tell everyone here why.”
“Are you serious?”
“Yes. And I have [the store owner]’s support.”
I stared at him and I think my mouth was gaped open. I wasn’t surprised he was uncomfortable with me being there. I wasn’t even surprised that he had the gall to ask me to leave. I was utterly dumbfounded though that he would threaten me with canceling the event if I didn’t leave.
“Are you leaving?”
I realized it had been a few seconds since anything was said. I looked around the room, wondering who had overheard what was going on… hoping maybe someone would come to my rescue or that a friend would offer support. No was around that I knew. They had all conveniently scattered. There were a few college kids at a high top that I think overheard, but they didn’t know me and I didn’t know them. “You’re crazy,” I muttered, while looking away from his gaze. A woman came up and asked him a question about the reading. He said to me, “You have sixty seconds to decide,” and turned to answer her question.
In those sixty seconds I contemplated my options. I wanted to stay, of course. I knew it might be awkward for him, of course. But it was the one-year anniversary of the open mic poetry reading series at [my local indie bookstore cafe], started by the man standing in front of me with a threat of canceling the event. This was the same man that a year ago made certain I was coming to the first open mic and told me he would put me down as featured poet for December 2014 and said I better get writing. The same man that encouraged me to start writing again after an eight year hiatus.
I wanted to be there with my community. The poetry reading series had meant so much to me. It inspired me to write again — at least one poem each month, but usually I wrote much more. I felt safe to share my soul with the people there. We were a family of writers, just wanting a safe space to come together.
“this poetry reading isn’t about me and him it’s about us and our collective beauty and our need to share our souls with one another because where else are we going to do that where no one is going to judge us or call us names.”
~ excerpt from my poem, “This is not a love poem” (6 August 2014)
A part of me wanted to stay just to see him make a fool of himself by canceling the event and having to explain why. As my husband pointed out, that itself would have been worth its weight in gold. But I’m not that kind of person. I don’t like humiliating people, just as I don’t like to be humiliated by others. (An emotion I’m becoming all too familiar with these days.)
And more than wanting to be there, I didn’t want to ruin the event for everyone else. I wasn’t the only one looking forward to the one-year anniversary celebration. And I couldn’t stand the thought of the event being cancelled because of me. I didn’t want others to suffer the collateral damage of one man’s paranoia and narcissism.
“What are you doing? Am I going up there and canceling the event or are you leaving?”
I gathered up my stuff and walked away. I said to my friend, who is a barista there (and I suspect probably already knew what was going to happen): “Bye. He kicked me out.” She gave me a sympathetic look. I think she said, “I’m sorry.”
I said goodbye to my friend whom I was going to share the table with. He also looked sympathetic, a little head tilt when he said goodbye. He probably knew, too.
“I feel like I let him win.”
It’s Friday morning and I just finished telling the story of Wednesday night to my therapist.
“No. You didn’t let him win.”
“Did I do the right thing by leaving?”
“I think you did. Here’s why…”
We talked about why it was the right thing for me to leave, that I showed a lot of character and dignity in doing so. I made the decision to leave based on the needs of other people rather than my own needs. I was not acting selfishly, unlike the person who threatened me. As my therapist pointed out, that was the only “card” he had to play. If I was to show up, he was going to threaten to cancel the event if I didn’t leave. His plan was to ruin the evening for everyone else if he didn’t get what he wanted. And I also allowed him to preserve some of his dignity by not having to get up in front of everyone and explain why he was canceling the event.
Not to point too fine a point on it, but I was operating at a much higher level of healthy functioning.
A note about stalkers (and why I’m not one, despite what this person has said):
Stalkers don’t think about how their actions and behaviors are going to affect other people. Their main concern (as I understand it) is with how they appear to the person they are stalking: how they can affect that person, win that person back, make that person notice them, etc. Stalkers don’t make the decision to walk away so that thirty+ other human beings can have a beautiful evening.
I didn’t get kicked out Wednesday night. I was threatened by a very mean and mentally unstable person, and I made the decision to leave so that others didn’t suffer from the collateral damage of this person.
There haven’t been many moments over the last thirteen years where I can remember standing up for myself.
This was one of my prouder moments as a human being.
“In the end, you have to take care of yourself.”
So where am I now?
Anyone who follows me on social media knows this. I can’t help it. I try so hard not to make my life public, at least not to make my emotions public. It’s just so hard to keep it all inside. But I’m working on it. And I do sincerely apologize to those I might have made feel uncomfortable with my social media posts. I need an outlet. That became my outlet — unhealthy as it was.
But I’m working on it. I’m working on myself. I’ve been doing amazing work on myself since the beginning of September — the first time I was threatened by this same person. It’s taken me two months and a few more unwarranted threats to realize that this person is evil, toxic, and not someone I ever want to have in my life again. He has caused so much pain in my life and very little beauty. And the beauty I thought he created was fake and a lie.
Can you hear the bitterness? I can. My next task in working on myself is to stop letting this person occupy my energy. Maybe the feelings of love and affection are gone, but that doesn’t mean I don’t still have feelings. Now they are just resentment, anger, hurt… but that’s still emotional energy I’m expending on someone that doesn’t deserve it. I have to let go. I have to let go.
I have to let go.
“Don’t take it personally.” — This is not about me, it’s about him.
When we feel hurt, we hurt back. And when we feel threatened, we fight back. Well, it’s time for me to stop throwing punches.
I can’t allow other people to control how I process my behavior.
I NEED TO LET GO.
Where am I at with my relationship with the Webster’s community?
I’m feeling quite betrayed by that community of people right now. As I’ve already expressed in previous blog posts, I have been a loyal costumer and part of the Webster’s community for nearly ten years. I have helped with events there. My husband has hosted events there and done hours of marketing for those events. I have volunteered my emotional and physical support for [the store owner] when her stores on Aaron and Allen were closing. I breastfed Jo in the dusty office of her new space on Beaver while Stacy helped move books and shelves. I cried tears of joy when she cut the ribbon two years ago on Humes Alley to officially open the New Webster’s.
No one stood up for me Wednesday night. And no one previous to that incident or since that incident has stood up for me. In fact, the only person who has said anything to [store manager] and [store owner] on my behalf has been my husband. His love for me during this roller coaster has been unconditional and unwavering. One of the most painful emotions has been that no one has said anything or stood up to [REDACTED name] regarding his unhealthy and narcissistic behavior. (Even though I’ve had mutual friends and others tell me about it.) I did stand up to him back in August. I told him how I really felt about his treatment of me — and the result has been nothing but harassment and threats since.
[the store owner] has made is clear to me (and to others) that she sides with her manager, despite that I am not an isolated incident regarding his behavior. There have been others. But this is not an appropriate place to discuss that. But those incidents and my own has been swept under the proverbial rug.
So I feel incredibly betrayed and hurt by a community I have given my heart to over the past decade and even more of my heart to in the past two years. I feel as those my “membership” means nothing to these people. I’m just a number.
I’m just $60 and a homemade mug.
My therapist said, “Don’t give up Webster’s because you are angry and hurt. You need to decide whether you will choose to find an alternate community or not.”
I haven’t made that decision yet. Right now I know I can’t walk into that store without feeling uncomfortable and unwanted and incredibly hurt. At least for right now, I need some space — from that store, that manager, those people (that I still love dearly).
So what’s next?
- Continuing the good work that I’ve been doing on myself.
- Letting go.
- Forgiving myself and forgiving [REDACTED] — and moving on from all of this.
And most importantly:
4. Loving myself, and keeping going.
I love you keep going,
- 5 Nov 2014: Defending my reputation against the words of a narcissist (password protected – if interested in reading email me: g m t 9 0 3 [at] gmail.com )
- 4 Nov 2014: My experience with being bullied as an adult
- 22 Oct 2014: reflecting on the prevailing self doubt
- 9 Oct 2014: Do what makes you grow
- 6 Sept 2014: my breaking point
- 12 Aug 2014: acknowledging the daily struggle