Let me get something out of the way. It'll sound like I'm bigging myself up, that I think I'm mighty fine. But it's a fact. I'm good at understanding people. It's just one of those innate things, skills, talents, whatever. I'm not athletic, I can't play a musical instrument. My attempts at anything arty or crafty are... insert the expletive of your choice. I'm inept, ungainly, have no talent for anything practical, and I'm never going to win any prizes. I wouldn't even get an honourable mention in The Annual Ceremony For Failure To Win Prizes. But I do 'get' people. Not always immediately. Some people it takes me a while to understand. But generally, I can see what lies beneath.
Aaaand sometimes I wish I couldn't. Because it means that I'm fairly good at giving advice. I can see a difficult situation and know what's really going on. I can see what's happening on the surface, but it's as though I have the subtitles switched on. People fascinate me, but more for what they don't say or do, rather than what they think they reveal to the world. When I see someone lash out, I can understand why. I may not agree, or approve, or even like that person very much, but I can see why they're behaving in that way (and yes, there is a part of me that longs to tell them 'Stop being a twat. You're hurt. But you're making the situation worse').
I've always understood people, although realising it has been a relatively new discovery. Understanding myself... hmm. Very different story. The best way I can describe it was that I was a pane of glass, subject to intense pressure over a long period of time. And when the pressure finally became too much, I shattered, in every possible direction. Tiny broken fragments of glass, splinters of me, scattered over a wide, wide area.
When you've lost all that holds you together, when every component part of what makes you you, the debris covers such a wide area that you'll never recover all of it. The larger shards are the easiest to find. They don't fly off into the distance, but lie where they fell, and can be more straightforwardly put back together. Daughter, mother, significant other. But those are more labels, not who I am, or was. I picked up more fragments, more pieces, as time past and joined them back together to what I'd already reclaimed, what I knew. But so much was missing. And then I had six months of proper, serious, full on counselling with the incomparable warm, intelligent and encouraging nurse Therapist Zoe.
And she found pieces I didn't know I'd lost. Pieces I didn't even know had even been part of the glass that had fractured so spectacularly. But she didn't force them back together in a frame. Instead, she handed over each piece to me, each infinitely tiny little glass piece and made me look at it, turning it over, examining it from every angle, observe the reflections. It hurt. Of course it fucking hurt. Drag broken glass over your skin and although it might not always cut you to the bone, it will leave a mark.
But it gave me insight, granted me understanding. As distorted as the image had been, still was, always will be, I could join up the cracks and see why certain things hurt and upset me. Why I followed certain patterns of behaviour, even as I know it won't end well. Why I behave the way I do. I don't always follow my own advice, or welcome logical, rational thought. I am overemotional, demanding, spontaneous, selfish and a fucking nightmare. But these same qualities give me empathy, enlightenment, consideration, and mean that I laugh loudly, often, easily, and inappropriately. I'm passionate, gobby, and sweary, and simultaneously a quiet, shy, diffident introvert.
I understand myself, only too well. I don't always like myself. But I will always admit my mistakes, I am honest, I expect honesty fro others, and when I fuck up, I say so. Mainly because I am a fuck up, just like pretty much everyone else. A beautiful, damaged, precious, and destructive fuck up. The liberation I feel from knowing this was worth the pain of going through that process. What I see now is not a broken pane of glass, but a restored mirror. I went through the looking glass, and now I can see myself, with clarity.