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Familiar Shadow

To The One Who Denied A Familiar Shadow, Despite Having Their Own

This is a poem I wrote to get the words that bubbled in my chest out. It is inspired by a number of relationships – friendships, family relationships, and romantic. It hurts when someone acts like they don’t know you, but I found a way to find light in that.

To The One Who Denied A Familiar Shadow, Despite Having Their Own

By  Bridget C. Kolf

You knew.

You knew what worked and what didn’t.

You knew how to progress and when to stop.

You knew what hurt and what healed.

You knew what made me smile, and laugh, and relax.

You knew what to say, how to say, and when to say it.

You knew and you understood. 

I know you knew because you showed me that you knew for years.

You know.

You know what triggers.

You know what makes me shake, what makes me breath funny.

You know what turns me red.

You know how to calm and protect me.

You know what not to say, how not to say, and when not to say it.

You know and you won’t forget it.

I know you still know because I’ve seen it, when no one else is around and it’s just us. 

You pretend. And that’s the worst part.

You pretend like you have no idea how your words affect me.

You pretend like you don’t understand where my fears comes from.

You pretend that you don’t care and like you don’t know what that does to me.

You pretend, you do all the things you never did, and halted all the things you once did.

You pretend like it’s too much. Even though I still remember these things for you and care enough to keep in mind.

You pretend like you don’t know what to say, how to say, and when to say it.

You pretend like it’s nothing of importance.

I know you pretend because I know it’s still important, and maybe that’s WHY you pretend.

I’m not going to apologize for the things you went through.

My shadow made sure I apologized twice the amount I should’ve.

Regardless, you went through what you went through because you cared and you loved.

You had full disclosure. I told you, and I warned you, and I taught you.

Just like you told me, and warned me, and taught me. 

We worked together because we both cared enough for one another to try to defeat that shadow.

Or at least to weaken it.

Some days I worked harder, other days you worked the most. 

But it WASN’T too much because I could say the same, but I don’t.

You worked hard for me, anxiety and all.

Just as I worked hard for you, anxiety and all.

Our shadows were only a minimal part of what we grew together.

I’m not here to beg you to tell me you still love me because I know you don’t.

And despite what you might think, I don’t either.

But I am here to say I AM STILL ME.

I still deserve your respect.

Despite time and influence, the knowledge you have is still valid and applicable.

What’s not okay is to PRETEND not to know in order to help yourself cope, rather than help us both.

My anxiety was not too much, just as yours wasn’t either.

But it was a part of us, and denying that part now turns the past a sour color.

It makes it hard to feel good about all the work we did, let alone take away something positive. 

What hurts is that I still value your comfort enough to implement my knowledge and to work around your shadow.

And yet, you do not do the same for me. Not consistently at least.

Thank you.

Thank you for providing me with the opportunity to grow.

Thank you for not only challenging me in sweet ways once upon a time, but for more recently, challenging me in ways that hurt.

Thank you for pretending like you don’t know because you’ve taught me something.

You’ve taught me that people CAN change.

Mourning over the loss of someone is different than mourning over someone’s loss of themselves.

The you I knew would not deny my shadow, or anyone’s for that matter.

My shadow may have grown because of you, but it’s been weakened.

So thank you.

Anxiety is real.

It is real, and it is persistent.

It is a shadow that follows you around, grows and molds and hides and surprises.

But it’s always there.

It is unique to us all.

But it is just as unique as it is the same.

For those in your life, no matter where you stand — get to know their shadow.

And do your best never to ever deny it.

It hurts worse when someone understands, but pretends like they don’t.

But I will always have my strength, which has only grown due to those who deny my shadow.


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