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Dear Abby:

This is going to be long, but I want to tell you about how you've changed my life. Money makes a lot of sense to me, if I could pull out my checkbook, you'd get a check for at least fifty grand. I feel like that's about what I owe you in terms of how much value I've received from your insights and empathy. Monday I stopped by PT to change my appointment date and time. I saw the guy I had seen previously for about two seconds when he breezed past and said 'hi' to me. When he asked how I was I told him I was doing paperwork. I could see that his hair was wild and crazy, but I thought he was just busy and didn't care. Yesterday he had his back to me when I first sat down to wait for my new guy. I didn't even recognize him he looked so different when his hair was damp.

Another guy greeted me, he was facing me, but you know who didn't turn around. He said hi without facing me and I said hi to him. That four word exchange was the extent of our conversation. He said hi to me, I always call him by his last name, the first time I did that he was surprised, he turned to me and asked if we were on a last name basis now. I think I inadvertantly hurt his feelings by doing that, but it was a compliment. I was trying to be very clear about where he stood with me. Baseball players are commonly referred to by their last names. He's an athlete, he's a professional, my friend is in love with him and using his last name was my way of telling him how I viewed him - in other words, I wanted his help and healing powers without him thinking that I was also after him like my friend was.

This summer I wanted things from him and he delivered. He told me to go down to the lake when I told him I had the day off and asked if he had any ideas for how to spend my time productively. It seemed like a throwaway comment he came up with it so fast. Now I know that he told me that as a way to communicate something about himself. He loves the lake and since we are very similar, that worked for me as well. When you first told me you could sense how others were feeling I thought that would be such an incredibly powerful gift to have. From the moment I met him he intrigued me. We don't have to talk, when we do, maybe I can explain it better based on the conversation we had. The only thing he said was hi or hey and my name. Six letters was all it took for me to sense how he was feeling.

He knows he screwed up and he wants forgiveness. His voice is a lot softer than it was this summer. He's no longer encouraging me, he can't look me in the eye, he can say hi to me, but he can't talk to me. He wants someone to talk to, he knows I am a safe person he can go to, but he doesn't know how to start a conversation like that (this is just my take on him and I realize I could be very wrong, but doubt that I am). He's hurting in a very deep way and I think he knows that I can tell how he's feeling. I've never been able to do this before and all of sudden it's super scary. I'm not the person who people come to for emotional support. I can't give that to them. But I think I can do one thing for him and I have a plan. The other day I bought some gift cards at Starbucks. I have one left over and I'm going to give it to him as a conversation starter.

In my opinion this guy feels terrible about what he thinks he did. He's taking more than his share of the blame and guilt, and I know how that feels. He doesn't have empathy and compassion for himself and he's trying to do all sorts of other things to avoid uncovering whatever container is holding his feelings. Yesterday I heard him talking, but since my guy was talking to me it was hard to hear the entire conversation. I heard him talking about the lake, the quiet, the solitude, how he likes to fish, the privacy, how inexpensive it was, his voice has all the emotions he doesn't know how to express any other way. I felt like giving him a hug and knew that he doesn't want that kind of comfort from me, he wants it from someone else who is close to me. 

He needs some fun in his life. He wants to get laid, but he feels like he has to repress those urges and I completely understand that tendency because having fun makes us feel vulnerable in a very real way that I don't think other people feel. I wrote about bunch of stuff I didn't intend to get into yesterday. This morning I woke up wondering why. Typically there's a trigger. I went back through my day. Conversations with women I work with, shopping with my aunt, when I got to my PT appointment I thought about the guys there. My new PT is a good looking guy who had to put his hands on me, but there wasn't any spark between us that I could feel. None of these men are sexual triggers, so why was sex on my brain? He was the trigger, but only because I want to give him permission to have some fun the way that he gave me permission to go to the lake and go kayaking. 

This guy needs an emotional release. Sex can do that for me. Today a friend of mine told me that she stopped using food to avoid her feelings and now she has to face her fears and they feel like they are too big and too much for her. To be able to know what she is feeling and express it in language that made sense to me, I felt very privileged to hear what she was saying, she reminded me of you at that moment in time, you are both so much stronger than you realize. I almost laughed when she told me I'm not afraid of anything. I'm afraid of a lot of things, but I'm very unafraid of certain things others fear. I have no fear of rejection. Whether a guy likes me or not has nothing to do with how I feel about myself. I have no problem asking men out and if they say no, I walk away and move on with my life without him. I can write people out of my life because once the door closes, I have no intention of letting that person back in again.

This is what he's trying to do. He shut a door, burned a bridge, sabotaged a relationship that was going in the direction he wanted, but then he got scared and bailed. He wanted closure and he got it. Then he realized that he had liked some of the things he had been getting and now he had to go back to a life that didn't include the warm sunny brightness he got from people like you. He's mentally tough and very resilient, but he's still not in touch with his emotions. He's appealing to me and at first this terrified me and I tried shutting him down. I felt the pull and I didn't like or understand it. Last night my friend asked if I would go out with the male version of myself. I told my friend that this guy was that and I had no interest in him, but that wasn't totally true. I have no romantic interest in him, but I am willing to invest in him because he helped me and I keep track of where the scales are when it comes to giving and receiving things in a relationship.

He helped me, he is very intelligent, and he's very intuitive. I don't feel like I can help him, but the appeal is being made. Why? Because he thinks I can help him. I trust his judgment so if he thinks I can do something for him, I wonder if he knows something I don't. My friend once told me that I know my friend better than anyone else. I think this is true. I also know him very well. So if I know her, and I understand him, and I'm in a position to help these people, but I can see what the problem is, what is my role in all of this and how did I ever get pulled into the role of Romance Coach when just about everyone else in the world is more qualified to speak about romance than me? It's because I understand how to separate what feelings are called from the actual emotional experience and I never understood that about myself until today.

Years ago my sister told me to show and not tell. It isn't enough to say that a character is happy or sad or lonely. I had to convey that and make the reader feel it without using the words. At first I was understandably terrible at this. My main character was stiff, wooden, unemotional, robotic, intelligent, and icy. My sister hated him and my feelings were really hurt when she told me how she felt about him. Then she told me that his brother was fascinating and I couldn't understand why she said that because I had written two or three sentences about him and pages about his brother. She felt like the brother was complicated, sexy, and intriguing. The brother was easy to write about. He was confident, athletic, and kind of cocky, he was a flirt, but he wasn't taking too many things very seriously like his brother was.

It surprised me when baseball Twitter accepted me. I didn't know the facts and figures everyone else did. I couldn't understand why people didn't call me out on my lack of knowledge until one day I wrote something about a player who had been banned from the league for good. A friend of mine told me that I had a very deep understanding of the game and that was confusing and shocking to me. I didn't feel like that was a true statement, but I didn't doubt his conviction which was a strange dichotomy. I'm passionate and that's what people sensed. Maybe I didn't know a damn thing about the game, but I wanted to know and I was willing to invest heavily of my time and energy. I got to know the fans, I didn't really care about the players until the day I spoke with a coach about how footwear selected.

That day changed everything. He didn't know what he was revealing at the time, but all of a sudden I had a key to the game that nobody else seemed to have. Because I've had footwear problems in the past my heart went out to every player I saw who needed footwear that fit. This humanized them to me and tapped into a deep well of empathy because I can absolutely relate to exquisite performance despite physical and mental anguish. I could feel their isolation, their heartbreak, their joy was mine, their hurts, their happiness, their struggles and challenges, the burdens they bore, the mistakes they made, that made sense to me. I quit trying to understand fantasy baseball and ironically picked up several key players. They were no longer hot guys, they were real people with real problems and my heart went out to them.

I'm not sure why I can't do this with other people in my life. Perhaps because the game, its fans and players, managers, front office employees, beat writers, and scouts have personally invested in me I can be someone I'm not normally. I feel a debt of gratitude to these people, this culture makes sense to me, I feel understood, loved, appreciated, I don't have to hide who I am or what I'm feeling, I tell them when I have failed and they shower me with love when I least deserve it. Being loved that way is humbling. Yesterday I had to admit that I hadn't followed the exercise protocol I had been given this past summer. How stupid was it for me to have gone to an elite athlete, begged him for his help, and then walked away while figuratively crumpling up the paper he had given me that held the path to a healthier me?

He doesn't know how to receive, he understands how to give. This is his weakness and I feel his pain because this is how I am too. I almost never feel the love that people are trying to express. I am constantly, routinely, and daily told that I am loved and appreciated. The words go in one ear and out the other despite the hugs, gifts, and encouragement. There's one person who makes me feel loved and it's so odd to me because this isn't an experience I've had before. I can't explain it, silent nonverbal communications are apparently much more effective than words. I've never heard the words, but I don't need them when I feel those feelings. I wonder if that's how I make him feel, like I can see him for who he is, and I don't care that he played some games with a friend of mine. I understand why he did it and I can forgive him without the apology, or rather, he's communicated the depth of his agony and I want to put an end to his suffering.

I feel like you believe in my emotional capacity which is why I tell you things I don't share with others. I wouldn't care if you did tell others, it's not the facts that scare me. I'll tell people about the idiotic things I've said and done. I'm accountable to myself, responsible for my own actions, and I don't fear being wrong or having made a mistake as much as I'm scared of others knowing how I feel. This probably makes no sense, but I think you will understand that if anyone does. Punishment makes sense to me. I can handle any type of discipline because I was very often blamed and disciplined for things others had done. It's dysfunctional, but when that's your normal, you don't have any other frame of reference. I accept blame easier and faster than others because it's a problem I know how to deal with and it hurts, but it isn't nearly as scary as the nice things others can make me feel.

There are probably words I could use to express my profound gratitude for the gifts you've given me, but I don't have them today. You let me go to you with whatever is on my mind and no matter how confused I am about things, you let me work through them in my own way. Years I had a falling out with someone I considered a friend. It was very distasteful to be accused of having feelings for him I wasn't feeling and I was furious with him when he dragged others into the drama he had created. His girlfriend hated me, I couldn't stand her, she lashed out at me and I was like, this is it, I am done, he is never getting another thing from me and I was so mad I almost did something terrible, now I'm glad I didn't. Maybe he thought the silent treatment was a punishment, but it was what I wanted and I couldn't get far enough away from him fast enough.

The story has a happier ending. He reached out years later, apologized, and I forgave him. I never told him that I loved someone else, maybe he knew or sensed that. When the guy I liked cut me out of his life I didn't know what I was going to do. Obviously life goes on, but that cut was deep and the scar is still tender. There is a way to get in touch with what I'm feeling, you help me with that. I want to apologize for sending you big long text messages and things I've written, but I know you can choose not to read things or shut me down in other ways. I'm grateful that you don't. You seem to give selflessly and I hate that the relationship seems unbalanced. Hopefully I am as good of a friend to you as you are to me, it doesn't seem that way. I feel like you are the giver and I am the taker, that feels so wrong, but I also know that I can't always give, I need to learn how to take too.

Last night I learned something about a private hurt someone close to me suffered. I get very angry when people hurt my friends, I want to take it upon myself to bring the hammer of justice down on those who have been unjust, I'll tell you the story in person if you want it because I know you will immediately empathize if I am feeling the depth of feeling that I am and what I feel is a very small fraction of what you do. Even though it's pretty scary to feel like I can tap into what that guy is feeling, in a way it is also a very special honor and privilege to be trusted like that. I'm sure you could figure him out instantly, but it takes me a long time to get in touch with what I'm feeling, three months later I am still coming to terms with emotions I felt back in September. That sounds pathetic to me, but hey, at least I'm very slowly making some progress thanks to you.

I didn't know I needed someone like you in my life. I didn't and don't understand you. I need things to make sense and you don't. I love and respect you, I want to know more about your life and your feelings, but you don't share them with me and I'm not typically going to ask people how they are feeling because I feel trapped and vulnerable when people ask me. I don't invite people to share my emotional experiences when they are complicated. They probably aren't really complicated, but they aren't easily identifiable to me. I know I am feeling things, but exploring what and when and why and how is, I can't think of a good comparison, being asked to take an advanced test on a subject I just learned existed is the closest I can come to trying to describe it. 

Going back to PT was the right decision. I thought it was for me, it is, I'm getting what I needed and I think I have an opportunity to be there for someone else. I routinely feel like I have to be doing things for other people so they can see how important they are to me. But yesterday, I sensed that just me being there was enough for him and that was a really cool feeling. It was like we had sat down and had a big long feelings and problems conversation without either of us saying anything other than the other person's name. Because this is new to me I want to question the validity of this theory, but I know what I know and I trust my intuition. You helped me get here, you help people just by being who you are, I told a friend of mine she is an angel with butterfly wings. You are my unicorn friend, I have metaphors and imagery galore, I hope some of how I feel comes across because I know I'm not very good at this kind of thing despite how hard I try.

I'm now thoroughly exhausted and need a break. I'm working so hard to be a better person and I hope I'm getting credit for the progress I've made. I can be very hard on myself, but I also get very excited when I feel like I've made a breakthrough. I think that happened yesterday and it was such a small thing I'm questioning the reality of it, but not really if that makes sense. He makes so much sense to me it's kind of crazy. Hopefully I make that much sense to him too. I think that I do, but since we're so much alike, I think he feels very safe and off balance, he wants to trust me more than he does, and I'm giving him as much time, space, and distance as he needs because that's what I want. You get my feelings because you make it okay for me to do things in my own time in my own way. I so appreciate that. You don't ask for or expect explanations and then I want to give them to you. I'm done writing for today. Thank you for being you.

Nothing heals a broken heart like time, love, and tenderness. Thank you for giving me all three.

Much love,

Jess

P.S. Please tell me I am getting a halfway decent grade in this class and that you're not getting too burned out having a student who doesn't seem to catch on very quickly. It's okay to tell me it's too much or you need some space and self care. I love and respect you. I value our friendship and want you to feel better about yourself in areas where you feel fragile. I see you as incredibly strong and want you to know that you are so much more resilient than you think. I am a truth teller, if this was not a fact you wouldn't be hearing it from me. I hope that helps in some small way.

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