By Daniel Boscaljon
Image by Melissa D. Johnston
“the me that i most long to give i give to others instead” is the sixth letter in a series of posts called Letters to You written by Daniel Boscaljon with images by Melissa D. Johnston (from one of her ongoing projects). Letters to You began in July with “everytime i write i feel myself disintegrate.”
i wish that it were easier for me to reach out to you in comfort and in love, but you make it so incredibly difficult to love you that i must admit that your efforts have become more or less acceptable. i believe that you do desire to be loved, in your way…but of course only insofar as it meets your expectations. You have a list of rules about what loving you must mean, and insofar as i am not designed to follow a program of rules…i fear that i will continue to be a disappointment to you. Why must you insist on finding things which you can take personally, or reasons that will allow you to feel wronged? Is it as simple as the fact that you would rather stew in a justified hurt than enjoy the world? That you would rather clothe yourself in the humble garments of the put-upon saint than expend your energy in serving the others in the world with actual sorrows? That you would rather be the object of pity than love? If only you could see that your rules for others are what hurts you, and not the intention of those who are moved (in their own ways) to love! i cannot be sorry that i offend you for i feel as though the offense is solely YOURS. my intention is always to love you, always and in spite of your reactions to my desires: i know not what more i can do. even though you clearly desire unhappiness, i nonetheless cannot be one to mistreat you directly for i feel as though there is enough misery in the world.
but for this i am sorry: i lack the courage to confront you with these facts. perhaps if i were to call you and explain to you why others are slow to embrace you, and quick to move away from conversation…it would help. perhaps if i were to go for a coffee with you and speak softly to you these hard truths, there would be time enough for a change. the rare moments when you sparkle forth with a genuine smile–the ones you cannot help but control, the ones that take you by surprise–i know that you are worth saving; however, i always come against the fact that it truly is not my place to have this discussion. the suspicion about you that you have taught leads me to believe that my words will be twisted and misinterpreted, and that i will become one of the legions in this world which plot against you. your ability to deceive yourself is a powerful one which not even the truth, in this case, can overcome. and so instead of being your true friend, or at least a true enemy, i suffer the thrusts of your unjust tongue in silence, preferring to be lashed rather than lash back. i wish that i could help you, but you have neutralized every attempt to be aided. you are in complete control of your life: those things which you do not control you ignore. although i wish that i could know you better or love you more, i content myself with superficial greetings and a hug hello and goodbye. the would be gifts of love that i would offer, the ways i wish i could delight you, the me that i most long to give i give to others instead. you leave me no room to do otherwise.
Daniel Boscaljon has Ph.D.s in Modern Religious Thought and 19th-century American Literature, both from the University of Iowa. His interest is in the fragility and liminality of human experiences. His first book, Vigilant Faith: Passionate Agnosticism in the Secular World was published by the University of Virginia Press this past August.