Haters gonna hate?
Over the past two weeks, I’ve experienced some amazing breakthroughs in my working life. I had two articles published in the popular xoJane, the online publication created by the founder of Sassy magazine. (And they’ve asked for more!) And I am the featured writer of the week for the well-respected nonprofit organization, Writers in the Schools, a wonderful organization where I teach.
For someone who has been pretty scared of putting herself out there–afraid of being visible, as my friend Teya Sparks likes to say, this week has been a real lesson in courage … and wonderfully validating.
A huge part of the reason I’ve been afraid of being visible is because, as I mentioned yesterday, I very much want and need to write what’s close to my heart. And what’s close to my heart is personal and revealing; it’s about letting go of things that have left me mired in shame. I believed and still believe that in doing so, I’m being more authentic and helping others find their own voices, release shame, and ultimately find their way toward intimacy and belonging.
But being more authentic and visible means being vulnerable. That’s why it’s so friggin’ scary. As the saying goes: Haters gonna hate. And as Houston poet Kris Smith says, “The more popularity you obtain, the more haters you gain.” So, I steeled myself for criticism from the anonymous public.
And I was pretty sure I could handle criticism. I deal with unrelenting criticism every day–it’s the voice in my head. The one that tells me that I have nothing of value to say, to write, to share. The one that says that mistakes I’ve made in the past are all that define me. The one that tells me to stay invisible because it’s safer there.
But so far, the two very public pieces I wrote have generated, almost unanimously, heart-felt, sincere and beautiful responses.
That’s why I was shocked when, yesterday, the most innocuous piece published, my bio on the Writers in the School blog, generated a hateful response. The comment was so nasty, in fact, that the site manager deleted it, but felt that she should send it to me first … so I could be forewarned.
Y’all, I have a hater.
I read the comment, and I’ll let you know, I bawled. I broke down right in front of the computer, right in front of my kiddo as he was eating his afternoon snack.
You see, I have expected criticism of my writing, criticism of my subject matter, criticism of my choices in life, but nothing prepared me for criticism of my son, my child, my beautiful baby boy. And criticism of the way I parent him.
I wrote Writers in the Schools and told them that I didn’t recognize the name of the sender, a Pashon Brown (looking up alternate spellings for that is NSFW, btw), and thanked them for deleting the message. I went to my room and sat on the edge of my bed, stunned, shocked that someone who doesn’t even know me could be so hurtful.
Then it dawned on me. This person knows me. In two short sentences, this person revealed that she not only knows me, but knows my son.
This person wrote what she wrote specifically to hurt me.
I’m 41 years old and I’ve packed a lot of living in these years. I’ve amassed a lot of history, but what I haven’t amassed is too many enemies. So it was pretty easy to figure out who would dislike me enough to stoop so low that she would write on a very public forum: “This woman needs to learn how to parent her very ill mannered and ill behaved child. Her child is constantly in trouble at school and I think she needs to do a better job parenting if she is going to write a book about being a parent.”
I could tell you all about what’s gone on with my son and school and what I’ve done about it, but hell, that’s part of what the friggin’ book is about, so you’ll have to wait. LOL (But suffice it say that this person clearly knows, and that’s why I know who it is, despite her alias. SMH)
After I got over the hurt and shock, I felt angry like a momma Grizzly. I was ready to brawl.
Then I felt really sad. Not for me. But for her.
Because if you really understand human nature, you understand that haters hurt. Haters are hurt people. And hurt people hurt people.
And that’s why I’m gonna keep doing what I’m doing. Because I believe what I’m doing helps people release their hurt and pain in a way that connects us rather than divides us. In a way that builds us up –our families, our children, our communities — rather than tears us down.
And though I sincerely hope I don’t amass more “haters,” after yesterday, I’m more prepared than ever.