How to remain softhearted in the hard old world?


“The truth will set you free. But not until it is finished with you.”
David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest

I’m writing this post, not for likes, or comments, or shares, or pity. I’m writing it because I made myself a promise that I’d be honest in these blogs. And this has been a big part of my life for the past year, and I’ve not said a damn thing about it.

Just over a year ago I began chatting with a friend online, a married friend with a child, whom I always had the utmost respect for. In fact, I thought quite highly of her.

Eventually, these conversations drifted into a place that made me feel uncomfortable. The chats became more frequent. I’d get messages while she was drinking with friends.

Immediately, I asked this friend not to pursue that line of dialogue — if you will. After all, that’s not how friends talk.

Eventually, I got caught up in this giant web of — I don’t know what.

What followed was almost a year of torturous emails, messages, manipulation and lying.

I was used.

Not physically, but emotionally.

I’d never experienced a good old fashioned “mindfuck” before. And lo and behold, it was finally my turn.

Every brick that I laid and cemented in my journey for better health was knocked down by this wrecking ball.

It caused me to make some awful mistakes that I take full responsibility for. And it came dangerously close to costing me my health, my career, and a whole lot more.

The unfortunate thing is, I believe that this blog served as a blueprint — an instruction manual on how to best manipulate me. While, I don’t think the individual in question intended on using it as such, I do believe it at least helped the process along whether consciously or sub-consciously.

And yet… here I am. Still writing.

Softhearted and empathetic people are often times the first to fall victim to grifters and the dishonest. We’re also often dishonest ourselves when confronted with the aftermath of it all. Mainly out of embarrassment, self-disgust, and shame.

The world can be cruel. And that cruelty can creep in on you like fog enveloping a lighthouse.

Pretty soon all you see is a gloomily lit haze, and all you hear is the dull hum of the horn.

Your senses become deprived.

But let me tell you, friends.

Nothing is as bright as the sun after the fog has burned off.

You’ll never meet a more vibrant orange, or a more fantastical green.

After all, like the old adage says, “without the dark, there can be no light.”

As for the softhearted, we experience feelings and emotions that others can only dream of.

You see, that’s what we forget. We forget that there are people out there that feel absolutely nothing. Not because they want to, but because they can’t. They will never know what it’s like to really love something or some one with every part of themselves. They just won’t.

If you ask me, that’s a fucking tragedy.

Because being vulnerable isn’t a weakness, it’s a pathway to something so few of us get to feel.

So many of us build walls to keep people out — but lately, I’ve discovered that some build them to keep themselves in.

For the few of us that have the courage to allow their lives to flow out onto the streets and into the hearts and minds of those around us, these fog banks can and will occur.

And they fucking suck. They do.

So, what do you do? To quote Tom Waits “how you do live in a world of fog that’s always changing things?”

You do what you always do.

You lead with your heart. And yeah, it’s going to get torched and stepped on and kicked about.

And it’s hard graft to mend it.

But you need to be true to yourself. Because if you’re not, what’s the fucking point?

Adding layers of crust and stone won’t find you happiness. It’ll just hold you back. And quite possibly keep out something that should be let in.

As for me, it’s taken a lot of time to put myself back together again, and trust has been, well… it’s been tough.

I’m talking about trusting myself. I never thought in a million years I’d be the kind of person that would develop feelings — via manipulation, or otherwise — for somebody that I shouldn’t have. It turned me upside down. Made me feel like I was a bit of a monster, to be honest.

But, now I’ve re-emerged from that fog.

I’ve worked hard, and that hard work has paid off with a new opportunity in a new city, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.

If you’re in the thick of something right now, please take it from me, and believe me when I say:

The fog will lift.

The horns will sweeten.

And, in the face of a world that is constantly urging you to live a life that isn’t authentic:

You will be you again.

And that’s a fucking beautiful thing.

7 thoughts on “How to remain softhearted in the hard old world?

  1. Thank you for sharing your truth. You have been through a lot. Just know you are not alone. There are many of us that wear our heart on our sleeves and get hurt by it. I have been told by bosses and others it is a flaw. It is nice to hear someone embrace it. As I look back, those that pointed it out as a flaw did not show much emotion but anger and were a bit controlling. Maybe you are right in that it is a blessing to feel so much love, sadness, whatever emotion in that moment. Thank you for sharing your strength and your struggle. So happy you were blessed with a good change.

  2. I firmly believe those who are masters of the mindfuck actually do feel something…..lonliness, despair, an emptiness that can’t be filled. So they try to fill the hole in their hearts and souls by taking something from yours. The good news is that as you say, your fog will lift and you will be whole again. Sadly, they never will. And so it goes…

  3. Beautiful Dave. You are one of the smartest and funniest people I know. Thank you for being so brave and for sharing your experience.

  4. I was meant to read this today. Found via a friend liking a FB post. A therapist once told me I see the world through technicolour which is both a blessing and a curse. After a couple of major knocks by those who don’t/can’t feel, I’ve build skyscrapers around myself and the thick fog sits there like the fog that sometimes sits along St. John’s harbour…. only this fog seems more permanent.

    I hope someday I can face it head on like you have done. Until then, I’ll follow your journey.

    Thank you for being brave and allowing those of us who don’t possess your strength (at the moment) to follow you through it.

  5. Great post Dave!
    I agree, an exposed heart can be cut as easily as it can be cuddled; but, there is no other way to be.

  6. Thank you Dave. I’m also a soft-hearted, open-hearted person, and the world is a much better place WITH us in it then not. I have also been ripped apart by someone I loved, someone who turned out to be toxic for me. Great person, but wow so toxic. And I was in it for 10 years! Yup. It took me years to get over it, but once I did, and once I got myself back, the sun couldn’t shine any brighter, my heart is mended and stronger because of it. And in so many way….I am grateful for that experience, because it taught me how to love myself through my darkest moments. The fog always lifts.

  7. So this is curious. Something about the tone of this post left me wondering about the minds of those people who call themselves soft-hearted souls. Does it get in the way of our lives? Don’t get me wrong, I dearly appreciate that some people have the ability (to learn) to trust with heart-wide-open and if I ran the world, it would become law. But I wonder if we subconsciously use it as a defense mechanism. That is, do we become afraid of being vulnerable because we call ourselves soft-hearted? Doesn’t that still give away a bit of our soul? Pondering drew me to hunt through one of your earlier posts:

    “The freedom that comes from owning your shortcomings is something I can’t quite express in words. It fills me with such light, such bright white light, that it spills through my body and into the world around me. It would be the equivalent of somebody saying to Sisyphus, “it’s ok buddy, you don’t need to push that rock up that hill anymore.” (I am Not a Super Hero – Dave’s Blog, March 7, 2014)”

    Why do we need to own it? Does it somehow empower us? Or is it that we are really owning our fear? And then I gave up trying to wrap my head around it.

    I say no; we choose the path because we believe it is the path we want to choose. And sometimes, the path or the end of it, just fucks us up.

    There are people, some of those people do bad things to other people. Been there, know the pain, know how to sandbag against the world with the best of them. One way I have found “through the fog” is making a list with two columns (yes, with pen and paper): one of people who matter, and the second of people who don’t. Throw, burn, eat, paper airplane the second list. I promise you; it works to lighten the fog.

    Thanks for hanging in there, Dave. You really matter.

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