Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Seeds of Self

Today is the anniversary of when my life changed. I mark it each
year as if it were a grave tended by my careful hands. I remove the
weeds lovingly, one small blade of grass at a time and relive a
quiet moment in a time I thought I'd never leave behind.

But leave it behind I did. I call that period of my life "The Cruel
Time." Everything about it was a stripping of my soul in order to
bind new wounds that grew daily from loving a real bastard. He
almost destroyed me. He almost took away everything that made me who
I am. He almost made me scratch my own eyes out so I would never
have to look at him again. He almost made me throw myself from the
highest building I could find so I could die screaming his name on
the way to my death with only the wind to hear. He almost made me
leave everyone and everything just to escape ever hearing his name
again. He almost destroyed my belief in the power of love, in the
eternity of friendship, in the unbreakable bond of my word. Almost,
but not quite, because in the end I was simply the stronger force.

The reason for this is simple. I value people and he never did. He
would be surprised and even insulted to know this about himself and
appalled that I would think of him in such a way. It was the worst
curse you could place on him, on me, on others like ourselves who
grew up believing everyone was bad and the only people you could
trust were the ones in your small circle of confidants. Everyone
else was dangerous.

He was dangerous. It's what drew me to him. He had that dark soul of
a man who'd destroyed so many lives that he no longer wore the guilt
of that destruction anywhere on him. He would swear he never
intended to hurt people, he never intended to lie to people, he
never intended to cheat people. He was just incapable of living any
other way. His way was the only way he knew.

I'm a stubborn woman and I also have this questionable ability of
being able to see past the outer crap and cut straight to the inner
meat. This has caused more trouble for me in my life than any other
thing because as I've learned, that outer crap is supposed to keep
people like me out. It both disturbed him and intrigued him that I
found a way in.

I saw in him what I see in everyone who becomes my friend: deep
wounds, excuses, rationalizations, fear, and a restlessness that
remains a lifelong unfulfilled hunger. Where he differed was his
inability to see human beings as anything other than objects to fill
whatever needs were the most predominant. He didn't discriminate. No
need was better or worse than any other. They were just needs.

It gave him an aura of being a free spirit who was tied to no one
and no thing. We spent a lot of time outdoors among the trees and
rivers and mountains because it was his natural element, the one
place where his animal nature found a comfortable home. This was the
man I came to love and cherish and need with all the depths of my
soul. But the moment the stink of city assaulted our lungs he became
a sort of urban werewolf, a blood-sucking creature who drained
everyone until they shriveled up and disappeared.

I didn't disappear. I have an overdeveloped loyalty gene. Once I
give my friendship, it is for life because whomever wins it fought
for it with honor and sincerity. And once I love, nothing the person
does can kill that love in me. Once given is forever beholden.

But he didn't deserve this kind of devotion. He treated me badly. He
treated the women he dated and married badly. I befriended them,
picked up the broken pieces and he hated me for this. He hated that
I took home and healed that which he discarded. He told me once it
was embarrassing, almost as if he caught me rummaging through his
trash for bread scraps.

And he loved me. He loved me with a passion and sincerity and depth
that surprised both of us. It was the secret I carried with me, that
he was capable of deep and overwhelming emotion, that he felt to the
point of madness, that his skin was sometimes a barrier that he
wanted to rip away so he could feel more.

But it wasn't enough to have this with me. It wasn't enough to heal
him, to show him a better way of being. He saw it as an anomaly, an
aberration that he grew to hate me for bringing out in him.He began
to try and prove it to me that he really was the bastard everyone
thought he was. He insulted me. He challenged my ethics, my honor.
And he questioned my love, my friendship, my devotion.

That is when I left him to fester in his own world. I learned that
moment that I had limits, that I had self-respect, that I had honor,
and integrity, and a healthy sense of self that I refused to turn
over to someone who didn't deserve it. I walked away.

Five years went by before we saw each other again. He was dying. He
had stomach cancer. All those cigarettes, all that vodka, all that
rage, and anger, and hostility, and most importantly lack of love
for himself and others, was killing him. Cancer was just the
convenient name for it.

I still loved him and told him. He was astonished. He was
incredulous. And finally, he believed me. In that moment he learned
what it meant to love.

He died six months later. It's been seven years now and I still
grieve for him, for the life he could have lived but didn't. I
grieve for the person I knew that no one else could see. I grieve
for him as as anyone would grieve for a precious friendship.

But I also mark this day as the day I learned that you can still
love someone and not let them abuse you. You can still love someone
and walk away and not look back because my love and anyone who knows
what it means to truly love, understands it lives on its own. Love
is its own entity. If it depended on a person, if it depended on
being valued, if it depended on being received, then it would be
called something else.

Changing minds one t-shirt at a time. Visit
Ursine Logic for
more designs.

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