So, I’m at the store, with my daughter, when suddenly, my field of vision is interrupted by a small, flashing, pulsating, zigzagging colorful paisley shaped image. I close my eyes, and I still see it. I try closing one eye, but still see it out of both eyes.
Am I hallucinating? Am I going blind? Thinking it was a fluke, or because of the dim lighting, I get into my car, and attempt to leave the parking lot. But I pull over immediately, because, while I can see there are some cars approaching me, the paisley has grown into three times it original size, and I can’t see anything clearly at all. I can’t even tell you what color the cars approaching me are. This seems dangerous, and I pick up the phone to call my mother, a nurse. I can’t make out her number, among the others, so I dial a few of the wrong people, then I reach her.
She explains that this is an ocular migraine, that she’s had them before. The first time she had one she was with a patient, and the patient suddenly had three noses, instead of one. She immediately went to the Doctor, and learned about these painless, yet extremely frightening and inconvenient migraines.
They’re caused by stress, which is something I find hilarious. She said she’s noticed that it is only when she’s stressed out that they hit her. It made sense, I was pretty stressed at the time. So, apparently, just to screw with you, if you’re really going through a hard time, your body will play a little game with your eyesight, just for fun. I mean, most things our bodies do make sense. Pain serves a purpose, but there’s no pain involved here, other symptoms serve as warnings of greater maladies. But, since you probably already know when you’re stressed, this Ocular Migraine, or “Kaleidoscope eye” really serves no obvious purpose other than rubbing in the fact that your life is less than ideal, at the moment.
Then, after 20 mins or so, it just goes away. There seem to be no long-term effects, and if you haven’t wrecked your vehicle because of this chemical free acid-trip, you go on like it never happened. Except now you have been warned, better take some deep breaths, be careful about worrying too much, your body can, and will retaliate. Mine let me off with a warning this time, but I’m not counting on the same kindness, should it have to deal with my obnoxious personal issues in the future.
Relationships are for the weak, and in the end weakness is all they cause. That person who claims to love you only loves the feelings you give them, they do not love you in any sort of sacrificial, or authentic way.
Alone is alone. Often it is cold and often feels like constant night, as you feel your way through the mazes of your life. While lovers exuberantly sing each others praises on passion filled nights, you are left to ponder, and in silence make your own heart full. But, you remain free the bitter sting of the disillusioned, as they discover the mirror they saw themselves so beautifully reflected in is corrupt.
Inevitably, the passion dies, or shifts as naturally as an afternoon wind, and they are left to discover they are not the fairest in the land. Barren, they are lost; the siren call of despair begins to speak to them in their sleep. They find their weakness now exaggerated, and do not remember what it is like to feel strength. Despair speaks to them as fear grips them, “What will become of me?” they wonder. Indeed, when one has depended so completely on another, what will become of them?
At that moment there is a choice, though it seems endlessly complex, it is simple: Mend or remain destroyed. Hope or dismay. Neither choice is appealing, because the lover longs for the beloved, like a lost child searching for home. They hope they can only discover the trick, the path that will return them again into those arms. But, the pathway often is forever blocked, hidden, or too riddled with trouble to ever travel again.
Most choose to indulge the pain, fear, and weakness that render them perpetually searching for a home that has long ago been overtaken by weeds. Some hope to recreate the home, on a new piece of land, and with a new character in their story.
What if this home is not a home at all, but a dungeon? A pit of hell designed to distract us from our course, and enslave us to simple creatures, who lack the ability to provide the fulfillment we seek? Though we spend thousands, and labor tirelessly to appeal the objects of our affections, what if in our fickleness we (or they) can never be pleased, and every attempt to create a mutual bond will leave us more alone, like every other sad and isolated man we dread we will become?
If this were the sure conclusion of all that is romantic love, would we then place our efforts into something weightier, more significant, and less futile than the narcissistic pleasure we regularly seek?
Probably not, but maybe we’d at least stop reproducing so eagerly.
I put a ceramic owl on my mantle. It burns little chips of wax. The packaging it came in claimed it would “lighten your (my) mood, while releasing gentle fragrance into your (my) home.” I found it in, of all places, Walmart.
Walmart is a place you can go alone to remind yourself that so many others are alone, as well. Wandering in that most unflattering light, you might even discover those less fortunate than you: Apparently single moms laced with tattoos, too unnaturally thin, wide and insomnia-ridden eyes, who make their way through each isle with slow yet determined steps, sighing, as five little ones trail behind. Electric cart motorists, whom either weight, or medical disability have tied low to the ground, impatiently timing their movements around the Walkers among them. And the forgotten elderly, too eager to discuss with anyone who will listen the stories they’ve known so long, yet forgotten the endings to, as listeners shake their heads and check their watches, doing anything to avoid looking directly into their eyes.
These people- they at least seem less fortunate, which can bring about a bitter-sweet mix of comfort and guilt.
So I passed the elderly lady, engaging the produce guy in a story about her grandchildren, and the coat- hanger thin young mom, who’s oldest child was begging for Lucky Charms, and the motorists in electric carts, wheeling through the frozen food isles, looking for microwavable super easy to prepare meals.
And, wandering, as I had nowhere to be, no other human at home, counting the minutes, impatiently waiting on me, I came to the “Home” section. Thinking I needed a home; needed to make the place that I slept a home, I decided to see what comfort Walmart had to offer me.
And there was the owl. I read the promises on the label, and decided he was a He, and he would come home with me. I waited to unpack him until the other groceries were put away, then carefully freed him from his cardboard cage. I had purchased two sets of scented wax, and “Harvest Moon,” beat out “Faded Denim” that day. To double my pleasure, this Owl was maintenance free, I only needed to plug him in, turn a switch, and let the mood lightening and gentle fragrances roll!
I placed him on his new branch, a mantle on my fireplace, from which he would preside over my home. He would rule with equanimity and wisdom, dispensing justice to my enemies, and providing a source of hope for me. With time, all that is good would come to me. My owl was there to watch over me.
In those early days, it seemed he did. It seemed he was making good on his imagined promise to me. My days became a never-ending surprise of one incredible instance to the next. I gave love, and I felt love. I gave acceptance, I was given the same. There was no stopping me. I had the ceramic Owl, he was there for me.
Then, life changed. It changed as it does, so often blindsiding us, knocking us from our firm foundation. I was suddenly grasping desperately for a hand, searching for anything, anyone to hold on to. Owl & Harvest Moon wax did nothing to help me. I glanced at him, and he said, “I’m a ceramic figurine from China, what do I know about your human problems?”
I considered his stern lecturing, then decided he had a point. Ceramic owls hold no power, just as other humans temporarily fulfilling vacancies in my life did not. I could have a friend, a boyfriend, a husband, family, or a celebrity who adopts orphans from Africa by my side, and there would still be no protection, no insulation from this monster called Life.
No one is immune to the storms, or offered secure shelter from pain. We are all subject to the Human Condition. We all at times search for meaning, for company, for protection from death in things as powerless as figurines, or often the other humans who surround us.
Yet, there is no meaning but to give, no company but to comfort another, no protection but to protect. What we seek for ourselves, we only hope to find when we give to others, and with no guarantee it will be returned.
So, I endured the powerful waves of life that sought to overwhelm me. I waited out the storm. I faced my confusion, alone-ness, and vulnerability.
And I started to notice more than tattoos, electric carts, and long rambling storytellers when I went to Walmart. I walked more slowly through the isles. I said Hello. I offered a smile to the struggling moms, yielded to the cart motorists, and listened patiently to the little old ladies.
And the Owl sat on my mantle, where it sits as I type. He has survived the worst of the weather, the worst of Change. I too have survived. Though worse still may come, my strength and my hope will remain. There is never any other option than to move forward. There is no other choice, than to push through the darkness, the fear, the pain, and to make our way toward the rainbow that waits for us, on the far side of the storm.
Ever seen Planet of the Apes: Rise? I’m no film critic, but this movie contains one of the most powerful, symbolic, and significant scenes I’ve seen in a movie, probably ever.
Caesar, an ape, born to a life in a cage as a test monkey, is adopted, rescued from this fate. He’s injected with a serum, that gradually makes him more “human.” His IQ soars, as he develops an understanding of human language and ideas. He surpasses many humans, as he acquires the skills to understand complex scientific concepts, and to solve difficult mathematical equations. He begins to adopt a more human thought-process. Caesar also feels such human feelings as love, and loyalty. It is his loyalty that triggers a violent primal reaction, in defense of a beloved human, which first leads to his imprisonment, and later, his destiny.
He is sent to a “sanctuary,” for apes. It is seemingly an ideal homes for apes, yet in reality, it is a prison, where guards mercilessly torture the primates. In this prison, he is an ape, mute, and animal, just like all of the others. Though he’s known the comforts of a home, love for humans, and relative freedom, he is oppressed as they are, a victim just the same. Each day is a routine of slop, abuse, and longing. Oppressed, and miserable, it seems they are all meant to live and die in the confinement and isolation of a cold cell.
But Caesar is different. He knows a powerful secret that the others do not. After discovering that his fellow apes are capable of learning, he begins to educate them. Each day he teaches them new and astounding things. HE becomes their master, each looks to him as their benevolent ruler. He is strengthened by the idea that, like humans, he and his fellow apes can one day be free. In the presence of the guards, he continues to mimic the less aware primates. But quietly and carefully, he bides his time, as as trains the mighty army he will soon lead.
The following scene is a representation of humanity, and each individual’s most powerful innate ability. I got chills the first time I saw it, and it has the same effect on me still. It occurs after a guard has brutally beaten Caesar with a night stick. Then, deciding he’s had enough, Caesar catches the stick in the guard’s hand:
What set Caesar apart in this scene, from all of the other primates? What sets humanity apart from the apes? What is the essential element that makes us human? It is the power of Choice, our ability to exercise our Will, the ability to change and choose the course our life takes.
At the most basic level, we live in relation to others. And the lines between ourselves and others can blur with socialization. Sometimes, we are simply influenced by our environments, more commonly, we are oppressed. Though we are not primitive, nor meant to exist as Automatons who are helplessly subject to the elements our environment, and the wills of others, many of us choose this.
It is usually the cruel, or that which is harmful to us that most effectively overpowers us. And, many times, we cooperate in our own victimization. We willingly hand the night stick over to our captors.
Consider the man who stays in a relationship with an unfaithful wife who repeatedly belittles him, ever thankful for the occasional sexual pleasure she provides. Or the woman who’s husband has exchanged loving caresses for heart- stopping blows to the head. Like any common ape, she stays, when rewarded with a piece of bread. They do not leave; they do not choose. They have forgotten that they can choose.
One man is slave to the drink, another slave to the needle. One woman follows fashion fads, spending all of her wages on a dress some other ape has labeled “in,” only to toss it away, when the next ape labels it “out.” Another obsessively cleans her home, though she is rarely visited, because mother always punished her for being messy as a child.
These people are inspired by feelings, expectations, rewards, punishments, guilt and fear, to accept their poor situations. And because they are inspired by these things, they allow their situations to remain unchanged.
Choices we make imprison, or free us. Choices, navigated by our Will, create our world. Our Will either surrenders to other dominant forces, or prevails. We construct the universe of our own pain and disappointment, or pleasure and satisfaction.
It should be easy to live a fulfilling life, yet so often we are led astray. Be it girlfriend or husband; needle or drink; fashion or compulsion; we take sanctuary in the ease of letting other, seemingly brighter apes, choose our destiny. We readily place our world in their hands to shape.
Yet, as it was for Caesar, our “sanctuary,” when chosen for us by others, is more often a prison. We don’t see the bars in the beginning. All we see is the affection, approval, money, and all we feel is the the love, warmth, and the vacuous joy of oblivion.
Our personal perceptions, and resulting Feelings direct us. We comprehend what we have to gain, but so rarely what we have to lose. Where we should be led by our own logic, and reason, we submit entirely to powerful Others, then marvel when our lives are twisted, tangled, and everything has gone horribly wrong.
But Caesar, the human-ape, exercised his Will with the guard that day. He took full stock of the oppressing force, and had the courage to do what many of us do not. He made a Choice. And this choice changed his destiny.
Look closely at most of the people around you. Feel the pain, and helplessness. See the sorrow, and shrinking frames. Look closely at yourself in the mirror, what’s that hiding in the lines of your face? Who is that individual, so lost, staring back at you? Or do you see who you were meant to be? A person ruled not by others, but by his Will?
Dictators rule over us all. Some are innocuous; some malicious. Some are human in form, some exist only in the intangible world of thought and memory.
For me, there are many ideas, perceptions, laws, and a few humans, which, by a mightier Will, have overpowered me at times. They are too numerous to mention them all.
Though there are many, few have entirely overpowered me. Of those few, most have been human, holding various forms, and positions in my life. At first, they enticed me with pleasant things. Promises, acceptance, love, power, money, and fantasy romanced me into ignoring my better judgement. Later, each utilized unflinching cruelty to dominate, and control me. I lived subject to their whims, and only they determined if I were to feel pleasure, or pain. They wound the music box, and around I dutifully spun in perfect form.
In time, I realized that they were only able to do so, because I allowed it. And with each the time came when I’d endured enough. There was a sudden change. So long blinded by an internal fog, my eyes could finally see. While they slept peacefully, I planned each escape. I assembled my inner-armies, and prepared to let my Will lead the way.
When the time came, I stood tall above each captor, the searing fire of Choice raging in my eyes, the fury of the oppressed burning in my heart. Like Caesar, I shouted “NO!”
Each stood in dumbfounded silence, blinking, as if unsure that what they heard was real. Turning, I walked out of their darkness, and into the light of a brilliant new day.
Have you ever been oppressed by a cruel Master? What sanctuary was offered to seduce the surrender of your Will?
And, most importantly, have you yet chosen to become free?
I have, a few times now, been accused of being a gold-digger. It happened my first week at work, and several times since. It happened last year when I was in a smallish town in Connecticut, staying with a friend and her husband. Several of her friends were over, and one of their guy friends said loudly in a quiet room, out of the blue, “Oh, yeah, I know your type, total gold-digger!” Maybe this is something people say when they can’t figure you out? The women in CT that I met were rather plain, maybe my big earrings made me appear fancy.
Though I am far too independent and ambitious to be a gold-digger, some women have advised me that I should be one, that money really is the thing that will make me happy. Today my boss told me that I need a boyfriend. I told him that just because a person is single, doesn’t mean they aren’t happy (right?? right?). He thought for a few minutes, and came back and told me that he has a friend he wants me to meet. The first thing he told me about him was that he makes $300,000 a year, then that he’s also attractive, and that he is one of his best friends. I then remembered him mentioning that all of his single friends are players a few months ago, but I was polite enough not to bring that up.
I was flattered to think that he’d want to fix me up with a close friend, that’s really a huge compliment. Next I thought about $300,000 a year, and what sort of lifestyle that might bring. I hit the fast-forward button in my mind to five years from now. There we were, mystery man and I, probably living on a ranch, because that’s what rich people do here. I’d have a perma-tan, perfect hair, and no lines on my face at all. He might be attractive, or not, it really didn’t matter. He’d be sitting in a chair at the end of the day, eating, watching football, whatever. I’d look over at him, and the frivolous wasting away of our time would overwhelm me as I considered our entirely pointless existence. And all of the excess that surrounded us, the tribute to ourselves, the kingdom we were building, would mean absolutely nothing to me, if we lacked one vital thing.
And what is the vital thing? I can’t name it, I don’t know. I know I have always wanted it. I know that I have forgone countless relationships because I saw no potential for it. It is elusive, seen and not seen, hard to conceive. But I know it exists.
It is there in those couples that seem so individualized, yet seem to speak one another’s language to a T. These are the couples that make it, that go the distance. Through all of the noise, and distractions, they have found each other, each formerly an island unto themselves. I’ve seen it in the young, and the old; the beautiful and the plain.
I remember in high-school, a guy named Donald who had some mental development issues. He was a large oafish guy whose stomach was round and full sort of like a Tweedle-dee, or Tweedle-dum. And he always had a grin on his face, and it was a genuine and kind grin. He was sort of remarkable in that way, considering the torture and mocking he endured throughout his high-school days.
And, along came Rosie one year. She was a tiny girl, also in Special Ed with Donald. Where he was large and rotund, she was petite and stick-thin. She had tiny, beady eyes, and a feisty, spit-fire personality. She was tough, and I eventually knew enough about her life to know she had earned her attitude.
Donald and Rosie fell in love. They eventually married. Years after high-school when I returned to my hometown I’d see them walking home from the grocery store, Rosie’s mouth moving characteristically at 100 miles a minute, and Donald grinning, and nodding his head. They both came from poverty, abuse, and had little in the way of familial support, but they had each other.
I have always envied them, and those people like them, that seem almost chosen for such a fate. I sometimes feel that this sort of thing will come for me, and more often feel that it won’t.
If it doesn’t, sure, maybe I can be with someone who is rich, or have a purely physical relationship. Maybe I should get my head out of the romantic clouds, and go for what matters: money, sex, and someone to do things with. But, it’s really hard for me to do when I know that this quality I so desire exists, and is enjoyed by others, regardless of social standing, worthiness, or attractiveness.
Any other motivator for relationship- money, sex, and just someone to keep me from being alone, seems a waste of time and energy that could be better spent elsewhere.
Maybe the problem is that I expect and want too much, but sometimes I think people don’t expect and want enough.
*This post first published November 1st, 2010
I inherited a Lizard, on my daughter’s birthday a few years ago. For lizard enthusiasts he is a Leopard Gecko, and quite a beautiful one at that. But, since my daughter isn’t with me all of the time, responsibility for his care has fallen upon me.
I’m responsible for cleaning his excrement, refreshing his water, and feeding him these:
These are called Super Worms, and they both disgust, and frighten me. These horrific looking creatures have also become a part of my daily life, not by choice, but by circumstance. Lucky me.
However, this little lizard, named Bullseye, is a tricky one to feed. He’s temperamental, and picky, plus he has really bad aim when hunting. Recently, for what seemed an eternity (probably about 2 months), he simply would not, or could not eat.
Though these lizards don’t have a great life expectancy in captivity, the thought that I was somehow neglecting him, because he would not eat, plagued me. I read as much as I could, and considered that he might have gone blind. And if he had, what then?
I tried holding the sickeningly crunchy worms with tweezers up to his mouth, and he simply shied away each time. I tried the recommendation I’d found online to feed him baby food in a tiny lid, and that food only ended up dried and rotted. I knew his fat tail would sustain him for awhile if he needed it, but not forever. Would he simply waste away right before my eyes, suffering an excruciatingly painful death of starvation? This seemed the likely course of events.
So I went about my hectic confusing life in which all was uncertain. So many question marks in career, school, location, and dating. And what would become of the Lizard? In almost every area, I was standing at crossroads, with no wisdom, no guidance to direct me.. Yet, as it so often can, dating continued to rise to the top of my consciousness, demanding my attention, like a petulant child.
Though I fought hard to ignore it, the topic, specifically the men I had been, or was involved with, were maintaining the #1 area of my focus. In the day I could control it. But at night, when I’d finished each day’s tasks, and all was quiet, there it, or They, were. And the Lizard wouldn’t eat.
In an effort to forget my impossible ex, I started going out a bit more. Very much by chance, I met the man who would assist me in doing so. He was, or pretended to be (it does not matter), everything I needed or wanted in a man. Now, in the harsh light of reality, there were things I didn’t like, and concerns I had. But the feelings I got from talking to him, being in his presence, simply knowing he was alive, and he liked me, were incredibly powerful. So powerful in fact, that I actually managed to feel a liberating sense of indifference when seeing, thinking about, or talking to my ex! He was Oz the Great and Powerful, bringing me back home to Me!
But there were things he couldn’t fix, which prevented me from feeling fully free to be happy- among them, the Lizard who would not eat. Each time before I went out with him, I’d make one more effort to feed the little guy. Each time I was unsuccessful.
Like the obvious red flags that would prevent Oz from becoming a lasting presence in my life, I tried to let my concerns about the hungry lizard go, and just enjoy my time with this new, all-powerful man.
Ultimately, there was too much in the way. The Lizard wouldn’t eat; Oz wouldn’t stay. And, as I felt responsible for my starving little creature, so I felt it was I that made him go away.
And go away he did, as I said he should, as I knew he would. The man behind the curtain truly was only a man, his power limited. Our bond vaporized, leaving a thin trail of green smoke.
Yet when he went away, a miracle came. As was my habit, I decided to try what would likely be another futile attempt to get Bullseye to eat. I wrestled one of those creepy worms out of his little container, and dropped it before his eyes. This time, he locked in on the worm. His body stiffened, aimed at his prey. He lunged once, missed the worm. Then lunged again, and actually caught the thing and devoured it in seconds!
I stood there smiling, strangely filled with more joy than I’d felt in months. The Lizard finally ate! The Wizard was gone, but the Lizard was eating! Was this not a cause for celebration if ever there were one?
And, after the thrill of realizing I was not going to be responsible for the death of this creature, at least not any time soon, the joy still lingered in my heart. Because, I asked myself if I still loved my ex. Did I still long for him to finally understand me? Would I still be ready to come running if he called? And the answers were no.
Then, I asked myself what of the miracle worker Oz? Was I was mourning him? Did I feel rejected, did I feel despair? Was my heart, and life worse off for having met him? The answers were also no.
Though neither man would remain, one would truly change me. He would see me with different eyes, through a different lens. He would see me for who I am. He would say (to paraphrase): “you are beautiful, you are incredible, you deserve to be appreciated, you are rare and valuable.”
It doesn’t matter why he said it, or if he meant it. What mattered is that I would believe it. My eyes would open, my mind would comprehend the truth of what I’d settled for, and the knowledge of what could be. I knew one day another would come who’d see me not just as a warm body to use, a victim to abuse, but an individual, with unique qualities he desired, that were, in his eyes, held by few.
So Oz disappeared, having broken the spell of my love for the wicked and unworthy, while illuminating Hope, and Possibility for me. And the Lizard ate, and is eating still.
All is Well, and exactly as it should be.
“Life is full of misery, loneliness, and suffering – and it’s all over much too soon.”
― Woody Allen
Despite my efforts to remain ever-youthful, and unburdened, a few years ago, I took another step toward the ripening of my adulthood, when I had to place the family dog under euthanasia. Like the marriage I had recently escaped, she had been degenerating for months. Strangely, the timing of her death paralleled the decline of my marriage, and subsequent divorce.
As I began my new life, her health took a turn for the worst. There were vet visits, & medications, but she continued to decline. One night, she became paralyzed, and her entire body was so pained, that the slightest touch from me made her scream. When I saw her flopping on the floor screaming in pain, I knew it was over. I couldn’t allow to her suffer, and they said they had no answers as to how to save her. I thought they weren’t trying hard enough; they didn’t know how exceptional she was, didn’t understand what she meant to me.
I had planned, for so long, to bring her into our family. I researched the best breed for us for at least one year, and diligently saved to buy her. Once we had her, she was loved. She was spoiled. and indulged. She was my jogging partner, and the children’s sleeping partner. She was loyal, and perceptive. She seemed very tuned in to my every nuance of emotion. We were in love; and the children were in love with her too. Those were the days of sunshine, and laughter, and we lived, it seemed, insulated from pain.
However, our lives did begin to decline. Though I too had my faults, my now ex husband had developed a vicious temper, and showed signs of mental instability. During that time he kicked her a few times, seemingly because he envied the love I had for her (and anyone and anything that was not him). He treated this delicate 13 pound dog so roughly. And, though I never “allowed” him to mistreat her, I was so busy protecting my children and myself from his erratic behavior, that I failed to fully protect her.
After the divorce, she came to be the only constant from the life I once had. I lost the house, half of the custody of my children, the dreams I’d had for our family, and many of the dreams I had for my children. She was the only thing that remained from a fantasy life dreamed up by a young idyllic woman.
When I first held my infants in my arms, I never imagined a day would come when I could not fully protect, and shelter them. I did not believe that I’d have to face the unbearable realization that I would not always be there to comfort, and guide them. Like the children, I cared for our dog, the grooming, the vet visits, the love- I believed she would be fine.
But I could not save her, and when she passed I felt her death was my fault. I cried for days. Though I didn’t know it, she was symbol to me. First, a symbol of hope, and later, a symbol of loss, despair, and the dark, voracious hole consuming me from within. I told her how much I loved her, as she shivered and looked at me with pleading eyes.
During that time, my ex moved to an apartment, with stairs leading to his front door. While living with him there, my five year old drew me a picture that shredded my heart. It was a little girl, carrying a suitcase, up a flight of stairs. She had a sad look on her face. On the upper-right hand corner of the picture, were three words that, to this day, make me weep: “I Miss You.” That hole was so black, and growing blacker still.
As I drove to the final Vet appointment, the question came: How will I tell the children? Should I say she went to live with someone else? Should I protect them from this loss, and maintain the illusion that every story really has a happy ending? I concluded It would only delay the inevitable breaking of their hearts, and consequent sorrow that they’d eventually endure the next time a loved one died. It seemed to me that all of our hearts must, eventually, be broken, perhaps it is a vital part of maturity.
So I said goodbye to my friend, while wishing the children had never loved her, only to lose her. She knew me deeply, she saw my pain; my joy. She barked at the slightest noise in our defense. The children loved to stand outside and ring the doorbell because it was so funny to drive her crazy and make her bark. And, she had a thing about men in hats, and brooms- she hated, and feared them.
She seemed to suffer with me, and was there to catch my tears. She was witness to the truth of our marriage, and was punished, simply because I loved her. She remained by my side, even as she endured the pain coursing through her body.
One night, she walked out into the parking lot of my apartment, and stood in the pouring rain, looking back at me. Her eyes seemed to implore me, “Let me go.” Somehow, she knew it was time. But I stubbornly held on, selfish in my human need to absolve my guilt, and keep her by my side, if only for a little longer.
If I ever had a friend it was my dog Annie. Despite whatever pain might stalk me, despite the enemies that sought to destroy me, she loved me. And I, in all of my failings and weaknesses, and with my ever-growing blackened inner-void, truly loved her.
R.I.P. Annie: 9/2004-1-2010 R.I.P. (this post was first written 1-2010)
Dear Man I used to Love,
I wrote this to you in the past. You have now become so predictable I can foretell your moves, with astounding accuracy. You don’t want me now. I have done something to offend you in some way, and have earned your rejection. We both know it’s because I (unintentionally) held up a mirror, and you cannot reconcile yourself to the truth you saw.
So today you ignore. You let hour after hour pass, as you neglect my attempts to connect. You stonewall; leave me hanging. This is punishment, I have been naughty. Yet naughty I will always be. Naughty to you is over-communicating, or pushing you in some way, not coming when you call, or not knowing when to go away.
While I am banished, you are not concerned that I will learn to love the lack of you, the lack of Us. There are pressure points you trust you can always lean on to quickly access my heart: If all else fails you will break out the tears, and, as a last resort, out will come the “I love you.”
Your goal is to keep my heart and my body loyally “off the market,” dutifully biding my time, in allegiance to you. Waiting for something; waiting for you. But what is truly that I am waiting on? What is this bright future for which you hope to preserve me? What is the change that might one day come finally? I should not allow my hopes to soar too high, and, my Love, neither should you.
The change you anticipate is a change in you. You imagine that once you’ve had your fill, chased your gold, or women, or dreams, once you’ve lost your edge, the shadows loom, and night draws near, once you doubt the cocksure notions of personal superiority you believed to be true, once you are fragile as a child, alone, untouched- then you will discover the truth you attempt to deny- you need me.
In this moment you will be blessed with instant-empathy. You will suddenly see in me more than an open heart, and open legs. You will see your last hope, the one to save you from despair. And you very much want me to be available for that terrifying day. For that day more effectively destroys he who evades it, than he who boldly rushes in.
On that day you’ll need an angel to accept you; you’ll need a martyr to give herself for you. You’ll need a woman to believe that you can be solid, and strong, and to believe you when you say you are a good man, and you have learned Right from Wrong.
So far, any hint of shadows I have chased away. I have witnessed your private tears, and comforted your soul. I have never rejected, always reassured. Though you break my heart a thousand times, I have gently protected yours. My wrath has been short lived, and under-emphasized. The majority of the time I’ve readily assumed the blame.
I’ve done this because I’ve truly loved you. And it’s my nature to forgive, and to help clean up the messes our foolish pride creates. I have helped bring my own actions under scrutiny, searched my own heart for any fault I could change.
Dear Man I Used to Love, you have enjoyed my eagerness to take the blame. How easy for you to have me nestled securely in the palm of you hand! How sweetly comforting to know my close-to-unconditional love!
You have had room to be slovenly, unkind, disrespectful, ungracious, and to take take take. You could do this because I let you.
Love is blind, so they say.
And when you hurt me I swore I had limits. I lashed out- reminding you you CAN’T do this to me! I threatened, and promised to abandon you. But it was I that always ended up begging you back. I knew you knew you had me. And I knew you would fight dirty, doling out True Love, if necessary, like catnip, to lure me.
But even you should have guessed, or at least suspected, that this one day would end. Though my grace continued to shine upon you, neither human, nor feline truly have 9 lives. And one day it did end. This is now the present, which being so certain of, I write about as if it’s the past.
Perhaps borne of too many nights spent in isolation, exile, or sheer exhaustion; one day it was as if an internal flame was blown out, by a sudden and unexpected wind. I knew I’d never love you, or be for you what I once had been again.
Still, for you the game continued. Inaction had long ago rendered my threats powerless; any lines I drew quickly erased. So, how could you understand the change that had come, simply by looking at my face?
You felt we’d play nice a bit, you’d hold me, and I’d melt. Funny, wasn’t it, how my shoulders stiffened at your touch, yet my eyes held no anger; my mouth, no words? Not to be easily rebuffed, you employed your arsenal of tricks, designed to pierce quickly into my heart. Yet each was met with an indifferent sigh, and unusually averted eyes.
Panic welled in your heart as for the first time you feared perhaps you’d misjudged your opponent! Could it be I was no longer easily entranced and captivated by your words? No, you did not know the half of it.
Determined, your attempts grew increasingly embarrassing, you were as a bird stubbornly slamming repeatedly against a glass door, which he clearly could feel, yet could not comprehend or see. I pitied you briefly. Then, recognizing my error, quickly fled the scene.
I no longer loved you. And, as sudden as it was shocking was your isolation, a state wholly unfamiliar to you. Without your Protector the darkness rapidly overtook you. The mirror you once pridefully shunned now was ever before you, reflecting the horrific image of your hideous frame. The entirety of your days would now be spent lost and wandering, blood like tears ever-dripping from a wound which would never be closed.
So Lovers, this is a riddle, a parable, of sorts. If you read, perhaps then walk carefully, lest you play either role indefinitely. We each have but a small sliver of time, and a narrow opportunity. Would you forget yourself and remain a slave to another, until eventually compelled by searing pain to abandon them completely? Likewise, would you withhold your love, relishing the power & ability to crush or uplift another soul, until one day it is your soul that is in shambles?
Both are prisons, with dimly lit dungeons, and burdensome chains. Better to escape early, for each figure in our story remains a slave unto the other, until one day perhaps the chains are recognized. Maybe the prisoner realizes that his chains fit him too loosely? Maybe he discovers he has always held the key?
He should count himself lucky if, as he makes his way along the damp hallway, into the shadows where the hidden creatures dwell, he glimpses a wooden torch blazing, illuminating his pathway, as he draws near. He is indeed fortunate if he chooses to follow that light into that distant place imagined by so many; known by so few. It is a place existing solely in our own minds, until forcefully gripped, and dragged into the light of reality. It is a place called “Free.”
*In the interest of fairness, and variety, I promise to post a story in which the villain who meets an unfortunate end is female soon. There are many to choose from. As you can imagine, such a post requires a bit more imagination, as I must attempt to see things from an entirely different perspective. Still, I promise.
*Also, I wrote most of this a long time ago. So, No, whoever you are, it’s not about You, and it’s not about me.
He’s almost 40 now. With many years left to serve. He’s a criminal. His crime of choice: Being a drug addict. He’s quietly tucked away from the eyes of society. “Out of sight; out of mind,” you know? But not for me. At least, not entirely. These letters are not recent. They are from over ten years ago, when we were young, and his life still held possibility. He was a brilliant artist, a legendary (at least in our circles) guitarist, an inspiration to little sister me.
At the time I received these letters I was in my late teens, he his early 20’s. I tried to write often, to remind him there was still hope. I tried to save him for years. It was an exercise in futility, in the end. He showed signs of promise, upon each release. But, prison would prove to be his destiny, for most of his adult life.
Through he is not dead, he is almost dead to me. His mind warped by drugs and possibly insanity, he is almost unrecognizable to me. I love him, to the end, but more than that, I love who he used to be. I remember the yesterdays, all of the things he taught me, and I close my eyes and bow my head. I mourn him continually.
I am not posting these letters simply to preserve his memory. I am posting them because they tell a story. A story about drug addiction, and family, and abuse, and love; a story about him, and a story about me; a story about most of humanity.
*Comments are welcomed, if anyone has any. However, a full picture isn’t likely to emerge, until the segment is complete.
*Names have been changed to protect the Guilty.
Prison doesn’t begin in prison. Prison begins with jail. And that’s where I’ll begin, with his first letter to me from Jail:
August 25th, 1994
It’s really cool to talk with my crazy sister on the phone. You make me laugh & I gravitate toward anyone that can. I hope that when I get out I can find a girlfriend as weird & as pretty as you.
Jail sux, of course. I think I’m going crazy. I chew on my fingers until they literally drip blood & don’t even notice what I’m doing. And, I’ve achieved an almost zen-like indifference to my adversity. I have made an art out of killing time. My real problem is that I can’t sleep at night. True, a 30 grams of coffee a day habit might have something to do with it, but I’ve always been plagued by insomnia.
But I have learned to be very resourceful when it comes to keeping my mind busy. I like to read & draw, and I’ve learned a little Spanish. I wish that you knew more Spanish so that when I wrote none of these fuckin guards could read it.
I hope that this drawing gets to you & that you like it. I made it especially for you. Let me know if you don’t get it.
Hey, guess what? If you don’t want to know, don’t turn the letter over….This dude Philip Carr that was here for awhile says he knows you. He amazes me because he could open any of the jail doors here with a playing card. He already went T.D.C. to serve 10 years. But we were cell-mates for awhile & he kept getting me in trouble. One time he filled out a request form saying he wanted a blowjob from Sheriff X & signed my name & we got locked down with nothing but some shorts & our mattresses.
Okay, I’ve got to go because my medicine is making me tired.
So, do I really have a drug-addict brother in prison? Yeah. I forgot to warn you, I’m from the wrong side of the tracks. 🙂
This is a bit of a follow-up post to my v-day post, but in this post I’m assuming you do have a special lady in your life, that you’d at least like to keep around for a little while.
So what to get her to show her just how much she means to you on that pre-appointed day of romance, Valentine’s Day?
Some women want flowers, others dinner, some even want pricy jewelry, and most want it all. I don’t know your woman, so if the question is what to buy her, I’d err on the side of caution, and just say, Everything. BEWARE: She definitely expects something.
If I were to receive any of those things, I’d probably consider it a pretty nice thing. But, if you were to ask me what the most romantic things men have done for me in the past are, only a few would include buying me things. I figure a lot of women would agree. A gift is nice. Something that makes me feel loved, valued, and like warm melty honey on the inside is another thing entirely.
Here are some of the most romantic things men have done for me (or said to me) in the past, and a little bit on why I loved them:
- During dinner, at a burger place, my boyfriend used his keys to carve “I love Alice” into the label on his beer bottle. He even used a heart symbol instead of the word love, and made it extra big! Romantic, because this particular guy was not prone to too much mushiness. And we carried on a conversation the entire time, I had no idea he was even doing it. I looked down and saw it, and got so excited, while he just smiled a little, and changed the subject. I liked it so much, I had to take a picture.
- One guy I was dating for awhile had a stalker-type girl chasing him. At first it didn’t bug me, until she wouldn’t go away (mostly just phone calls). He decided to have a T-Shirt made that said, “Alice’s Man,” and proudly wore it wherever he went. Silly, yes. But also sweet.
- Another guy I dated, who was also a co-worker, used to bring me my favorite coffee. Like, every.single.day. Romantic, because he was showing highly specialized, and consistent interest in me.
- One year, for V-Day, instead of flowers, or chocolate, a boyfriend bought me a top-of-the-line heater for my apartment, because he was worried I was too cold. At first, it seemed strange. But as the temperatures dipped below the 30’s the next winter, I was very appreciative.
- Same boyfriend, another time, grabbed me, and with an extremely serious expressions on his face said slowly, “You will be beautiful the rest of your life. You can marry any man you want. You could marry a rich man. Forget make-up, Covergirl’s got nothing on you.” This was so touching because we were on the verge of breaking up, and I’m sure he knew we would not end up together, yet he sincerely wanted to me understand, and absorb what he was telling me.
- On a 2nd date, with a guy I was pretty into, we entered into a very crowded theater. As we took our seats, he whispered to me, telling me to look around at the room. After I did, he told me I was the most stunningly beautiful woman there, that not even one of them came near my beauty. Every woman hopes her man sees her this way. It’s not usually because she wants to feel superior to all other women in everyone’s eyes, but she wants to feel superior to all of them in your eyes.
SO, by all means, go out and spend your money on the expected things women want on Valentine’s Day, I don’t want to cause anyone to incur the wrath of their woman. But keep in mind that words are free, and can be extremely powerful tools when used to convey your love.
And, some of the most inexpensive, or seemingly unromantic gifts, are often the most memorable. If nothing else, thoughtful things like these will at least win you a spot on the “Most Romantic Things” list she will likely compose when she is older, wiser, staying up late drinking too much coffee, and typing to Internet Strangers, like me.