10: Little Boys and Girls

Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.

Pema Chodron

I am sitting here on the tarmac headed to Minneapolis reflecting on New Years Eve when we walked into the Railroad Depot. You gave me a gift that night.

You saw us first.

I didn’t see you at all for a few minutes. I was talking to the doorman and she went off to check something. I looked at the bar. Contemplated the snacks. Watched the DJ get the light bar set. I made small talk.

It was only after five minutes that I noticed the couple at the end of a front row table. Her face in the lap of her partner. His back towards me. I chuckled thinking you were just a drunk couple out on New Years Eve.

She was practically on her knees crawling under the table, face in his lap. I internally rolled my eyes, and wondered about the PDA.

It took me another minute to register it was you. Hiding.

Again.

I looked to my friend and pointed you out. We debated whether to leave or stay, and decided to leave. Not because of you, although I doubt you believe that truth because by your actions you still think everything I do is about you.

After we left I didn’t laugh at you. I didn’t make jokes. I didn’t comment about the past. I didn’t wish you ill will. I didn’t hate you.

Instead, as I drove off I just felt incredible sad for you.

And felt incredibly sad about all that was lost, because what was lost mattered to me more than any other experience in my life up to that moment.

I know the pain, shame, and loneliness behind secrets and lies. As such, it is impossible not to see what I know are secrets and lies you’ve spread through the filter of pain, shame, and loneliness.

I’m so sorry about your shame, pain, and loss that causes you to feel like you need to hide under a table. To hide in another artist’s tent. To hide behind empty bravado. To hide behind other people. To hide your face on another man’s lap. To whore your identity out to other people to remain safe. To hide your anger, loss, and grief.

I recognize unaddressed trauma and shame causes everyone to do ugly in one way or another. Some more obvious than others. I know what that costs.

I recognize I always cared about you. Too often I cared for you.

And it was in that caring for your feelings I justified my secrets and lies and sought the mantle of Hero-de-jour. I will eternally be sorry for using your feelings as justification to hide behind my secrets and lies too. I will be eternally sorry that I tended my feelings more than I cared about you and our relationship.

I needed you. I wanted you. I felt so deeply for you, about you; for us, about us. You were always my soul passion. How I felt about you was never optional. I know this, but knowing something is not the same as knowing what to do about something.

However, now, looking back at my role in our relationship I’m forced to confront the reality of our relationship patterns in order to choose differently now, to do differently now.

That is not blame, it is adulting. It is how I learn to discern the feelings from the data. It is how not to be trapped by the directives of my feelings.

You would just disappear emotionally and I’d end up trying to fix things without making you uncomfortable. I would pursue. You would distance. As such, I tried to do what I too often guessed you wanted while you seethed in resentment instead of owning your needsa and wants.

Et al.

And while yes, sometimes I yelled or withdrew and went for a drive or walked the dogs to cool off, I always came home to you. Always.

And I always tried to talk about what was happening. Always.

In therapy I discovered in those moments when I needed you, you never called to ask when I was coming back or if I was doing okay. Instead, based on your resentment list, like so much, you made that behavior about you and hid.

I look at the patterns and think about all the hiding. I remember the long list of ways you hid before and after me: Indy Bartender, the boys, Broadripple, Copper Moon, the finances, and Et Al. I think about how you hid our relationship and how your sisters and husband discovered us.

Me, an unwitting accomplice to your shame in your own betrayals and secrets. You, an unwitting accomplice to my shame in my own betrayals and secrets.

I think about the random email from one of your ex-husband’s friends ripping into you for spreading rumors and lies about your marriage and about your ex-husband. “How could you smear such a good man?” he asked.

How you convinced your husband’s aunt and mother what an uncaring husband and father he was.

Regurgitating some of the same stories about me to the same people.

Now I see the trangulating, splitting, gaslighting, grooming, and storytelling. I’m sure there is a term for that kind of behavior.

I shake my head at how eager I was to believe you. I’m sure there is a term for that willingness too.

Now I see how good you are at covering your tracks and recognize what you probably did, and I was to love sick to see you. Selling myself so cheaply for paintings, trinkets and love bombs. I will never sell myself so cheaply again.

Even now, 35 months later, you still use stories imagined to justify hiding behind other people and lash out in pain.

I think how I organized an event this past spring that had nothing to do with you. Nothing.

I sought to live me life, utilize my experience, promote local business and the arts based on a community, topics, and life I love. It had nothing to do with you.

And thirty months later you and your monkey’s found a way to make it about you.

No blood on your hands as multiple proxies speak on your behalf, contact local businesses and artists discouraging participation, spreading lies and rumors about my motivations, actions, and intention. Your monkey’s show up on the event page adding shitty comments and laughing and angry faces to it as way to hurt the event’s profile.

You tagged in your fiance’s son. You tapped in a random photographer we barely knew in Duluth. You tagged in an artist that lives two hours away and she contacted art organizations in her region telling them to delist the event. Your monkey’s wrote the business owner. Mocked the event in emails to people that would benefit from the experience.

Pubic posts by proxy on Facebook full of innuendo and accusations but no substance. Because there is no substance to the accusations.

When I choose to speak up, you go silently and pretend your the victim instead, hide behind others, and make others responsible for your choices and to speak for you. No different than practically every other event in our relationship.

I think about my most recent and respectful attempt to recover my things. You hide behind stories of harassment. And yet, you feel entitled to keep things that never belonged to you.

Aren’t you exhausted by your anger, shame, and entitlement? I know I am exhausted being on the receiving end of a lifetime of your wounds and healing mine…and sad for you and me.

Again, knowing is not the same as knowing how.

I believed early our relationship was dependent on me keeping you safe. I ignored the red flags because I was so madly, deeply, passionately, completely smitten by kitten. A girl dressed in velvet ears and stroking her padded tales…a boy lapping it up. The cutest couple at summer camp.

It was only months later after we split do I learn you were lying to me about what you were doing and how you felt. Seven years of resentments pouring out through your email, bitterness dumped onto me by your posse.

Hidden credit card debt. Hidden messages to strangers about how horrible I was. Hidden conversations on messenger, Word with Friends, and chat apps. Hiding money. All the while hiding behind stories to strangers, blaming me for your shames and entitlements, and seething resentments.

You hiding under the table on New Years was not a one off, but a pattern. A pattern of hiding I needed to see. It was a gift.

Although I guess, it could have been you on your knees, with your face in his lap and not about me…but even with the most generous perspective I doubt you.

Your behavior was a gift because it showed me again that despite all the stories spread by you and monkeys what a horrible person I am, I am really a part of your pattern. A pattern you maintain years after you ended our relationship. Out of compassion and generosity I see it as your life’s wounds, pain, shame and loneliness. I make excuses for you while friends and therapists are less generous.

I don’t know what is true about you but I know what you have done, and continue to do, despite all the accusations that my existence is interfering in your happiness and bliss. More stories making others responsible for your well-being.

However, through this I have learned your feelings are not my burden. Your discomfort is not my obligation. I owe you nothing.

And yet…

And yet knowing all of this I still find myself caring…and making excuses for you, taking the most generous approach, seeking understanding, and naively believing you are someone you aren’t. I keep telling myself if I am patient and considerate, you will eventually be considerate too.

And I wrestle with myself for repeatedly giving you the benefit of the doubt because in the quietest of quiet I know this is your pattern and you aren’t going to change. And in the stillest of still moments I find I still care about you and your suffering.

And in those moment I find myself hating myself for loving you, about caring, and about letting your actions impact my life.

Apparently, that self anger is my gift to you.