Anyone that follows my story has seen the following image periodically.
The painting was entitled “The Protector” and I wrote about it here. My X painted this for my the first summer we were together. Gotta just love the power of limerence and good sex.
There was some romantic inscription on the back.
From this story I created a story.
After we split, she returned it but only after removing the inscription.
I carried this painting with my for a long time after we split. Every time I started to feel compassion for myself I would look at this painting and fall back into a shame hole. It was a constant reminder of how I failed as her protector.
In the process I was emotionally horrible to myself the first year. A lot of my writing the first six months reflected my internal shame stories fueled in part by an emotional rigidity that confused self-blame with taking responsibility.
Eventually, I had to find new symbolism to let go of the old.
The second piece of symbolism that shows up often is of a young boy playing the sax for a little girl. A bit of mid-century modern that I’m sure has some name.
When I first saw this my X and I were thrift shopping somewhere. I took a picture of the statues on the thrift store shelf, shared it on social media, and commented that this was what happens whenever I try to sing a love song to my X.
Throughout our relationship I sang to her. Depeche Mode, The Proclaimers, Daft Punk, James Brown, Johnny Cash and dozens of others were constantly on the playlist.
I sang and danced to her without shame. I even bought a Karaoke machine for us. I didn’t care what anyone else thought but her. Song after song. Screwing up lyric after lyric. I sang constantly to her and without shame. Every time out of key, out of rhythm, but every time with all my heart.
I’ve struggled to sing for anyone since, afraid I’ll be judged for how I am doing it wrong.
A few months after our relationship ended I found myself in a thrift store outside of Nashville and stumbled on the young musician and critic again. This time the symbols had a new story.
Now this became the story of our ending.
I mentioned the history and symbolism behind the story to a woman I am dating and when she saw them a few months later she bought them for me. She listened with her heart and understands the power of symbolism.
I took the statues and tossed them in the car. I have moved the statues across dozens of state lines, stored them in garages, boxes, and trunks.
Occasionally, I would talk to the young musician. Sometimes, I would talk to the young girl. Talking to them and telling them what I felt needed said as a therapeutic and symbolic outlet for my grief.
Over the last year I’ve sought a symbolic way to separate the pair. I thought about everything from dumping her in a lake, staging her in the woods, burying her, and melting them both down.
However, at the end they just became another story I realized I was carrying around with me. In the end I realize the story isn’t worth the energy. The statues just came to represent all the ways I tried to prove my value and all the ways she was never going to hear me.
More energy spent trying to be loved.
Until two weeks ago I really struggled with a way to let go of these symbols. I’m not really sure exactly how or why, but I woke up and realized, “It doesn’t matter any more.”
However, being the storyteller and lover of pictures I decided to stage a play that told the story of our relationship.
Here was the first attempt.
When I finished I tossed the little girl critic into the truck with a dozen boxes of thrift store donations and put the boy on the porch next to Buddha.
However, the critic fell out of the box and rolled under the seat. I found her a few days later.
I imagined some Universal lesson and realized these two need to go together and put the pair back together: him forever playing for her and her forever refusing to listen. Putting the band back together, so to speak. The Pursuer and Distancer Dance in perpetuity.
This of course left me with an unfinished story…and I am committed to finishing the story.
The original plan was to drop them off at the thrift store as I left for Colorado last week. However, I ran out of time and just drove past the thrift stores, across Iowa, into Nebraska, and west to the mountains.
I pulled the truck over, placed the statues on the truck rail and finished the story. A boy and girl playing to the roles they know.
At the end the boy moves on and learns to play for himself. Learning to play his own tune and be not concerned about who is listening. The critic slowly being left behind, stuck in her ownn stories and disappearing into the past as he moves forward.
And here I realized is where the story ended. In a little no frill community thrift store outside of Golden, Colorado. A few trinkets added to a hoarder’s paradise.
It was a good story while it lasted but it is all over except the occasional out of tune note.
Maybe now I can start singing again with someone that hears my heart and adds their own music.