When I first moved to northwest Wisconsin I told Painter I was going to make this my home, build a future with her, and be involved in our community.
From the day I arrived, I worked to fully invest myself in making a future and a life with Painter.
I actively got involved in local interests such as art and history, started a monthly community and businesses development group, actively supported local businesses, and was appointed, and then elected, as a village trustee.
I joke with people that as a new resident in a very cloistered, rural, and small community of conservative Lutherns my role as village trustee, chair of the tourism committee, and member of the water and sewer commission left me with two primary roles: talk to strangers and handle everyone’s shit.
I acted on my commitment because I believe in people and want to contribute directly and indirectly to the success of others. I’ve never been interested in being King and although I took pride in my friendships and achievements I never tried to personally profit from them. I had no business interests in the region and simply wanted to see my neighbors be successful.
I firmly believe we are all in this together.
As such, I tried to focus on tending my own garden and lending what I have to help others.
Even though most of my social circles were largely women I’m not aware of ever sexualizing those friendships or knowingly and intentionally being verbally or sexually inappropriate. I tried to be as professional, supportive, and kind to people as I could be. Not for any reason other than those are my values.
I brought the same enthusiasm to my relationship with Painter. I simply wanted to do what I could do to help her be successful and comfortable. I believed in Painter and her art and always have.
However, I wasn’t perfect and my betrayal, secret-keeping, and lying are not my only mistakes laid upon my many faults.
Frankly, not everyone gets the same version of me. I have a lot of great qualities I will hide or reveal depending on the audience. For example, Chef and Star see more of my best qualities than associates. They also get to see some of my darker qualities too.
There are other qualities that can make me difficult and they show up at unpredictable, unconscious, and stressful moments. Some of those include:
- I can act prideful
- I can act with entitlement
- I can act short-tempered when I am tired or hungry
- I can act intolerant of both willful and unintended ignorance
- I can act flirty without intent
- I don’t always deal with conflict well
- I can act assumptive
- I can act stubbornly non-conforming
- I tend to act sympathetic and supportive of the underdog and the nonconformist position
- I can act snarky, sarcastic, and condescending
- I can act stubborn and rebellious
- I am not easy to supervise or manage
- I am not always sensitive to people’s feelings and other times I’m too sensitive
- I can act manipulative and sneaky instead of direct and open
- I talk when I should listen
- I can act needy and insecure
- I can act from a place of anxiety
- I can act as an enabler
- I don’t always express my needs and wants in a mature or honest way
- I am not always clear and can act evasive
- I have moments when I’m honest but not truthful
- I am not always good at separating what should be private and personal from secret and public.
- I take things personally
- I can be a thoughtless gift-giver
- I am fiercely protective of the people I love
- My unconscious and default position in response to criticism and contempt is defensiveness and stonewalling
- The last doughnut is mine
Every day is a practice of not letting the trauma inherent in Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) dictate my approach to life and love. I realize as I reflect and grow my relationship skillset the extent that ACEs are the unseen bedrock I built my life upon. Some rocks are harder than others.
I recognize that Painter got me at my best and most conscious. I repeated gave a great deal of thought to what I wanted my life with Painter to look like and then tried to force it to look that way. The result was I contributed tension along many of the fault lines in our relationship.
Eventually, the pressure built and the plates snapped and shook our lives. An insurmountable mountain rose between us.
Throughout our relationship I worked hard to hide important aspects of myself. In the process, I stowed away important and meaningful wants and needs to the caves below our home. I was in such a rush to get away from the constant sense of loneliness and discontent I made choices and took actions that would have been better not to make and not to take.
Knowing all this isn’t the same as knowing what to do about it. Believing I would do it differently today doesn’t mean it would have been better. Beatrix and Painter contributed their own tensions. It’s revisionist history to remake the experience with “what-if” or colored simply by my intentions.
The impact matters. How my choices shook the foundation of our relationship matters.
I did what I did. Beatrix did what she did. Painter did what she did. No one is at fault. We all acted in a way that made sense when we did it. We all cope with the skills we have, not always with the ones we want.
Sometimes those choices reveal a fracture in my rigid approach to living. I make choices along a fault that splits the life I want from the life I am living.
As a result, on more than one occasion the people that love me have to scramble over the hardest places to get to me. I can be as hard-hearted as I am hard-headed. In the experience of living and loving, not everyone will get the same version of me as I navigate my faults.
I can recognize not every person will, or can, make that climb.