Five Black Fridays.
Every year I take the time to reflect on what I have learned, practiced, and grieved over the last five seasons.
As I reread the four previous posts entitled Lessons from a Black Friday (links below) I recognize how much has changed and where I have sought to apply the lessons of growth in my current relationship. The current relationship lacks the anger, controlling reactions, and fawning found in my relationship with Beatrix and it lacks the quiet entitlement, rage, emotional avoidance and stonewalling of my relationship with Painter.
I recently said to my friend Jewels that I still think of Painter and after five years I don’t understand why I think of her at all. Jewels asked if it hurt and if I was in pain. The Truth as I understand it today, is I don’t hurt. I don’t miss Painter. Now when I think of Painter, I am usually rolling my eyes at her shameless behaviors and my nativity.
I’m not even angry about her self-serving smear campaign and how she used people as her flying monkeys to avoid adulting and abuse by proxy. I know I dodged a bullet.
The last year we were together, I repeatedly asked Painter to step up and partner emotionally, financially, and sexually. Contribute financially, stop taking food assistance, stop making me the heavy with the kids, get life and health insurance, and show up for the emotionally difficult conversations.
In my opinion, she did the exact opposite. Beatrix’s call simply gave her the excuse to do what she wanted to do anyway.
There was a time I didn’t understand that.
I imagined her decision to end the relationship was about me because in her smear campaign, Painter and her monkeys made it about me. I imagined Painter’s decision was about who I am and so for a while I sought reconciliation through change. However, reconciliation is a story built on a relationship mythology unless both partners own what is True about who they are inside and outside the relationship.
At the beginning my role with Painter was to be the Rescuer.
For example, when her trailer was stolen at an art show in Albuquerque I sat in my office in Columbus and arranged a U-Haul for her. When her truck got a flat tire outside of Chicago, I found her a mechanic to change it for her. I encouraged her to show up at an art gallery in Hudson and introduce herself to the owners. I bought her a cell phone so she and I could continue our affair outside of her husband’s prying eyes.
We were Partners in crime.
At the end of the relationship I am now the Villain as she imagines being harassed, stalked, and bullied perpetuating her stories of being a victim and allowing new Rescuers to step up to save Painter, the Damsel in Distress. That has always been her pattern. I imagined we were special and it was just Us; it wasn’t, we weren’t. I was just the next hero up to slay her dragons.
After we first split, I imagined she hid because of something I did. After some time I imagined she hid because of how she felt – entitled, victimish, and special. Then someone pointed out she is hiding because of how she behaved and used people and is avoiding consequences and being accountable.
Recently, I passed Painter in the local grocery store. She saw me. I saw her. She did what she always does. She hides. She did the body language thing she always does, she tilts her head down and away. Painter’s hair covers half of her face and she pretends people don’t exist.
There was a time, I thought it was sexy.
Now it gives me the creeps as I realize how easily I was emotionally and sexually manipulated. Today I realize Painter has always hidden and blame shifted. Painter gaslights herself because it gives her a sense of power, she never is at fault and she never has be accountable. Any discomfort is always someone else’s fault.
Her behavior has nothing to do with me.
When I talked to Chef about this, Chef said something that got me wondering what I would say to Painter if she wasn’t hiding and showed up. I’m not sure. I’ve already apologized and taken responsibility for my behaviors. I have held myself accountable and made myself accountable to others. I show up when it is hard and despite any discomfort.
I’ve consistently owned what is true and used that truth in pursuit of not simply change, but growth. That growth is demonstrated in my actions in my current relationships, towards Beatrix in our interactions, and towards Painter by letting her keep her own secrets.
I think given the opportunity to sit and have a conversation like emotionally secure functioning adults I would say the following: We were together and I love you. I will always cherish our moment together. I forgive the rest but won’t forget it either.
I’ll add one last bit so there is no confusion. I have a great life, full of wonderful moments.
Chef is an amazing Partner that shows up every day. We have built a fantastic business together that allows us to travel and explore our world. Chef doesn’t need or want a hero and as a result I have the luxury of owning what is true for me without her experiences getting in the way. Our relationship choices and model may seem confusing to outsiders who aren’t walking our path.
My relationship with Beatrix feels honest and carries hard truths. We both have individual work we are doing and to her credit, she has been willing to show up at moments and practice owning what is true about her.
The small circle of friendships I maintain are a constant practice in vulnerability and authenticity. I carry no shame and cannot be blackmailed specifically by the ill-informed and ill-intentioned. When I have passed a Flying Monkey at the coffee shop or store I hold my head high.
I know what I did, I know who I am. I live comfortably in the lonely contentment of the discomfort. No one can take that away from me.
Lessons from a Black Friday