Forgive or Forget?

“I’ve forgotten all the reasons I loved you, ’till someone tells me that you rang. The memories are hazy now. I don’t recall at all. There’s nothing. There’s nothing there, just me. And I don’t understand why.” ~Phil Collins

I’ve forgotten so many things over the course of my 41 years of life on this earth, some that I wanted desperately to forget, and others that I wanted desperately to save from extinction. But they all went just the same — in time. Because time is the ultimate equalizer in all things, isn’t it?

It’s always been interesting to me when people say they never forget. That means they just hang on like a dog with a bone, struggling to keep grip while everything around them disintegrates. In fact, it often means that whatever they are hanging onto cut so bone deep that they feel they can’t let it go.

Now forgiveness — that’s another animal altogether. It means we aren’t forgetting, but we are moving on. It’s the world of second chances that exists specifically because we will it to be. It’s where the saying that “It happens twice, shame on me” happens to live. Some people just aren’t hardwired to forgive, though. They like to say whatever happened was “unforgivable,” but what they really mean to say is that they don’t want to forgive. Continue reading “Forgive or Forget?”

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Let’s Hurt Tonight

“Oh, I know that this love is pain, but we can’t cut it from out these veins, no.” ~OneRepublic

im-just-trying-to-avoid-being-hurt-again-quote-1I’m in pain. I guess it’s time I admit that to myself after all this time. Because I’ve been in pain for a very long time. Because I channel it differently, though, it wouldn’t have been easy for you to see it. So I don’t blame you for not noticing. I blame me for being that good of an actor. But every actor has to leave the stage at some point, and this is my time. Because I’m in pain, and I need another outlet.

My father had a stroke a few days ago, and the news of it hit me like a sledgehammer, but that is not the pain I spoke of before. That pain came a long time ago, when he disappeared from my life. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not exclusively blaming him — far from it. I’m taking responsibility for my own part after the fact. It cut me to the very core when he left, when he took off, first emotionally, and then physically. But I smiled. I said I would see him soon, that I would visit often, and he said the same.

That didn’t happen, for many reasons. Then my life happened. It exploded into many different offshoots, and I was able to bury myself in all of that, to hold my breath while he did whatever he was doing. I don’t think any of it would have mattered, because it was obvious he too had moved on, that the mantle of father was a coat he wore twice a year. It was like the act of moving on physically was the dividing line. There were no longer any excuses to pretend a relationship.

And I hurt. I hurt because I depended on him to make those things right, because to me it was a two-person effort and my mother was straining at the seams doing everything for us, as she had always done. I hurt because it seemed like no matter how many times I called him, how many plans he made for coming up, that nothing mattered. Because there were always the excuses, the other things that materialized that were more important than me, that were more important than us.

All this while I burned inside. Not a white hot anger, but a slow burn, a crackling and withering heat that turned that part of my heart to ashes.

“I know you’re feeling insane. Tell me something that I can explain.”

What hurt the most were all the promises. Perhaps if he had just left it alone, if he had allowed me to stop missing him the wound would have been cauterized, cut off from that part of me that mattered. But he couldn’t bring himself to go that way, to allow me to stop hoping, which was so much worse. And I guess I was always a glutton for punishment because I would put my misplaced faith in him time and again. I opened the door time and again, just to have it closed once more in my face.

So this stroke, the call that told me the news, it hit me just as hard as if I had seen him yesterday. Because even now I can’t close off that part of myself. Even now I see a reunion where he will realize how much he misses me, where he will become that perfect father I always wanted him to be, or at least a reasonable facsimile of such. Even now I have these pie in the sky ideas of what my father should be and could be, those old wounds once scabbed over bleeding again.

992ccde83c279b535e65281153600837Someone asked me how I feel, and the word that keeps coming back to me is confused. I guess I didn’t realize how much I still want those things, how much I felt I had closed myself off but I really hadn’t. When I thought in that moment that he could have died, that he could still die, it hit me hard like concrete. And this pain, I realize it will always be with me. I will always hurt when I think of those wasted years, all those missed opportunities, all the excuses and misplaced trust.

Because I love my father. After all of this, after all this time, I love him. Maybe it’s because I’ve been conditioned by society to love him, or maybe it’s just that’s part of my nature, or maybe it’s even as simple as biology. I don’t know, and I guess in the end it doesn’t even matter. My heart broke when I got the news, which says something more profound than words and contrivance ever could.

So this pain, this hurt that I’ve lived with for three quarters of my life, it’s here to stay. It means that I’m still alive, that I have a lot to be thankful for, but that my life is not securely mine, that it belongs to this heart of mine too, and to the people who fill it, for better or worse. He’s hopefully coming home from the hospital today, and I will be trying to find a flight to get down there, because that’s who I am.

And life is too short. So let’s hurt tonight.

Sam

Being “Other”

“I, too, feel different in the world I live in. Most girls my age are married and have children. I don’t have either. It’s hard feeling you belong to a group of friends when everyone is different in that regard. I feel as though I’m the black person living in a world of white people.”

59349-Don-t-Be-Afraid-Of-Being-DifferentI spend so much time thinking about black and white that I forget there are so many other colors out there, more specifically so many different ways to feel like you’re an outsider in a world where it seems as if everyone else is inside. As a society we make it pretty plain that there are norms, and anything outside of the norm is to be ostracized. WE should feel embarrassed when we don’t fit neatly into the boxes crafted for us. WE should think less of ourselves for being “other.”

In turn WE convince ourselves that they’re right, that we should feel sorry for ourselves, that we aren’t normal. We look behind our backs at others who are whispering and we assume they must be whispering about us. And it’s not our faults that we’ve been programmed this way. After all, we’re only human. But just because we understand that we’ve been conditioned doesn’t make it any easier to live in this world.

Women are still expected to settle down at some point, to decided on a mate and have kids. In fact, even professional women are prejudiced against because they have ovaries and ticking biological clocks, getting passed over for promotions in fear that they will at one point be gone on maternity leave.

Once the kids do arrive these new mothers are expected to put everything else they love and appreciate about themselves on the back burner because the kid is supposed to completely dominate their lives now. They are mother. Hear them roar. In the opposite respect, men aren’t expected to drop their own personal identity when they become fathers. It’s this pressure (and double standard) that makes women feel inadequate in their own world, to feel deprived of their own individual selves.

And, you know, even if as a woman you don’t want that life, if you’re not interested in settling down and having kids, you’re made to feel bad about yourself for having different goals for your life. That’s when it’s time to search yourself. Do you really want all of that for you, or do you want it because you want to fit in? Do you want it so you won’t feel judged by women who are insecure with themselves and with their own place in society, who need validation by following prescribed paths for females?

It’s not black and white, either, which is the real problem. It’s not like being a black person living in a world of white people. It’s really like being a deaf person in the midst of people who are blind. We all have our insecurities. We all want to fit in with others, to have a place where we feel safe and loved for who we are. It’s just hard to figure it all out, especially when we don’t fit the norm for wherever we are, or for our society as a whole. And the baggage we carry along with us is getting heavier by the year.

Perhaps it’s time we shut our eyes and pretend we are blind. Maybe then we might be able to focus on what we really want, on what will make us whole.

Sam

The Apologist, Part 3

“I live a simple life. Unfettered by complex sweets. You think this isn’t me? Don’t be weak. There I go. I’m so sorry.” ~R.E.M.

im-sorry-quotes-i-m-not-perfect-i-make-mistakesI say sorry all the time, but I hardly ever actually mean it. It’s become a reflex, a placeholder that fills the space when I feel judged and I want the feeling to pass. There’s nothing quite like saying sorry and watching the other person’s face soften. It’s a rush, I guess I would say, even if I have no idea what I should even feel sorry for.

Please, and thank you. Remember those? I learned them early on too, and they too became reflexes. Someone did something for me, and if I didn’t say thank you I would hear it from my mother. It would be later, and in private, but I would still hear it, so I said thank you. If I wanted something and I didn’t say please it was going to be a cold day in my house when my mom lit into me.

And sorry was the same, except that it wasn’t. At least for please and thank you I knew the behavioral expectation was legitimate. I knew that please went along with wanting something, and thank you went along with getting something, but sorry was a conundrum because there were no measurable signals that I could count on to alert me when one was necessary.

Sorry pretty quickly became all about reading people. If my mother gave me the “look” I knew a sorry was in order, and pretty quickly. And it had to sound sincere or the question would follow: “What are you sorry for?” To which I would have to find an answer or the sorry became irrelevant. And the answer to that question could never be “I’m sorry for whatever you think I should be sorry for,” or a spanking was in order. I worked hard to avoid the spanking at all costs.

Now, though, while sorry is still about reading people, it’s become even more about reading situations. Sometimes a sorry can go a long way if the situation calls for one, regardless of the person who expects the apology. And a sorry when someone isn’t expecting one can be like Christmas — for them, and for me. A written sorry is better than a spoken one, but only if it’s handwritten, not typed or texted. Handwritten sorrys are the equivalent of candy and roses these days.

But that’s not how it should be, is it? A sorry should go a long way because of the actual emotion behind it. A sorry would mean more if I took time to ask what it was that I really did wrong because saying sorry once and thinking the situation’s over is being naive. We all have patterns of behavior, and the only way to break those patterns is to understand that we’re caught in them, to recognize them for what they are and to kill them dead. So before I say sorry the next time I feel the situation coming on I’m going to ask what I did wrong so I can fix it.

Because a sorry isn’t as good when it’s missing an explanation.  At least for me.

Sam

Sex Isn’t Love

“Damn, is that all I get from you? ‘Bout to give me an attitude. You need to make love to me like you don’t love me.” ~Janet

love_vector_drawings-otherWhen I was 16 I thought sex was love. Oh, hell, when I was 21 I still thought sex was love. Because both sex and love were so far out of my reach I found them both to be impossible, two sides of the same coin that was constantly flipping but never landing on either heads or tails. Sex was this physical thing, a squirming entity that couldn’t be wrestled down, and love was an emotional turmoil that was best left for others, namely adults. So sex and love and everything else anywhere near that territory was off limits for me.

That of course didn’t stop me from being curious. I did everything you can expect a teenage boy who had random access to the internet to do, and it was like a whole other world opened up before my eyes. I didn’t love those women but I sure did want to do things to them that wasn’t very Christian. Did that make me a bad person? A sex fiend? A (gasp) DEVIANT? I wanted to make sense of it, but I wasn’t going to talk to my mom about it. It was hard enough for me to talk to my mom when I needed a new kind of underwear, much less to discuss those kinds of thoughts that go through a teenage boy’s mind. And my dad, well, he was less than around. So I did more searches.

At the time things were pretty rudimentary on the web, a place where search engines like Alta Vista and Lycos thrived, but they didn’t give me any kind of real information on anything. They filtered through the 20 explanations available and gave me almost nothing in return. Any searches for “sex” only turned up the same photos I already had running through my mind, and offered nothing in the way of explaining the urges I had. It was times like those when I wished I had some kind of health class, but I had something better in some ways. I had an older friend who told me how he viewed sex and love.

“Sex is this thing that everyone says is amazing, but it’s only really amazing when you’re with someone you love. Of course love is pretty much impossible,” he told me, and I believed him. Why wouldn’t I? It was only later that I found out he was wrong, that sex could be enjoyable with a random person in the subway, that it was deeper with someone you love, but that it didn’t have to be this tandem bike you rode together with your lover. Love could enhance sex, and sex could enhance love, but both could exist apart from each other, and that was okay. I didn’t learn that until after I’d had sex for the first time. Maybe it’s true that you need to experience some things to really be able to talk about them.

So sex isn’t love. You can look those words up on Bing now, and you can find out that feelings are involved in both, that the craving for both can consume people whole, but they’re not the same. And that’s okay.

Sam

Default Settings

Every one of us has a default setting. It’s who we are when the cameras stop rolling, when the barkers have gone home and the circus is all tucked in for the long, cold night. When no one is watching, and we are safe in our own little cocoons, that’s when our real selves emerge, a bit rumpled but no less for wear than when we shoved them down and told them to be quiet.

I imagine it’s like when the power goes out and we have to set all our circuitry up again. But while we’re blinking “12:00” what do we really show? Are we the same people we show to the world on a daily basis? Or are we more vulnerable, more likely to explode, more judgmental than the selves we show to others? But who we are when no one else is watching — that is our real self, so we should pay close attention.

I like to play Snoop Dogg and rap along. Yes, I know I’m a horrible rapper, but it’s what I do. I only do it, though, when I’m alone. It has nothing to do with thinking that I’ll be judged by others, or with keeping the lyrics away from my young children. It’s embarrassing. I’ll admit that to you right now. I love the music, but it’s embarrassing the words that are often said. But I have absolutely no problem when I’m alone repeating them, screaming them at the top of my lungs and smiling at the same time.

When I’m alone I do many things that I wouldn’t when in front of others. You might not even recognize me if you snuck up on me unaware when I’m alone. I wear many masks — most for perceived protection — that aren’t often off, for fear that others won’t like what they see. I recognize them now for what they are, but I still can’t seem to get rid of them, to place them in a box and put the lid on tightly.

Maybe I shouldn’t.

Sam

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