On weakness and strength

I keep circling around this question of “why must I be weak for you to feel strong?” I posed it last week, but it sticks, maddeningly like soured, hardened caramel, to the inside of my skull.

The goal of this post is to scrape it off.

Life is not random. Neither the biological aspects of it, nor the emotional. We make patterns, we wear them into our brains, into our bodies, and then we very easily traverse them again and again, like footpaths that started off rocky, hilly and uneven, but are slowly stamped flat and easy.

I ask myself, and lose count, of how many times I have engaged in this pattern of relationship where it comes to an inevitable question, me posing it to the other person:

“Why, why must I be weak for you to feel strong?”

Or, as it has been played out…

  • I have already agreed with you on the way forward, of what benefit is it for me to denigrate my family, verbally or even in my head, to you? Why must you have total victory? Over body, heart, and mind?
  • All things are possible through compromise – why can you not compromise? Why must it be your way or the highway?
  • Why is it my time and my boundaries must be subject to your whims and your inability to trust? Have I ever given you reason to distrust?
  • Why must I sacrifice my gym days when you decide that I must be in your presence, but yours are off limits and verboten?
  • Does it really matter if I press my shirt Saturday night or Sunday morning? Neither of which timings have any impact on you?
  • Why do you throw up roadblocks to spend time with my friends, but insist that I spend time with yours?
  • You do not live in this house, you do not pay for this house, so why do I need your permission to make decisions on how I live in this house or even if I live in it or not?
  • Why does it matter to you if I keep the shades drawn in my room? I’m not in there during the day, you don’t go in there nor should you, and it impacts no one.

This list would never end because I have 20+ years of it. I was once told that my problem was that I didn’t know my place. My question in response: who decided this place, by what merits did it matter, and what would that person do in my shoes? (Well, they certainly wouldn’t submit, but they were banking on dominating me into an agreement that had no merits, had no real standing, and was purely a naked attempt to exert control).

I am violently allergic to that sort of fear-driven, insecure behavior.

And yet, time and time again, I find myself in this same place, with this same question, practically with tears in my eyes, if not a heart suffused with them, for I always love this person, always:

“Why, why must I be weak for you to feel strong?”

I never get to continue after that. The conversation always ends in this answer:

“Because this is just who I am. I can’t change. It’s just how it is.”

And I hate that answer because “I can’t” are words I was never allowed to use growing up. I have always believed, known it down to my tiniest bones, that we are capable of anything and everything. That there is nothing that is out of reach, not in this broad sense of I can’t count but I’m going to be a physicist, but in the more important things of the heart.

I have always known love to be a choice; compromise is a choice; trying is a choice. I have neither expected nor wanted perfection out of anyone on the other side of any table that I sit: that would be both impossible and a lie. No, all I have wanted was this:

“Because this is who I am, but I want to change. I am willing to try.”

And if that happened, I feel like sunlight would break through the clouds, that the harps would play, because then I could respond with the words that have been sealed up within me for so many years that they could only be spoken in a whisper:

“How can we be strong together? Because that is all I want, for us to be strong together.”

Maybe that is my place for “I can’t” because I can’t stop hoping that one day I get to that place, a place where we all get to be strong together.

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