Yesterday, I cried.
As I drove over the state line that took me to the place where I will spend the next year, at least, calling home and ideally making it into an actual home, I cried. The me of 6 months ago, actually, even the me of a few weeks ago, would find that a bit much. Even as it was happening, a part of me said: “Stop being silly, this is not a big deal.”
But, it is a big deal. It’s not silly! That moment and everything with it has been a really big deal and I was overwhelmed, momentarily (this was not a pull to the side of the road and cry deal, I was still contained!), by how much I did not believe this would happen. Up until the moment my car physically crossed that border line and the scene from whatever action disaster flick of the day didn’t happen – you know, the moment where the ‘hero’ gets stopped by a blockade of cars or flagged down by a stream of police or a helicopter enters the scene and yells to protagonist “hey, we need you” and so you do not cross go and you’ve got to go do something else – yes, that didn’t happen.
That didn’t happen.
Up until less that 24 hours ago, a ‘thing’ had come up, similar to other things in the past which would have prevented me from moving forward, from passing go. So, if you think I’m exaggerating, I’m not, because something always happens that stops me.
Over the years, time after time, manipulation after mistake after being told “[this person] needs your help” and “this thing happened so it’s your ‘choice’ if you want to leave” or “we need you here so we won’t let you take this move” or “[fill in the blank]”, you actually just resign yourself to staying in a place. Or rather, staying in place. So, you fight to survive, that’s it, just treading water to keep your head above the water. Barely.
I have been fighting for so very, very long and in the last 6 months, I have fought harder than I ever have before because I think it was the first time, in a long time, I was actually fighting for myself. For who I am, for what I value, for the family I want to have, for my needs, and really, for my life.
When you’re a hammer, everything is a nail
If you know me in real life, then you know that I’m kind of a fighter. It’s just what I do. I fight for two things: 1) what I think is right, and 2) for the people that I care about. I will call a spade a spade, I don’t like bullies, and I have little-to-no patience for dithering. See the problem, decide how to fix the problem, act, if that doesn’t work, come back at it again from a different angle, and don’t take it personally.
That’s how you survive. And survival is great, don’t let anyone diminish being able to just survive. Sometimes that is all you can do.
But, there is a difference between survival and living. And if you spend all of your time in a survival state, if you spend all your time being the hammer, all you see are nails, and you hammer at everything. You just do what you do because you don’t, you can’t, see anything else or imagine there is another way, because for a really long time, this is all there has ever been.
Also, have you tried hammering in a hundred or a thousand nails? It gets tiring. I got tired. Day after month after year, nail after nail, mostly for other people and their needs, desires, and wants. In the process, I lost track of me and my needs, desires, and wants.
That’s what survival looks like: exhaustion.
I can haz cheezburger?
There is a classic, stupid meme which is always a picture of a perplexed cat going “I can haz cheezurger?” I don’t know where it came from and I don’t care – I also don’t like cats because they are all trying to kill me – but, that’s how I felt every time well-meaning friends and acquaintances and others told me things like: “Just do [x].”
Because, it’s not that easy. Because, not everyone in your life is onboard with you “just doing [x].” Because, you start to lose hope and stop believing when you have been thwarted too many times. Because, if it were that damn easy, have you met me? Don’t you think I would have done it already?!
No matter how strong, confident, or independent you think you are, you are not just you. I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but you, your thoughts and preferences for blue versus green versus East Coast versus West Coast versus Thai versus hot dogs versus spicy food versus potatoes, et al., didn’t just bubble forth from your own brain and genes in and of itself. We are a combination of our parents, siblings, cousins, friends, TV shows we watch, books we read, magazines we skim, songs we listen to — all of it, hodgepodged together with some flavor of what really is just you. That is “you”.
Therefore, it is easy for you, the actual you, to get lost in the shuffle. It gets noisy. And even if you manage to shut out the noise, and decide that this is what you want or that is what you need, all of those other things and people I mentioned? Too often, they fight back. Your parents fight back; your siblings fight back; your friends, the ideas you’ve absorbed from culture, all of it fights back especially if they row a different path than what they think you should be walking on.
The closer you get to where you need to be and the further away it is from what they think, the harder the fight gets.
This is why I cried
Because it happened.
I made it across the state line. I didn’t get stopped or turned around. I know I have made this sound very dramatic, I’ve a talent for that, but I do fully believe that I have been in a desperate fight for my life for months, and I won. It’s Heath Ledger at the end of the that terrible film A Knight’s Tale. It’s like lancing a painful boil… that has covered the entirety of your back for years.
It’s swimming and not just treading water.
It’s breathing and not just gasping for air.
I am so ready to lay down my arms. They are so tired and I am so tired and now I just want to rest, for a little bit, for awhile. I know that tomorrow will bring a fresh set of challenges, every day does, but at least they will be different ones and will hopefully require less hammering and more talking, less fighting and more living.
I just won the biggest fight of my life. What comes next?