27 March 2015
Days, sometimes weeks, go by when I don’t think about him. He is no longer part of my daily existence. But then, in innocuous conversations with friends, his tentacles work their way into my mouth, and before I know it I’m recounting some dead and gone moment. It begins as a tale of a slight or offense, and ends up spilling out in an ocean of outrage.
How is it that my indifference can spark instantaneously into anger so visceral?
I recognize the paradox, even as my friends lean forward and gently observe: “Wow, Colleen, you still hold lots of anger inside.”
I do, and yet I don’t, and then in a rush the truth hits me. I even define it: “It’s not him I despise, but myself. I can’t forgive myself for letting life play out how it did. I can’t come to terms with my choices, or those fallow periods where I neglected to make any choices.”
There it is in a nutshell: I maintain relationships long past their expiration date.
And it wasn’t just him, but a whole series of people who went bad, like a bottle of milk that used to sweeten my cereal but has curdled and gone sour. Unscrewing the top and pouring it out is an unpleasant task. Sometimes it’s easier to put it away.
My pride lies at the core of it all. To admit the end of a long-term connection is to admit half the failure. Even if they, and not I, have driven our relationship to the brink of severance, I will stand at that brink for a very long time before taking the leap. I question myself: How did I contribute? How might I have done better? We share lots of history…does it really have to go down this way?
Or: why did I even forge this connection? I should have known better, especially since I’ve previously traveled this path. Damn my weak instincts, and damn my pride for thinking I could mold that person enough to make the bond work.
So I use the other party as a proxy for the anger I feel toward myself.
How easy it would be to take that bottle of sour milk and pour it right down the drain. But disposing of it takes work. I curl my lip at the chunks that slip out. I gag on the reek of the decomposed fat. Rinsing the bottle, purging myself of every last unwholesome drop requires determination.
Whether or not I ought to have begun a particular relationship, whether or not I maintained it long beyond reason, no longer matters. What matters in the long run is who I am now. What matters is how I proceed from this point. I need to dig deep into the cluttered ice box of my mind and empty those perishables, pour them out along with the anger and hurt pride. Pour them all down the drain and forgive myself for preserving the dregs of my failures.
I need to reach for the place where I’m able to sit with my friends and recount my past in matter-of-fact terms. I need to break open that paradox and live the indifference I claim to possess.
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