TW: mentions self-harm and suicide
Thirty trips around the sun and I still have so much to learn. My ego feels like my biggest burden until I walk outside and am confronted with the chaos of right now. Writing helps the rumination move.
I feel stunned by the state of things and only-so able to engage with others. Even before we were all stuck inside for a year and a half, I'd get easily overwhelmed by company. Lucky for me, many of these times have been joyful, surrounded by people I've loved and respected, doing the things we love. However, I'm always aware of being watched and read, each of us programmed to look out for our own self-interests above all else. Sometimes this looks like envy that can be diffused with compassion and humility. Other times, it's past the point of ego defusion.
For much of my life, I walked through it believing I was invisible. It took some unraveling for me to see this and to realize how odd it was to feel as though I couldn't be seen. It was confrontational. The travel from battlefield to vantage point was as intense as the way hindsight hits you when you're safe enough to assess what you've traversed.
I used to be a runner and now I understand why. I see now that many of the people around me don't share similar lived experiences. As a young person, this wasn't always so clear. I attracted good friends with complicated families. Bound by our shared experiences and the unfolding of our friendships, some years passed before I'd realize that not everyone had weekend family brawls or breakdowns. There's something about the grip of white supremacy and the central valley sun that enlivens the devil in a patriarch. Growing up, I'd become accustomed to being beaten. I thought it was normal to get roughed up for things like not finishing my dinner. In my teenage years, I'd run to avoid the fights, heartbroken to have never been followed or cared for in the way that I'd deserved.
It's only been within the last few years that I've realized I was raised to believe I had a debt to pay down. Only now do I have the capacity to question where that came from. I still struggle with the reverb in my brain, ever patient to transmute loathsome voices that tell me I owe anything to anyone into deeper tones of self-sovereignty and reciprocity. Because I deserve peace.
In relationships, I've watched myself play out a variety of parts, sometimes astonishing myself that I'd managed to hurt someone despite my best efforts and other times clinging to people who made me feel terrible. I'd later learn how attachment styles have a habit of prompting us to play out old relationship patterns with new people.
As part of recovering from a relationship that closely resembled the power dynamics present between me and my father, I gave myself the space I needed to mend. I found people to grow and struggle with and a new home in Oakland.
When I was at my best, I met someone with whom I was deeply incompatible but who I grew to adore. For a while, the new love was sweet, but it soured after an early betrayal. I had the mind to break things off early, but not the heart to commit to it after entertaining pleas for forgiveness and a fresh start. I stayed, despite the relationship becoming progressively more strained. Each denial of emotional security led me to strip myself down of my needs in order to shape-shift into a version of myself that deserved love and nurturance. Eventually, I'd become emotionally dysregulated, unable to breathe or stop crying in public. They were unwilling to do any emotional processing around my trust issues with them but pushed me to close our relationship, like a bandaid for a bullet wound. I closed what was initially an open relationship and stopped seeing someone else I love. I regret this the most.
I started seeing a counselor who suggested I might have PTSD. They were right, and I worked through grad school, this relationship, and my full-time job while undergoing EMDR treatment at a trauma recovery clinic for over a year. During this time, my then-partner enacted a pattern of imposing semi-break-ups while still keeping in contact at some odd interval. We'd get back together, things would be good for some time, and then they'd get bad again.
Eventually, I'd leave for good. I'd grown tired of only being wanted on a whim, or when there weren't others around to distract. I'd recall that this relationship had led to a relapse in self-harm after 10+ years of no attempts, and more than one suicide scare. I'd recall the disdain my friends had for the person I was dating, the way they showed up for me when I was dangerously close to the edge. The silent treatments that lasted days, but especially the one that started in an airport with another friend and through a five-hour flight all because I was the only one sober enough to usher us all through security. I didn't realize I was never supposed to be in control.
I was not perfect, but you never deserved me.
I never deserved to be left alone to deal with the sexual frustrations of others who wanted you but who you wouldn't turn down yourself. From the time we were in your backyard and a stranger neither of us knew demanded to know why I "wouldn't share" to the woman who plays coy for attention and who doubled down on her pseudo-poly-enlightenment bullshit when I eventually confronted her for her indiscretion. Those who enable and participate in this sort of behavior would have me believe that I'm a prude who hasn't done enough emotional work on myself to get past compulsory monogamy. That's all untrue, though. I know it and so does the one who inspired me to break my own skin in search of a way out.