For years I have envisioned myself rocking on a porch and drinking coffee in the middle of the mountains (#65). I look out at the horizon and listen to the birds chirp, and I feel a deep and abiding sense of peace. I breathe deeply, inhale slowly and think sparingly. I have learned to appreciate the small pleasures in life -- a clear day, a hot cup of coffee and a few moments of silence and peace. I have learned not to hurry, worry or want anything of my control. I have learned to love, give back, relax and give 100% to my craft. I have learned that life is what I make of it. I have learned that difficulty is what it is. And I have learned to grow softer and yet stronger and more resilient in light of it. I have learned to be grateful for any opportunity to sit beside the fireplace in winter and walk along the beach in the summer...
I'm proud of that vision of myself, because I think it's who I am at my core.
But I don't want to wait until I'm older and wiser to make that vision a reality; I want it to be a reality today. I have chased that vision for years but only recently have realized that my presence of mind in it is more important than my physical location. I don't want to live in the pain and fear of this moment. I never thought I could be as hurt as I am that I have given so much and that it is being accepted so lackadaisically. As if you deserve it. As if your sadness warrants your cruelty. As if you expect it. It's heartbreaking, even if it isn't the message you intend to send. It is mean. It is heartless. And it has threatened to derail me. But I won't let it.
I know that you are in the throes of despair; that you can't imagine your life in the next five years or even five minutes; that you're pursuing base desires because anything more complicated would leave you unraveled; that your pain runs deep. There is little doubt that you are grieving and that this isn't about me. You are, and it never will be. But there is also little doubt that this pattern of behavior isn't sustainable. It's destructive. It's corrosive of who you are at your core, which I think also wants to be sitting on a mountainside front porch drinking coffee. And it's addictive. It's always "on to the next group" because you've spent too much time with this one; you're invested. If you stay you're going to have to confront that which you're running from. You're going to have to admit that everything isn't okay. Better that you avoid that predicament. Better that you see the next group and have the next beer so that you can answer "How are you?" with "Okay." Better that you escape.
If these are your choices, you must accept the consequences of making them. Of shoving a finger in the face of those who've helped you along the way. Of always focusing on yourself. Of always looking the other way when someone else is suffering. Of erecting more walls around your pain and avoiding every one of those sites of internal ache. Of living your life in isolation.
I know that your heart is sick. That you are a victim of trauma and afflicted with untreated grief. That your mind is a fog as a result of it. That your body is paying the price of all of it. That you probably don't want to be this sick. That in theory you want to be well. But I also know that you refuse to admit that it can be treated. That you believe that the absence and destruction of people and things has created a hole in your heart that can never go away. But I don't believe that. I believe you have a choice as to how to respond to that damage. A choice to admit it, accept it and begin the process of recovering from it.
I also believe that no one can make that choice but you. That every day you choose not to make it, it gets harder to do. That you are wrong in believing, maybe unconsciously, that choosing to get help is a sign of weakness. It takes great courage and strength, neither of which you are currently exhibiting by constantly looking for a chance to escape. What you are being at this moment is selfish and, in some ways, vindictive. You are daring me to get angry. Testing my limits. Hoping I'll leave so that you can say, "See? All it took was a bad couple of months and you were looking for the exit. How could we do 60 years?" Trying to provoke me. Acting like a selfish jackass who gets a kick out of being childish. Looking for me to allow you to be the victim. But you aren't. And you can keep trying, but it's not going to happen. I'm not going to give you that satisfaction. Sure, I will give you the time and space you need to prove this is just a destructive phase. I will give you a chance to work through it. But if it turns out not to be okay because you won't do the work, that is your problem. I will then return your things, calmly, and set about making my image of life a reality. And I will do so with those who have made the choice not to escape but to enjoy life and take responsibility for their happiness, despite their suffering.
Until then I'll be sitting on a figurative rocking chair on an imaginary mountainside porch, breathing slowly and drinking coffee.
I will be on vacation next week, traveling to sites yet unseen. I'm delighted, and I can't wait to report back on it! I'll be tweeting any reminders to take stock and give thanks that I encounter along the way, but I will be on hiatus until Monday, August 29th. I wish you were coming with me but wish you great peace and joy in the meantime.