I am in the long game of grief. From birth to about 22, I was a kid. When I moved out, I was swimming without water wings. I got married and build a lot of familial and social ties. In 2015, I started the year with a wife and a family. In a year, all I had left was daughter. One relative away from having no family feels like a really fear-inspiring place. All I have to do is be the less admirable version of myself to be all alone. This is the best time in my life to capitulate and do what it takes to earn the affection of others. It gets even less comfortable: my main job is now in the same building with the ex-wife and ex-mother-in-law and all of their loyal drones. I did reach out for formal help. That took me to a surprising place. While I thought that practicing my self will was destructive, but through counseling, I have started to learn that it’s a sign of health. Even when the stakes are high, that I stay true to myself and my autonomy– that’s not what I would have done in the past. I would have changed and folded.
Previously, I tried to make some peace with the people who harmed and abused me. I liken that attempt at normalization to worm eating. It’s protein. Lots of things eat worms. Some people eat worms for money. Ultimately, I was done eating worms. I told the ex, some of the truth. She annoyed me. It wasn’t that I hated her or loved her or missed her. She annoyed me. She was like the annoying hanger-on at a party that wasn’t empirically objectionable, but you always felt better when they were gone. You’re never enchanted with the anecdotes or their desperate attempts to earn attention. Until I told her to get lost, I couldn’t get onto the third phase of my life: emancipation.
Emancipation looks like packing my own bags, carrying my own luggage and knowing where to take it. I closed chapters of my life and technically lost stuff. I lost people. I turfed people. I turfed people who sided with the ex-wife. They may say that they don’t take sides, but in being non-partisan, they’re being partisan. It’s the same mindset behind giving Trump the benefit of the doubt. You can understand it, but you don’t have to accept it or those who espouse the mindset. That crucible of loss has been painful, but it had to happen. When I was in the first two phases of my life, I let other people set my objectives for me. By handing over my fate, I could hand off the blame too. I didn’t fail because of what I did, but because of what other people made me do. Screw that. We all control our fate. We all surrender our own destinies. A friend told me this story almost 30 years ago:
She was driving her pickup in Vancouver one night. At a stop light, a guy hopped into her passenger seat. He produced a knife. He told her to drive. He shared that he was going to rape her and that doing what he said was the only way she could get out of this alive. She did some quick math. She stepped on the gas. The pickup accelerated. Her wouldbe assailant threatened her and held the knife to her neck. He demanded that she stop. She said, “I’m not going to stop, but I am going to wrap this pickup around that telephone pole down there.” She steered towards the pole with no sign of stopping. The rapist bailed out of the pickup, tucked and rolled; and took his chances with the asphalt instead of the pole. She veered off and lived to tell the tale.
She didn’t surrender her destiny when the stakes were so high. Why should I?
In the last 26 months, I’ve broken some eggs, but I have some data to work with.