What a change the past year has brought, both personally and globally, as we see a range of new challenges and opportunities present themselves.
The world is in a state of crisis, burdened with not only a deadly pandemic, but a complete failure of many leaders to truly acknowledge and deal with the problem and keep their citizens safe. With a death toll nearing 200,000 here in the US, and infection rates climbing, the future appears bleak at times.
At the same time, we are experiencing here in America a deep and long-overdue identity crisis, as we begin to reckon with our past and the toxic elements of that past that persist today. We are coming to face the racism, sexism, and overt selfishness and greed upon which this country was built, juxtaposed against the contrasting narrative that has been told to hide these ugly truths.
Not only do these events challenge us directly in terms of the threats to our physical health and wellness, but they simultaneously lay out a minefield of emotional, mental, and spiritual traps for us to fall into, should we allow ourselves to lean on the unhealthy and often outright toxic coping mechanisms we have adopted as we grew up in a world with parents, leaders, and others who we look to for guidance who have outright failed in modeling and passing down true wisdom and healthy behaviors. Failing to face their own demons, we now find ourselves overwhelmed and poorly equipped to handle many of the day-to-day stresses as they only pile on to the generational, legacy curses that still affect our daily lives.
The message in all of this is clear and always has been, though we may justify and try to ignore it: we are on our own. The government of the United States has clearly shown that economic success, personal fame, and power, whether acquired legitimately or through ill-means, are far more important than the health, well-being, and lives in the individuals that make up the nation, particularly those who have been marginalized and outright abused for generations. We do not matter to those whose job it is to protect and govern us. This is more than apparent in the government’s response, or lack thereof, to the current pandemic, the dismissive and/or combative response to the BIPOC voices crying out for justice and equality, and the not-so-subtle dog-whistle politics that persist like the very virus that threatens us now, within the campaign speeches, policies, and social media posts. This is a hard truth, but this is a truth we must acknowledge and accept if we are to move forward.
This notion is not new, and, as I have found with most of life, it is only a macro-scale representation of the battle I believe is playing out in the hearts and souls of every one of us. I have struggled now for over a year with my mental and emotional health, drifting in and out of depression and addiction, each time justifying and re-framing the situation in my head just right so as to allow myself to move forward without ever really addressing the underlying problems. I hit rock bottom, many times, aware of my trajectory, yet still in denial. Why did I do this? I had tools, resources, support networks – anything and everything I could ever need – yet, when the time came, it wasn’t the world that failed me, it was me that failed myself. Masked by delusion, these simple truths disappeared into a fog, yet looking back, I can clearly see that I had (have) created a perfect reproduction of the conflicts occurring in the world at large within my own head, heart, and soul. I had stopped caring for myself, consumed by a desire for more – more status, more power, more wealth. My health was no longer a priority, and in fact, I had subconsciously acknowledged this and, in a classic move of self-destruction, begun to actively seek my own demise, unable to reconcile my internal version of reality with the truth.
I likely would have continued this cycle, spiraling further and further down until any chance of redemption was lost, were it not for a great personal challenge, one which pales in comparison to all that is occurring now and seems trivial given the global state of affairs, but which affected me more deeply and permanently than anything that has come before.
As many of you are aware, there is someone in my life who means more to me than I can ever truly record or even comprehend. I became close to Blackbird only weeks after separating from my wife at the time, freshly hurt and ready to be hurt again. Our romance, documented in the many poems and pieces of prose on this blog, quickly blossomed and we found ourselves deep in love. We bonded, began to integrate our lives, and set out the groundwork for a meaningful and healthy relationship, based on support and mutual healing.
Unfortunately, as so often is the case, a retrospective analysis would show that, despite best intentions and honest efforts, we were stumbling blind, acting off of learned behaviors and past traumas, many of which we had yet to even acknowledge, let alone understand and control. And so, our blossoming romance mutated into an uncontrollable tangle of past and present, future and meta-conceptual ideology. Denial only fueled this overgrowth, as we desperately sought to “fix” our obviously toxic and unsustainable relationship, sinking into co-dependency.
In Spring of 2019, recognizing, to a limited degree, the toxicity of our relationship as a result of an inevitable breakdown in our communication, we parted ways painfully and without true mutual understanding. Yet like magnets, we were drawn together again and again, our relationship steeped in mutually-frustrating ambiguity, once again masked by seemingly comforting ideas like an open relationship or an ill-defined partnership. We both floundered, uncertain and exhausted.
Then, weeks ago, an event tore through the veil, exposing the truth of ourselves and of the situation. There is nothing to gain by recalling the details here, but suffice to say, I was heartbroken by what I perceived as a breach of trust, though, precipitated by misunderstanding and ambiguity I helped to foster, the truth was far more complex.
In a situation such as this, there were precedents for how to react. An easy out would be anger – to lash out and seek revenge. Another option, in line with both of our histories, would be to resort to avoidance – to simply tune out and shut down, hiding from reality, both/either physically, mentally, or emotionally. Or perhaps a nice, gentle decline into depression, allowing the cool waters of sadness to wash over the pain and hide them beneath layers of reasoning, as so many past traumas had been concealed.
Amazingly, none of these options presented themselves. Instead, what happened was nothing short of miraculous. The event served as a wake-up call. Suddenly, painfully, I was flooded with an awareness of my own actions, my own decisions or lack therof that led to where we stand now. Panic attacks ensued, and chronic anxiety, to which I had always been a spectator, became a daily presence. Once again, this was an excellent opportunity for denial, the cataclysm I had been seeking for so long, a reason to give up. But give up, we did not.
Instead, what followed was an honest and extremely personal analysis and acknowledgement of truths which had remained dormant for years. We began to own our behaviors, facing fears and fighting, desperately, to seek resolution, uncertain of our ability to navigate the conflict with our relationship in tact, but mutually willing to try, if only for the personal progress and healing that was within reach. I started talking with family, friends, acquaintances, truthfully and without pretense, seeking only to understand and move forward. We spent sleepless nights in dialogue, often with me sharing relentlessly and perhaps overwhelmingly the processing I had been doing and seeking input and sharing just the same. We talked, we held each other, we cried, and we trudged our way through our daily lives, exhausted, but encouraged by the other’s genuine efforts.
Through this dialogue and reflection, not only were we able to identify and address many of the undercurrents that had been present in our relationship for years, hidden deep beneath the calm waters of the stories we told ourselves and each other, but I can personally say I was able to make unbelievable progress in terms of my own well-being and growth. I began to follow-through on so many of the actions I had let fall to the wayside, re-entering therapy, setting appointments for my health, and continuously acknowledging and working to address my own behaviors and toxicity.
I recognize now the peril of cyclical, generational behavior, and the relative ease with which we are able to overlook and therefore perpetuate these cycles. I am extremely grateful for and equally proud of the fact that, though we may have failed overall to leverage our support resources leading up to the event, once the moment came, we were able to finally cobble together enough courage and strength to face our problems head-on. Without this, the cycle may have only continued or even accelerated. Instead, with honest accountability and dialogue, we were able to not only resolve the ongoing issue, but hopefully put in place behaviors that may serve to finally break the bonds left tight around us by those who failed to make the right decisions in the past, ourselves included.
As mentioned earlier, I see this personal crisis as much more than just a spat between lovers. I see our story as a reflection of the overarching crisis we now face as a nation, as a people, and as a species. We have a long and painful history to reckon with, filled with abuse, toxicity, and miscommunication. The world is at a crossroads, where we can do as those before us have so often done and seek to assuage our hearts with lies and manipulation, pointing to the failures of others but denying our part in the problem. We can blame each other, point fingers, and react defensively when our flaws are called out. This, paradoxically, would be the easiest solution. Or, we can begin to actually talk, to pursue truth and real justice, to untangle the millennia of context that has created the circumstances we find ourselves in now.
I hope, and pray, that we might be able to do the work that is needed. For years, we have neglected the hard work, deceiving ourselves into thinking we were moving forward with nationalistic messages of equality and peace, comforting recollections of history with all of the edges smoothed so as not to break the skin, and a system of control and manipulation that serves to keep everyone just pacified enough so as to blind them from the pain and injustice that pervades daily life. It is time to acknowledge this and make amends, not as an act of charity for those who are most vocal now, or as a selfish act to assuage demands that we might return to status quo, but as an honest introspection that has the potential to cascade healing and relief out to everyone, to all of us who are so tired of living a life that inherently lacks a real and tangible integrity and purpose, whether we admit/acknowledge it or not.
I titled this post Changes. Not only does that title reflect the changes that are occurring in life, it also reflects my desire to make changes in my own. I want to be better. I want to be whole, to live and love and be the best person I can be. So, I have several changes that I would like to formalize here, to commit to with a genuine heart, knowing I may very well fail, but giving it my absolute best and continuing to try again when I notice myself slipping, without judgement.
- I commit to do my part to support and engage in healthy and productive dialogue, as well as real change, on matters of equality and justice in the United States. Black Lives Matter. This does not negate the value of any other lives, but rather brings to the forefront the pain and anguish of a people who are suffering as a result of decisions made by those from whom I have acquired an inherent privilege.
- I commit to a relationship with the love of my life, my darling Amethyst, sweet and caring Blackbird, the one and only MJSC. I do not know what the future holds, but I have come to realize how truly rare and precious you are, how insignificant all material possessions and status symbols are next to someone who loves me and is willing to work with me to build a life. I will fight for us. I will give this my all.
- I commit to honestly and unflinchingly acknowledging and seeking help for my unhealthy behaviors. I recognize that my behaviors are my responsibility. Only I can choose how I react and behave, and I cannot control or even truly understand the behaviors of others. I can be supportive and loving and show patience, but I must take care of myself first to care for others.
- I will be posting more often on this blog, and will not limit myself exclusively to poetry and prose. Those mediums had their place, and I hope to continue with my work, but I also would like to expand and write articles, reviews, and much more.
- Finally, I reject the pursuit of physical/material/status-based happiness. I have truly come to realize how none of this can ever bring contentment, and in reality, how the pursuit of such things only seeks to detract from the real beauty and joys of life, found through connection with ourselves, our spirituality, and those around us.
Thank you to everyone who has read this, and who continues to support me despite my silence for the past months/year. I am so grateful for all of you; I love you so much.