Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Shadow Lands

Back from an hour and a half walk. It was drizzling and a bit cold, but not too bad. I love walking the streets at night. It's so still. I can think straight. I can walk in the middle of the road without worrying about traffic. I can startle raccoons. Toward the end of the walk, I realized I was passing the post office and decided to go in and check my PO box. Then I remembered. 

The last time I was there was the night that Debbie read the incriminating e-mail. The night my life irrevocably changed. 

The funny thing about that night is that I took both Henry and Pia on the walk to the post office. I couldn't help but notice that, after 10 awkward months, they'd finally reached a rhythm, a way of being together that worked. Nobody snapped at or chased the other. Everybody seemed happy to be out walking together. 

I'd entered the house all excited to tell Debbie about their newfound equilibrium, all happy that our little fur family was finally getting along, when I turned the corner to see her balling. 

Everything from that moment on has been painfully surreal. 


I realized tonight that while she's wrong about my intentions with the e-mails, Debbie might be onto something with at least some of her harsh judgements about me. 

Maybe, for instance, I've been too coddled in my life. Maybe not feeling the sting of bitter judgement for past transgressions has kept me from being vigilant about my actions. I don't know.

And it occurs to me that she's right about living in shadow. I've spent years really believing that I'd found a good balance between the dark and the light in myself. Mostly, I pride myself on swimming in the nuances of a world of grays, but still leaning toward white. Mostly, I tell myself that I acknowledge my dark side and maybe indulge it a bit now and again, but that really I feed the more decent and caring aspects of myself. Mostly, I think of myself, on balance, as a pretty decent person who does his best to treat others well and live fully.

But maybe I've been kidding myself. Maybe I cut myself all kinds of slack that I shouldn't. Maybe I'm the monster Debbie's made me out to be. Maybe she sees me more clearly than I see myself. 

I know I've lived more of my life in shadow than most. You spend the fourth through eighth years of your childhood being sodomized by a hillbilly neighbor and you tend towards shame and hiding. After a while, it becomes second nature. 

Even, apparently, after years of therapy, workshops, men's groups, vision quests, hallucinogenic medicines, and loving relationships. 

In my hubris—in my little dream world—I'd banked enough self work to take a year or two off. I'd come to such a good place in my mental, emotional, and spiritual health that I figured I could just chill for awhile and just be a normal fucking person. 

I figured wrong.

And I just had a serious, nasty object lesson as to why. 


Pete said...

Dude, you are being way to hard on yourself. I think Debbie is wrong. Stop beating yourself up already, OK?

Jeff Altemus, Align said...

Easier said than done sometimes. Thanks for the support.

Anonymous said...

So sorry to hear the pain in this, and it's important to remember we all come into any relationship with baggage. It's how we are willing to respect and handle each other's baggage in that relationship, isn't it? Clearly there are sensitivities and insecurities you are dealing with, as was she in that relationship. Everyone has them in any relationship.

Problem was, the mistake that might seem small in the scheme of that situation hit like a mack truck into her zone of insecurity and self-worth. It's too bad the mistake had been a different one.

It's not always about me, or you, or her. It is, in my belief, always about "us" though. Unfortunately, the focus is back to everyone trying to heal their own selves and we've lost the celebration of your love.

My heart goes out to you both.

Jeff Altemus, Align said...

Yeah, I get it. Thanks. Who are you?