Wednesday, April 6, 2011

How the Mighty Have Fallen

I'd been a master at carefully packaging the person that I presented to the world including the people that I counted as my closest friends and confidants. There was usually surprise when I told someone what had been happening. No one suspected the depth of my unhappiness, despondence and depression and that I had slowly been robbed of my self-esteem and self-worth.

But then something happened and I showed a glimpse of what I had been hiding inside. From that very small lapse two very special, wonderful people noticed and sent messages to check in on me. It was one of the nicest things that anyone had ever done. Two people, that at the time were not my closest friends, saw something and they just wanted to make sure that I was both all right and that I knew they were there if I wasn't.

When I first started my slide I'd  been hyper-aware of putting up the front that all was fine and then once I admitted to myself that I wasn't all right I began improving and saw the value in the power of positive thinking. I'd been very careful what I posted in the world of social media to keep up the act; I didn't want to be one of "those" people that never had anything positive or humorous to say even when inside I felt neither uplifted nor funny. But then two things happened that took me by surprise and all the progress that I made was sidetracked and the cracks began to show and that was what two very astute women noticed.

I was positive that I was on the right path for the first time in a long time. I was feeling good about things, including myself. I was beginning to feel like a person again. And then I had what can best be termed a misunderstanding with a very dear friend and it threw me for a loop. A few days later news was delivered that someone that I loved likely had cancer. So while I was able to disguise things for so long this is what tested my acting skills. This is what their very keen, intuitive selves were noticing in me. And when I read their emails with tears in my eyes, thinking how much it meant to me that they would take the time to offer help, all I could keep thinking was oh, how my mighty self had yet again fallen. I had let these incidents derail me. And there I was lying on the tracks trying to figure out whether or not I had survived and two hands came from out of nowhere when I was sure that I would be left for dead to help lift me up back onto my feet. There is not one part of me that won't always have a special place in my heart for those two angels of sorts that offered aid. Hit from out of nowhere with this possibility that I had destroyed one of my most important relationships, and then with the thought that I might lose yet one more person to cancer, I was right back at rock bottom wondering if it might just not be better to accept my fate that I would never figure it out or get it right or be a good enough person to deserve love and friendship; I would just never be happy. It wasn't that I felt "why me," it was more like "why bother, nothing really matters, I always end up back at start." And yet their gesture of caring was so simple and pure that I had to see that it meant something more. I had to face what was happening and figure out how to either fix it or grieve the loss and let go.

While one of my great skills is that I'm a master debater of sorts -I'd aced my college course in argumentation and  I'd never faced a intellectual match in which I couldn't hold my own - I was not a fighter in anything but the academic sense. When someone chose to exit my life I pretty much let them leave. A lot of the time I pushed people away on purpose seeing if they were committed enough to try to come back. It was my greatest fear in life - to be abandoned - it was why I always held part of myself back in all my relationships so that I would never lose everything, every part of me, every time. It's so much easier to push someone to leave then it is to face the rejection if they choose to do so. I expected that people would grow bored with me. I knew that I was too much of something to really be loved by many, if any, people. I'd experienced it first in my relationship with my dad and from that time forward I'd been guarded, alone and not whole with most everyone.  But this time, whether it was because I'd seen a light or that I had actually let that guard down for once, I couldn't bear to let this person go. Once those angels picked me up I wanted to battle. I couldn't pick a fight with the cancer, so I decided instead to try to win back the relationship that was at best in jeopardy. When out of nowhere they offered to care needed to mean something to me, it needed to mean that I had to care about myself at least as much as they had.

 And so, I wouldn't let this person go this time without making a valiant attempt to recover the relationship. I could take responsibility for any mistake I'd committed, but I wouldn't allow myself to not try. And for the first time I saw something deep within me that I rarely experienced -  I wanted to be a person that was worthy of those that were in my life and for this one particular person I wanted to face all my fears.  For once I could see the value in saving something important to me. I loved what this person represented, but there was also much more. I loved who this person was, faults and all, without question and that was possible because I was for once all me with someone.  I loved myself and the person that I was in his presence and the person that he made me want to be. Without him and the support of those two special women I wouldn't have wanted to or needed to fight - I would just have carried on like I had in the past, finding a way to live that really didn't involve much living at all. I would have just given up on him and in turn on me. And so if I was going to make it past my depression once and for all I had to fight this time - it was more than just keeping someone near and dear to me in my life, it was also a fight for me - the person that I wanted to be. I no longer wanted to be someone that didn't care about herself or her life. I didn't want to be content to just get by any longer. I wanted to be a person that could find those few simple things in life that would fill my heart's desires. I think that deep down I knew these things - I had made progress - but seeing that caring gesture from my two friends helped me arrive at the conclusion when I could still do something about it.

And so I fought - and sadly I admit that because I had never tried before I made some mistakes and landed some punches that I never should have taken. I threw out some guilt- of which I am not proud and wish I could retract even today. I didn't know how to do this and I know that I went about it all wrong, I was embarrassed by the level of desperation that I was feeling and in turn knew I was displaying. When the mighty fall they don't always fight back in the best possible way, but I was hoping that something, anything would work. It was this important to me. I wish that I could be more proud of how I executed my battle plan but I wasn't sorry that I was making an effort. I wasn't sorry for wanting what I knew was the right thing for me and being determined to achieve it if I could.

And each time that I pushed the call button on my contact list next to the name I waited with hopeful anticipation as I listened to the ringing and then felt my heart sink lower again when the phone flipped to voice mail. When I sent a few emails or text messages with no reply I wondered how long I would be able to keep up the plan before I folded. I tried to walk a thin line between acceptable contact and overdoing it but I had no idea if I was accomplishing my goal or not. I just kept hoping that losing a friend was not the price I was going to have to pay to learn a lesson.

Eventually after weeks of no response I finally sent a text where I basically was admitting defeat "So I'm never going to hear from you again am I?" About 45 minutes later when I heard my text message alert I wasn't positive that my ears weren't playing tricks on me. Sitting in a restaurant at a table with a friend, I glanced at the screen and saw a response and I did everything that I could to hold back my tears of relief. I hoped that for once I wasn't reading too much into someone's words. That night I waited anxiously for the phone to ring. I knew that this was not going to be an easy conversation but I was just happy that I would have another chance. A few hours after the phone rang a very tenuous treaty was reached.  It wasn't until three months later, when we stumbled into a conversation again about the incident, with time and distance giving it some clarity, that I finally felt like we were once again friends. That night I silently breathed a large sigh of relief. I finally felt less trepidation.

But even before that I'd learned a great deal about me. I learned that when something mattered, when someone mattered, there was nothing wrong with thinking that just letting it go was not the answer. I might not always win like I had this time, but sometimes I could and that made it worth the effort to save something important. And I learned that I wasn't perfect but I liked this person that was afraid and vulnerable but willing to put herself on the line a whole lot more than the person that just let life pass her by without much thought. And I liked that for the first time in my memory I had let two people help me when I needed it most - I didn't try to say I was fine and rebuke their offer. I learned that even when I was facing the wrath of what could happen when you let someone know you I was still willing to take the chance. And I was learning that I had a tremendous network around me of good people that I failed to appreciate or recognize. And so grabbing onto those hands wasn't easy or comfortable for me but I am so happy that I did.

Now I was moving forward with three people in my life that had at various times all offered me an incredible gift of caring and that was why they were monumental  in my life. They saw value in the person that I was when I was seeing none. For whatever reason it might be, they were willing to take a chance on friendship with a person that couldn't understand why anyone would bother. There simple words "I'd like to talk, I'm looking forward to it actually," "You seemed a little down last week about your goals and not meeting them ... just thought I'd try to get in touch" and "what's getting you down?" were bigger and more important then they will ever understand. When people see you and look past the exterior facade to discover the truth about a person - that realness that you don't always like and rarely love - and still see value in you, well those are the people that you grab hold of and don't let go. You hope that they will never have to endure the depth of suffering that you just had, but you know that that you would jump to their rescue without a thought to make a small repayment for all they had done for you. And yet again that is the important stuff of life - the stuff that matters and these three mattered to me. They will always be important people in my life if I have any say. They are three remarkable people that each came into my life at a time when I needed them most. If the people with which you surround yourself say something about who you are as a person then I knew that no one would ever again question my worth as long as those three were in my life. And so for those special and simple words, that caring hand that they offered and that worth that they saw in me I am forever grateful. The world would be a better place if there were more of these kind of angels in it.

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