Right before I left for Elkhart, I had a conflict with a friend of five years. It was over a thoughtless and hurtful action on my part. I regret what I did. But I did it, so all that was left to do was to own up to it, apologize, offer amends to the extent possible, and, hopefully, grow in the relationship. But these efforts on my part were not received, and for now the relationship is on ice, and the longer it stays on ice the less likely it is that it will be revived.
This person has played a very important role in my growth as a person, and I refuse to sever myself from that past, even though the friendship no longer continues. Still, it brings up a slew of emotions -- more accurately stories that I'm continually concocting to manage the appropriate pain. Like most such stories, they're essentially insane: conversations I could have had or presumably would like to have at some future date, and they vacillate from absurdly Christ-like forgiveness to the most mean-spirited revenge.
These stories mask layers of truths -- more stories, really, just one's I'd rather not face. Religious types would likely sum them up in single words -- pride, ego, fear -- but there are also histories I have yet to pay for. As I said in an earlier post, I've been something of an intimacy assassin in my short time on this planet, and there are dozens of people with whom I've shared very close moments who are now exiled from my life. In some instances I banished them amid conflict, others were simply part of lives that I wanted to escape, so I just broke off without a word. So, I suppose, it's payback time.
A weirder story, one that might get me in trouble for sharing it here, because it would gloss over even uglier parts of myself, is that I did the thing I did to give fodder to stories that would mask feelings that were looming on the horizon. I'm in a between place, a hard spot for a guy who prefers things to be fairly well mapped out. With a new editor, the status of my manuscript and contract are less certain than when I began. And even if it were all going as planned, the process of this current book is temporary, and "what's next" draws closer and closer, despite its uncertainty. Harder still, the beginnings of "the next" all point to a long, difficult trudge through things I've pretty much chosen to ignore, or store in easily managed myths. I think I knew on a subconscious level that my trip to Indiana would be a painful one, regardless of how wonderful it is to be at Grandma's house in the springtime. And maybe I knew that the pain would be the sort of pain that reveals no story at first, but just is. So it's not out of the realm of possibility that I did what I did to end my five-year friendship so as to have something to channel the pain toward, an incident and an Other to blame.
It certainly worked that way. Each day, almost as soon as I woke up, I started writing my nutty stories about the lost friendship in my mind. At times I would pray for the other person to have everything I want (mostly peace of mind), which is an old tactic for battling resentments that I learned in AA, and that would give me relief. But the stories would kick up again after a while, and I'd find myself swimming in poisonously obsessive thoughts.
It wasn't until that last day at Grandma's, when I opened up the box full of letters, that I realized I'd been wasting so much of my trip in addiction to my drama. And realizing this, I felt for a moment what was under it: Full-on grief. Grief for the most recent stage of my career; grief for the spotless success story I thought I was living but no longer am; grief for my grandpa's death last year; grief for my dad's death 29 years ago; grief for my mom's three divorces; grief for the threads of disease that shoot through so much of my family; grief, grief, grief.
And I guess that it's only now that I'm coming to terms with this that I can feel the poison of my resentment dissipate from my body and soul. And, better still, I feel a sort of tenderness that can only come after emerging from a period of darkness. Possibility disguised as certainty. I'm a new man! Come and get me while I'm still soft!!
Ebony's been talking a lot about lately about the idea of death being necessary for change -- that the central myth of our civilization and culture, the sacrifice of Jesus, tells us that we must all die to… I'm not quite sure what. I've died a bunch of times, of course, and I'll die plenty times more. And the rebirth pretty much feels the same each time: The way I feel here in O'Hare Airport, waiting for my plane back home, where I can start working again in that maddeningly thick Kansas City soil.
How do I feel?
The better question is, Will it last? Not the feeling; feelings never last. But the new life borne on the feelings. My life's history seems to show that it never really does. I've gotten better, sure, but I've always stumbled.
And, sorry Jesus, but I'm not going to cut off my hand.