Monday, July 11, 2016

Surviving Our Decisions in Life

There is a lot going on right now. Race relations in America are strained, most notoriously between the Black community and police. There is a lot being discussed on that topic and I needed a break from it. I will just say until we fix the systemic issues involved, simply fixing racism won't fix this issue.

Black Lives Matter. Police Lives Matter. Most Blacks are good people, most police are good people. Some of what is going on has to do with guns, which is another issue. Cops are fearful as well as some of them being racist. Some of the police departments are oriented toward negative expectations about their Black community. Some Black communities are oriented toward damaging themselves.

As I said there is a lot being discussed elsewhere, and a lot that should be discussed on this.

However for this week's' blog I'm taking a different, albeit a somewhat relevant direction....

I admit it. I've made mistakes in life. We all have. Some of us just recognize it more than others. Or at all.

I've thought I was doing the right thing in the past, or that I was doing what seemed reasonable, only to find much later that I had over time gained the wisdom to see reality more clearly with the distance I had gained from those times and events. I always reflect on things.

I reflect on them even in the moment, as they are happening, considering them through various layers of meanings, and perspectives in real time. What some friends and family have called, "overthinking". At times it is a great benefit, at times a great detriment.

Yet, no one can see everything. And we all have our filters. We all are defective. We all are capable of great harm, as well as great good. Those who do not recognize that are called foolish, if not stupid. Those who see it and revel in their great good, who seek it out at all costs are called saints. While those enraptured by their capacity for great harm, who seek it and pleasure in it are called evil.

I've been married, let's say, three and a half times. I count that one as half as we hadn't actually gotten legally married but were together longer than what common law marriage is usually considered to be, though we do not have that in Washington state. But I felt she deserved that acknowledgement for our time together, for any burden I placed on her, for the great times we shared. To be fair to myself, she was at time a burden too, she had her own demons.

I don't know how she feels about all that. Because she appears to not want to talk to me anymore. Not since our last phone call in about 1988 and in some ways, I don't blame her. Sometimes it's best to move on, to leave the past in the past. Still as I pointed out, I like to reflect and part of that is to reconnect, review and put my understanding of myself, who I have been, in proper perspective.

I want to think I'm a good or even great person, but I've fallen down on that after reflecting with others on their shared memories with me. The flip side of that coin however is that I have also discovered after years of feeling bad about something in the past, that others saw my now ancient actions as having been far above expected behavior, and greatly appreciated. You just never know.

I prefer reality, both for myself and others. I want people to have a realistic view of what actually happened in the past. I want to be seen for my actions, either good or bad, accurately. Yet, sometimes, you cannot achieve that closure. And that, can be painful. So I've learned to let it go when that happens.

Sometimes it's just not worth the damage you get in seeking closure. Sometimes it is, and yet you will never find it for any variety of reasons. Sometimes that reason is another person's misperception of what happened. Sometimes, there is nothing you can do about that and you know, they will, you will, both die one day with that having never been rectified.

So when I think poorly of someone's actions in my past I try to keep that in mind. Maybe things weren't as I had perceived them, or how I remember them. Perhaps if we talked now I would discover what damage they did to me, was damage I had done to myself. Were things as I believed them to be, as I remember them? Certainly not always as I discovered in researching for a film I have written. It's now been at one production company, oddly enough, out of London. A very American mob film being reviewed by a very British film studio.

In 1974 I was eighteen. The screenplay about it is called Teenage Bodyguard. I came up with a more poetic title with, Slipping The Enterprise. The executive producer of the film studio said it reminded him of Ryan Gosling's film, A Place Beyond the Pine. I see it in two formats, as a biopic, what actually happened, enhanced to be more entertaining but sticking mostly to the truth of what happened, or a based on type of film where we could cut loose and just shoot for entertainment.

The story goes that I had spent a week with a strip club waitress back in 1974. A friend asked me to give a woman a ride who had been staying with him. When I got her to her new residence, she asked me to stay with her until she could leave town at the end of the week. IF I had a gun. Oddly enough, I did. And she could have made a worse choice in asking me. The local Tacoma mob back then called themselves, The Enterprise. They thought she had witnessed a murder. A murder that she believed they had committed but public records, even today seem to indicate it was a random killing by an anonymous killer.

During my research I came to discover that the "friend" I helped out in giving her a ride, was actually setting me up in a way. He was eliminating a threat to his safety by getting rid of the woman, and putting that threat squarely on my shoulders, probably rationalizing that wasn't the case and that I would drop her off somewhere (he didn't want to know, what was odd and the first warning sign), and that would be the end of it.

I had gone through decades of my life thinking we were friends and finally, over thirty years later came to discover he may have been putting my head on a chopping block. Life, isn't always how we think it is. Obviously.

I'm single now, unmarried since 2002. Single again since 2010 after a few girlfriends. Single to spend my spare time on writing and building a new career in order to leave an old one.

I had originally married the first time at twenty. Proud that I hadn't gotten married in my teens like some of my friends. After that marriage failed, I avoided marriage for some years. I was devastated that I had broken a vow. "My word is my bond", was a favorite saying of mine. In divorcing, I had broken my most powerful bond to date. I was proud many years later, of not having quickly jumped back into another potential mistake as so many do. See, I never wanted to break another vow.

After some years I did marry again. It was kind of against my better desires and I was pretty much pushed into it. Or pulled into it, depending on how you view it. Partially because I thought I owned who became my son's mother, for making me smile again. Partially because the woman from the half of a marriage had told me one day, long after we split up:

"Do something for me. The next girl who wants to marry you? If she wants to get married, just marry her. OK?" That kept resonating in my head for years. I had made her life miserable in not wanting to marry again. I told her we could end up together for the rest of our lives, I just don't want to marry again. But she never understood. We were both raised Catholic, but I was further down that road of casting off that desert religion for a more sane way of viewing life.

So I married again. I married out of obligation. Even though I knew it wasn't a good match for me. However in considering those who I had thought were a good match, they hadn't been either. So I thought if I tried someone I didn't think would be right for me, maybe I could get around making yet another mistake.

Of course, that one didn't work out either. Obviously. As a friend later said, "So you went from making decisions, to making no decision, or worse. Choosing what you thought was wrong. And you thought that was a good idea?"

Dumb and dumberer.

The final time I married (so far anyway, as I guess I'm always looking for my next ex-wife....), I thought I had I had found the sweetest young lady I could ever have imagined. It was 1995. My son was five and rife with ADHD. He was difficult to parent and I desperately needed a partner in raising him.

Life was good for a few years. Then things changed as they so often do. Life as usual got in the way of romance, killing it.

In the end, or even long before that, she wasn't any longer so sweet. In fact she got rather nasty, and then downright angry. I had thought just in keeping her happy, I'd have a handle on things. But some people don't want to be happy. Their expectations are too high and no one can live up to their expectations. I used to be like that in my twenties. I probably still have some of that lurking within me in a cancerous state, waiting to leap out at all the wrong moments. But I sincerely hope not.

For years I looked back over these past relationships, consoling myself in believing that those women did better after having known me. Now with many years distance from those relationships, with having gained more wisdom, with the clarity that comes from being single for a long time, and with actually seeing how their lives have worked out for them, I can see things perhaps more as they are in reality.

Were their lives all the better, or the worse, in having known me? Or were they just as they are for people in life? We experience, triumph or fail, heal our wounds, hopefully become the stronger for it and move on knowing our lives are richer for it all. For the pain, for the love, for the confusion and the frustration.

I made some decisions correctly to be sure, with the information I had available to me at the time. With my limited wisdom. I had the intent to do good, to be a good person. But there were things I simply hadn't known at the time. Things I couldn't (yet) see, no matter how hard I tried.

It all added up in the end to who I was at the time. Had I meant well? Yes. But I was also protecting myself. I was living the life but simply hadn't known everything. Or enough of everything, anyway. But that is how life is for all of us. Isn't it?

I didn't know what charisma was about, how it worked, or that with at least some people, I had it for them and in dealing with them. I should have known it though. I should have seen it. My siblings have it. Yet my own damaged self-esteem wouldn't let me see that I too, must have it.

It wasn't until I was about thirty that I experienced someone leaving me in a serious long term romantic relationship. I always thought that was a good thing. Until it happened. Then reality rushed up and kicked me in the face. I thought, I must be worth staying with if women didn't leave me. Sure I'd had short relationships, one night stands even, but I was always the one to break it off or leave (or so I viewed it up until that time).

Finally one day, as an adult in a long term, live-in relationship, I was left. I found that in never having had the experience of being dumped, I didn't have the tools I needed to deal with it. And in this case I was dumped hard (I discovered she was having an affair). I lacked the experience to know how to handle it. How to handle it in a non self-destructive way, that is.

I spent the next year and a half trying to literally party myself to death. To numb the pain, to kill the bad feelings, the destroyed self-esteem, to just end things. It wasn't an outward expression I could recognize so much as it was an inward desire, striving to get out. I was partying hard like a pro, not partying destructively like a fool.

And yet it nearly did kill me. Multiple times I almost succeeded though I never made it to a hospital. It truly was the lowest period in my life.

And yet, I'm still here.

I've learned a few things along the way. My second legal marriage ended in a similar way. A woman leaving me for another, just as the previous time. Even though she knew my story. Even though I had asked her to just leave me if she wanted out, not to abuse me by having an affair. Because the last time that happened, it almost killed me. But she used that information as a tool to hurt me. I had inadvertently given her ammunition, and she used it.

That speaks to who she was at that time as a person, more than what it says about me. We had a child together, I was working hard, trying to make it in life, trying to support a family and love them. I tried to be a good father and husband. But the women I've been with this last half of my life, wanted a good husband and father, in that order. And that too says much more about them, than me.

In having gone through that once already, and in not really wanting to have had a second marriage anyway, the second time around I found that I much more easily survived it. I realized at some point that I had actually lucked out of that marriage. I finally had a child but not the family I had always wanted. I had made poor choices, yet again. Or perhaps, good choices but for the wrong reasons.

Either way, life tosses you curve balls. Things come out of left field that you never expect. Things you may not have the ability or the life experience to properly ascertain and react to.

Here's the thing.....

If we try hard, if we pay attention, if we consider what is important, not always just about ourselves as the primary factor, we can survive and then later reflect on it all, knowing that we did our best.

Even if we failed.

It is much like it is in parenting. We all make mistakes. None of us knows what is right to do all the time. Each child, each person is different. There really are no cut and dried answers for all situations. But especially with children. If you protect them and most importantly if you simply love them, they will forgive many of your mistakes in their life and they will love you back. They will grow up to be good people. You will have succeeded in doing your job. Just help them to be the best person they can be, and not just what you want them to be. It's about them after all, not you.

They have to find their way too. It is your job to help them in that pursuit. It is that way with those in a romantic relationship with you too, or for that matter with any person in your life. Especially with those you most love and cherish.

So it is with so much of life.

If you are the good person others know you as, if others know you as a good person and you know you try to be the best person you can be, then life, people, children, will forgive your mistakes. Even your shallow actions. Still, they will love you back and you can go on knowing that you mean well, that you do well, that you have a way of viewing life that is productive. Not just for you or yours or just for your community, or only for your beliefs or your God however you define that concept.

But for Life in general. For all of us. And so in the end and most importantly, for you. And then, you can feel good about it, without regret.

Live. Love. Learn. Repeat.

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