Old Wounds, New Scars and Another Look Through My Eyes

For a long time, I’ve wanted to do what was right. At first it was to make amends for things I had done that had hurt some people. Slowly – and maybe surely – it became doing the right thing because it was the right thing to do. I’ve never been perfect, haven’t claimed I was or could be. I’ve made a lot of mistakes along the way and have tried hard to make up for them and also not to repeat them. I like to think I’ve been moderately successful at that. But certain events, conversations and other things over the last year have given me cause to question that way of thinking and now I’m no longer as certain as I was that a certain course of action is the right thing to do.

Well, that may not be an accurate way of putting it. One of the things I’ve started to have doubts about is ‘the right thing to do’ and what it means from different perspectives or points of view or whatever. For almost as long as I’ve been trying to do the right thing, I’ve also done that with a mindset of putting the other persons needs/wants ahead of my own because that’s something you do when you care about someone. That’s what I’ve thought anyway. Maybe I’ve taken that too literally. I don’t know. In some recent (separate) conversations with a couple of close friends, I brought up wanting to do the right thing in pursuing a relationship with someone and how I’ve been prepared to remove myself from the relationship-equation if it meant they would be able to pursue the things they wanted. Every variation of that decision has been done with the mindset and intent of putting the other person first. Because that’s how much I wanted them to be happy. However, these decisions had a side effect. From my perspective, while whoever it was I was dating/seeing/going out with had the chance to go for what they wanted, I had to suffer the pain of losing my chance to have what it was I really wanted. And it hurt. Each time.

It feels like I’ve spent so much time trying to take care of the people I care about and have feelings for that I’ve forgotten to take the time to take care of myself. Even with all the pain I’ve seen, heard about and experienced in the last few months – losing a one-month old nephew in September, my dad having a heart attack a couple weeks after that, friends breaking up, recurrences of grief – there is some part of me that feels like I need to help protect them. Or do something to help take the pain away. Kind of like a shield or a sponge. Thing about both is that they can only handle so much before they start to wear out.

That’s were I feel like I’m at. Worn out. Tired. I have spent most of my life (half, at least) keeping my thoughts, emotions and feelings to myself. So much so that I could probably be considered part Vulcan. 🙂 But with the events of September/October last year, the combined weight of it all started to make itself known. Losing my nephew and my dad’s heart attack were just the ignition point. I spent so long holding in everything. Trying not to feel.

Now it was time to feel. And I felt. Everything.

No more room left to store anything. No vacancy.

I left town for a week back in November. Visited a friend and his wife in Ohio, drove over to northern Pennsylvania to visit some relatives. Saw my grandma for the first time since…2006, probably. Stopped for a couple of days in Lancaster County to visit some old friends – some of the oldest ones I have, actually. Not in age, mind you, but in how long I’ve known them. It felt good to get out and sort of ‘recharge’ after the major curveballs life threw my way. But that feeling didn’t last a long time.

You probably wouldn’t know it if you looked at me. I usually have walls up or some kind of mask on to keep people from knowing how and what I’m feeling or thinking about. There are moments when things leak through the cracks and people can tell that something’s bothering me, but I usually shrug off their questions or give some kind of noncommittal answer, then put the mask back on or put the walls back up and try to go on like nothing happened. But things did happen and as much as I try to avoid it, some of them eat at me; eat away at my strength and resolve until I feel like I can’t fight anymore.

Some things really bother me. Being stood up for a date, being told that you “just don’t think God wants me to be in a relationship right now” (only to have a new boyfriend a week or less later). That last one just tells me two things: 1) you’re just not that into me and 2) you don’t think I was worth the truth. Other things that bother me, get under my skin, etc: mind games or whatever you want to call them. I tend to take most things people say to me literally and at face value. So if you tell me one thing but really mean something else, I won’t catch it. Likely. I’m clueless like that. I did my own share of mind games, playing with someone’s affections and such. It led to heartache and pain and I’ve regretted it each time.

With all the emotions and thoughts going around in my head ever since my nephew passed away, I feel like the way Tony Stark describes himself in the first half hour of Iron Man 3. “A piping hot mess.” ..ok, maybe not ‘piping hot’, but definitely a mess. I don’t know when it started. I’ve tried to see it as an accumulation of all the pain and hurt I’ve done my best to keep inside over the years. Pain from hurting someone or being hurt emotionally, pain from disappointment, pain from feeling like I don’t know who I am or what I’m supposed to do, pain by proximity (sympathizing with pain other people went through). I don’t know how to keep it all together anymore. Somehow I do though and maybe it’s me feeling like I have to look out for everyone, do something to help or protect them. Maybe it’s turned into a reflex, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it brings me back to something I said earlier.

I feel like I’ve spent so much time and effort into looking out for other people that I’ve forgotten to take care of myself along the way. There’s so many lies I’ve told myself (things I believed at the time) that I’ve made it extremely difficult to believe otherwise.

“She won’t go out with you.” – Well, this one I’ve gotten around. Yes, I’ve gone on dates. That right there proves that someone WILL go out with me. It may not happen every time I ask.

“You’re not worth it.” – Also not true, but I still struggle with this one. I can’t say for certain, but I’m pretty sure I’ve gotten close to having a serious relationship a couple times. Out of respect for the ladies in question, I will not reveal their names. The first I handled badly and ended up causing a lot of pain to someone who really cared about me. The second I handled better. I think. When we got to the ‘where do you see this going’ conversation of the dating stage, I encouraged her to go after her dream job, even though it meant she would have to move away and we would not be able to be together. I wanted her to stay so we could be together, but in my mind, I was putting her needs above my own by encouraging her to go after what she wanted. Even though it meant I would be hurt by her leaving.

“What you want isn’t going to happen./What you want isn’t possible.” – This one I still have trouble with. I’m writing all this aren’t I? The thing about this I have an issue with is trying to undo the amount of time I’ve spent believing it. The more it keep NOT happening, the harder it is for me to believe it will happen at all. I like to use a baseball analogy when I talk about this part. Imagine a baseball player coming up to bat and striking out, or flying out, or doing anything but getting on base safely. First time or two or three can likely be shrugged off. It still happens in games today. But now imagine that happening to the same player, only now it’s a streak of 20+, 40+ or however many consecutive plate appearances without a successful hit. That player is not likely to be optimistic about getting a hit. The longer he goes without one, the harder it will be for him to believe his teammates, managers and trainers when they tell him “Don’t worry. You’ll get it eventually.”

“Eventually” looks further and further away each time it doesn’t happen. And it gets harder and harder to try.

I try to do the right thing and be respectful to and of the lady in question, but I’m often racked by overthinking everything. “What if she says no? What if she says yes? Not right now? When is it appropriate to ask again? What if I ask too often? What if I wait too long?”  Questions like those fly through my head every time someone catches my eye and I think about asking her out. I worry so much about messing things up that I don’t think to consider that things may go right.

There’s a section of a song – a cover, really – by Johnny Cash that popped into my head while thinking about all of this:

“I wear this crown of thorns
Upon my liar’s chair
Full of broken thoughts
I cannot repair
Beneath the stains of time
The feelings disappear
You are someone else
I am still right here.

What have I become
My sweetest friend
Everyone I know goes away
In the end..”

I don’t know how to tell you how that is relevant to the many points I’ve made and will likely repeat in this post. It came into my head, I felt like it fit with what I was thinking or feeling. …I’ll have a go at it anyway…

The way I see it: the “crown of thorns upon my liar’s chair” is me causing myself pain by not telling someone how I really felt about them. Not actually lying to them, but also not telling them the whole truth. “Full of broken thoughts I cannot repair” is fairly self-explanatory. I’ve carried around a lot of brokenness that I’ve tried and failed to repair. Some of it may be mended, but it isn’t as strong as it used to be. Hence, why I don’t feel like I am strong enough to keep going on in spite of repeated rejection. Somehow I’ve managed it and I’m sure there is a name or phrase to described that tiny little spark at the very center of the part of me that won’t let go of my deepest desire. I don’t know what to call it. “Beneath the stains of time, the feelings disappear” is also pretty self-explanatory. Over time, whatever feelings I’ve had for someone who turned me down or rejected me or whatever happened to end things between us – those feelings diminish. Most go away completely. “You are someone else, I am still right here” to me refers to those I’ve cared about enough to explore the possibility of being more than friends with, but didn’t because things didn’t work out for whatever reason. (That is meant to be intentionally vague, not dismissive or cruel.) As for the last four lines, that’s me questioning myself and feeling like that special someone is always going to be out of reach and it will likely be my fault (again).

Which isn’t a good thing for me to be thinking. I recognize that and hopefully that’s a permanent step in the opposite direction – thinking differently and believing that something…or rather someONE wonderful will cross my path and stick around for the duration.

Sometimes I wonder how I would act, behave or respond once I did get into a serious relationship. Part of me feels like I wouldn’t know what to do because I wasn’t expecting it. Reminds me of a sort-of joke I’ve heard:

“Do you want go out with me?”
“Sure, what did you have in mind to do?”
“..I don’t know. I didn’t think I’d make it this far.”

Or that one line said by Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight:

“You know what I am? I’m a dog chasing cars. I wouldn’t know what to do with one if I caught it!”

It’s ok. You can laugh.

I read somewhere that the Japanese say you have three faces. The first face is the one you show to the world. The second is the face you show to your close friends and family. The third face you never show anyone, as it is the truest reflection of who you are. I don’t know if the source I got that from is accurate or not. Whether it is or not, I’ve shown that third face, though I’m very cautious about who I show it to. Family and closest friends. Coworkers…some. I’m very cautious about that sort of thing at work. I hide my hurts and discomforts behind masks of silence or humor and while that may keep them from knowing who I really am, it may also make them think of me in a way I don’t want them to. It may cause them to not take me seriously when I’m trying to talk about something I take seriously. It may make them think I’m not interested in one thing or another, or in participating in a certain event, when the truth is I am interested but just wanted to be asked.

To be given a chance. A chance to prove the kind of person I really am and aspire to be. A chance to prove that I’m not in this to just pass time, but that I’m in this every step of the way. A chance to show that maybe I am just the person you’ve been looking and waiting for.

But I’ve been given chances. A couple of times I came close. I was young and foolish the first time. Didn’t realize what was in front of me and ended up causing a great deal of pain. The second time I was not so young. I don’t know about the foolish part. I was part of something wonderful and amazing and I let it go. Not because I didn’t want it – just the opposite. I chose to put her desires before my own. As a result, we stopped seeing each other and she moved away.

Someone (name withheld) on Facebook recently posted a link to a blog entry that I checked out – first out of curiosity, but what I read made me think. In that post, the author wrote that “only a weak man can make a woman love him then mess it all up.” The author wrote more to expound that statement, but I kept focusing on that line and eventually realized that I both agreed and disagreed with that statement. I agreed with it because the first time I was in what could have turned into a serious relationship, I messed it up. Maybe I was weak. Maybe I just didn’t know what I wanted. As for my disagreeing with that statement, I turned my memories to the second time I was close to a serious relationship. I don’t believe it was weakness that led me to encourage her to go for her dream job. In my mind, I was putting the needs of someone I cared about ahead of my own needs and desires because – in my mind – that was the sort of thing you did when you really cared about someone. And I think that it takes some kind of special strength to do that. To willingly set aside the thing you want most in favor of someone else’s dreams and desires.

I don’t think I was weak when I made that choice. It’s possible that making that choice weakened me. Putting yourself in a vulnerable position can have that effect. It can also hurt you. I’ve sometimes wondered if I’ve caused myself pain so that I wouldn’t be in a position to cause pain to someone I cared about. I don’t know. Somehow I picked myself up and slowly moved on.

If certain people I’ve mentioned here happen across this and read it – and realize where I’ve mentioned them – please don’t think badly of me. The same goes for the rest of you, from close friends to casual acquaintances (or even random person who stumbled onto my blog). Please don’t think badly of me.

Someone somewhere once said that a knight in shining armor is a man who has never had his mettle truly tested. If that’s true, then I’m sure mine is looking battered, bent and broken. I’ve taken a lot of hits, to be sure. Some worse than others – although they may not have felt like it at the time.

This isn’t a game to me. I’m not in it to just pass time or play with someone’s emotions. I’m in it because I see the potential to build and grow. I’m in it for the duration. Just like that one line from Captain America: The Winter Soldier:

“I’m with you to the end of the line.”

*I apologize if I rambled from topic to topic and back again. I tend to do that.

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