I remember a time when meeting someone who was just as damaged was a bit of a relief. Everyone walking…
I can’t for the life of me remember where we even met. Clearly from online dating but which platform and when, I have no idea. I would like to believe she contacted me first, but I will never tell her that I don’t remember. All that matters is that she has become one of my dear friends.
I guess there was some initial attraction but somehow that dissipated when we had some unspoken yet mutual agreement that being friends would be better for both of us. Funny how that works. Two people whose attraction through online dating worked better when we were dating other people.
I have never been a conventional man. Why start now, I suppose.
Like you, I have had the opportunity to become close to a number of wonderful people on my journey. People who I have met on questionable dating sites that turned into emotional support systems. Some romantic, some friends, some even best friends. Where and how we meet people is irrelevant. Emotional compatibility can, and often does, fall into our lives in some of the most unexpected places.
I slid into some random woman’s DMs and ended up falling madly in love.
I answered a Craigslist personals ad and began a 10 year friendship.
And through OkCupid, I met one of the best people I have ever had the privilege of knowing.
Granted, they all weren’t winners, but every person that lasted more than a fleeting date left me a gift. Every one a risk. An adventure. An uneducated and anxiety-ridden mini-vacation from whatever chaos was running rampant in my head and heart. Most didn’t work out – and that is fine. Great. Because I still got that gift.
I was telling her about my father. About the abuse and neglect. I think the impression is that writing and talking about it for years desensitizes a person, but it most certainly does not. You can never write and speak away the demons – but what you can do is understand them to a point where they no longer keep you up at night. Where they no longer influence your decisions with apprehension. And where they no longer sabotage your relationships.
Our parents fucked us up. Some a little, some a lot. Some by loving us too much and some by loving us not enough and some by loving us in all the wrong ways. But as I sat there eating my french fries, I told her my abuse was a gift. Her face read as a mix of disbelief and “holy shit, I need to see where he goes with this” – but either way I had her full attention.
My father gave me this gift that traumatized my brain so effectively, that it actually turned off those memories for the better part of my life. And as of 10 years ago, it was as if they never happened. Nothing. Blank. Until a casual story my mother mentioned triggered the memories and they all came flooding back into my life with the kind of intensity that makes it hard to breathe when you are desperately attempting to fall asleep.
It took almost 10 years to write that. He gave me a gift just like all of the friends, lovers, and well-intentioned attempted role-models. Just like everyone who has walked into my life. But the truth is that it took almost 10 years to realize just what it was.
It was the gift of a new life. Of forcing me through a gauntlet of suicidal thoughts, destructive behaviors, and blinding self-deprecation. But the gift of my mother was one that gave me the armor to come out alive. To stand and take it. To fall and stumble, to ball and wail, but to take it in on the chin like a real motherfucker and still be able to smile at the end of the day. And there were plenty of days when I didn’t feel like smiling. When I wanted nothing more than to leave because I felt I was a burden to all those around me, but there was something that kept me here. A gift. My mother’s gift to me. One that gave me hope. That if I could make my corner of the world just a little less shitty, that if I could be a better friend, that if I could make someone else smile – well, maybe I could earn my place here and not feel so bad about all the awful things I have inflicted in my past.
Healthy? Unhealthy? Honestly, I don’t care. Because if that is what it takes to keep me here and alive with a clear conscious and a genuine smile, that is all that matters.
Every one leaves you with a gift. Some leave you with elation. Some with a nice little ego-stroke. Some with brutally honest criticism that forces you to do a little revaluation. Some with abuse and some with a smile. But the only way you discover what each gift means is my being present. By shoving away the distractions. By letting in the hurt and learning to take the pain and neglect and abuse on the chin and cry it out and learn to stand on your own so you can live another day to make someone fucking smile.
So take the risk. Take the adventure. Take the uneducated and anxiety-ridden mini-vacations from whatever chaos is running rampant in your head and heart and give yourself the chance to accept the gifts from those around you and learn what it means to make your corner of the world just a little less shitty.
Because it is the only way I have learned to be happy again.