May 26, 2014

Delaying the Inevitable

Sometimes I think that by constantly doing things all of the time – in an attempt to only regret the things I do and not the things I don't do – that I'm not really working towards anything, but merely delaying the inevitable.

I used to go on dates, until I realized I'm probably going to be romantically alone for the rest of my life, regardless of who I try to meet or get to know or give a chance to in the meantime. Once I realized that, I basically gave up on pursuing romance because it just seemed like a distraction – not a means to any end, and not a journey worth exploring in and of itself. I might as well start getting used to being alone now, and finding some way to enjoy it.

People used to tell me I was trying too hard, looking too much, and that once I stopped and relaxed, "it" would happen.

They were wrong.

In the dating world and beyond, once I stop doing, the world around me stops, too. Love doesn't just arrive on its own. It's not looking for me, and it's not going to find me hiding in my deadbolted studio apartment. A job is not going to drop out of the sky.

I've always been good at putting myself "out there," having been a relatively public figure since childhood. I appeared in newspaper articles and TV shows as early as nursery school, and continued to write and make appearances, often in support of some good cause. People have pretty much always known who I am because of some graduation speech given or scholarship won or editorial written or activism embarked upon. But I don't know what I've really done. I don't know if I've actually changed anything.

As a high school freshman, I helped save my favorite (untenured) teacher's job, but just for one year: I was only delaying the inevitable, since he got transferred to another city public school the next year.

As a high school senior, I helped expose racial tensions happening in my school, and participated in an open forum for both sides to air out their grievances in a safe, non-combative environment. It felt groundbreaking and empowering at the time, but then we all graduated a couple months later, and things reportedly got much worse in the following years.

Throughout my childhood, I tried to salvage my relationship with my parents, which was doomed from the start. I tried to reason with my mother, counsel her out of hitting me, teach her how to be supportive and loving to me and my sister. I changed her bandages. I rubbed her shoulders and back, which were ravaged with spasm from her own bouts with fibromyalgia. My tiny hands struggled to show her a love she never earned, until one day, I took control of my own life and, after having been slapped across the face for the umpteenth time, slapped her back. I did not regret it, and I refused to apologize for it, causing my parents to disown me – my father saying, "The daughter I once knew is dead to me" – and eventually ask me to "find somewhere else to sleep."

Even after all that, I still bought them Christmas presents and spent my own money to call them from a college campus pay phone, even from a London phone booth when every message on their answering machine brought my calling card closer to its spending limit.

I kept hoping I could prove myself to them, make them forgive me for the things I never did wrong, but I was destined to fail. My relationship with them was unfixable. Any time, effort and money I spent on them got sucked into a black hole, an endless abyss of dysfunction and abandonment. They should've never had me in the first place, and they knew it. I knew it. They weren't very good at hiding it.

I finally gave up trying, and I haven't heard from them in years. I don't think I ever will again. Our estrangement was inevitable. I don't know what took me so long.

In my adult years, when times get tough (like they are now), I wonder what the ultimate end is really going to be. These days, I scoff at having been voted "Most Likely to Succeed." I'm scrappy, and I find ways to scrape by. I've been in and out of debt. I've worked and not-worked. I've found places to stay for free. I've received minor windfalls to tide me over.

But tide me what?

Sometimes, you've fallen into a hole so deep, you're never going to get out. Humans have amazing survivalist instincts, and under the most extreme duress, they will fight to stay alive, escape from danger, and seek help. Sometimes the help doesn't arrive in time, or isn't enough – their wounds proving fatal, despite their best efforts to save themselves.

You can put a very sick person on life support, but if they can't breathe on their own – if their brain functions are gone – why extend their misery? Let them go gentle into that good night.

The crisis arises when you don't know what's yet to come. Your impending sense of doom could merely be a manifestation of panic, fear, worry, or self-doubt. You fight if you think you can win. You run away if you think you can escape.

What if neither of those apply and you are sure to perish? There is no third option.

Is there?

Related Posts:
It Just Gets Worse
Open Letter to The Wrong Tree
Letting Go
Fight or Flight

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