That fact has forced me to confront a lot.
One of the key themes of 2004, at least for myself, has been facing some of my deepest fears. In short order I dealt with getting divorced, losing Linda Underhill to the summerlands, selling a home I loved, confronting my flaws and weaknesses on a personal level, returned to retail... and that was just the first three months.
Then there came that sudden expectation, and now I face the idea of being a father. Considering my two biggest examples are my own "father" and Skip, my step, I'm not sanguine at the idea of learning from their respective paternal styles. While I can certainly declare that I know what NOT to do, there's the fact that I can still manage to screw this up in so many ways it's not funny.
I am suddenly reminded of Edison's famous comment regarding his 2000 attempts to create a working electric light. Sure, he could afford to discover (as he put it) 2000 ways how NOT to make a light bulb. I, on the other hand, don't have 2000 chances to raise a child, nor would I want to live with the results even if I could.
Yet there is something about inevitability that I seem to rise to. I can fight, deny, resist, and generally drag my feet and claw and the ground to avoid something, but once it's upon me I tend to dive in.
Something Michele said to me recently has only really fallen into place. When she first heard about dcatt, her general response was along the lines of what a good thing it was that we were divorced already. While a lot of people can agree with that point of view, and I know that she meant it from a position of self-protection, it still hurts to realize that she placed even that condition on her relationship with me. While my fear induced me to make agreements and decisions that didn't serve my truth, it was her fear that I was responding to.
I am still completely responsible for any broken agreements, make no mistake. I can't deny that I entered into them without duress (yeah, a double negative... get over it), but recognizing that limitation, while not making me less flawed, allows me to realize that I am merely human. Self-forgiveness can come only from placing oneself into context, just as forgiving others comes from understanding the true root of their pain and fear.
I've made several snarky comments about my step-father here -- I'm certain I've referred to him as the "step-monster" on occasion. Yet that contextual understanding puts a serious dent into my pleasant sense of self-righteousness.
He never told me this... in fact, I'm not 100% certain he even told my mother. She might have gotten the tale from his grandmother, the woman who raised him... along with his grandfather.
I never got the details of how it happened, but he wound up living with his grandparents from a fairly early age. He could definitely be described as a "troubled" youth, but the even that kicked him over the edge was the day that he was apparently set upon by even MORE troubled (both in quantity and degree) youths. His grandfather ran out to protect him... and had a heart attack and died in his arms.
Combine this with the knowledge I got several years ago (oh shit... he has ADHD too!) and suddenly so much is clearer than it was. Guilt, shame, and that old friend, fear, all rise up to strangle your every waking moment. No wonder he fell into the bottle for so long. Self destructive, angry, lashing out and pushing away...
And he still managed to find redemption and some semblance of peace.
None of that is an excuse for bad behavior, any more than the abuse I suffered under his hands is. To give him some credit, he tried to be there for me, and even what he did paled in comparison to what others did to me, from the boy who once dislocated both my feet by twisting them backwards on the school bus (I had made the mistake of trying to protect myself by pushing back with my feet... he just grabbed them and twisted them sharply, one at a time) to a system designed to reject any non-conformity, deliberate or otherwise, sometimes in the most demeaning and alienating ways possible.
A conscious person doesn't wallow in these things. If I can be better, I have to understand my roots, face them, and adjust my behavior accordingly. I love Michele... and always will. But she couldn't deal with the things that began to surface in me as I tried to grapple with a lot of the things that came up, much in the same way I couldn't deal with her illness and depression when it became obvious to me how helpless I was in the face of it. As she finally began to improve, and to fully grasp how badly I had strayed from our mutual paths, her anger at the oaths I had broken was both justified and an impetus to find the place where she could fully heal. The fact that place was not with me hurt, but at least there's a good chance to reconcile our relationship.
Yes, I'm suggesting that the only thing that could save my marriage is getting divorced, at least in the sense that I don't want to lose Michele.
The broken agreements were a symptom of something flawed at a much deeper level, at least on my part. If 2004 was good for anything, it was helping me to finally see some of those flaws, and to begin the hard work to do something about it... even if it's to cordon that flaw off with bright flashing lights and clearly marked barricades so that others may avoid falling into it. As opposed to covering it over in careful camouflage while I tried to adjust myself in clandestine fashion, all without really looking at what I was doing... with predictable results (read: a cluster fuck of monumental proportions).
I can't really call it a resolution for 2005, as this is something that has been evolving for most of 2004, and will continue to do so over the coming year, well into 2006, 2007, and beyond. Also, the very idea of a "resolution" has become far less than... well, resolute. It's almost... no, it IS a joke, the basis for sitcom scripts and amusing anecdotes. We're so hard on people who would foreswear others, but the idea of foreswearing ourselves is high comedy.
That said, I think I can safely say that my goal, my honest desire is to become as ethical as possible, however scary it is to me to be so. I must always speak my truth, even if it is scary to some people, especially me. To speak my desires, wants, and needs without reservation, and to compromise when those things conflict with the desires, wants and needs of others -- and somehow still be true to them.
It's a tight rope act, surely. What else is new?
At this point Roni has done a lot to help me with that, as she sticks with me through things that others might have rejected me over. Others have shown the same understanding and love, including Michele, despite her own pain. Even my Mother, whom it turns out is ten times more cool than the incredibly cool person I thought her to be, has shown me nothing but acceptance.
"When have I ever rejected you for anything?" She asked me, after I swallowed my fear and told her about getting Catt pregnant, and that I would still be with Roni. It's true, she never has... not over my strange tastes in women (and eventually men), not for my lifestyle, not anything. I keep reading, here and so many other places, about people who are rejected by their family for such minor differences, and somehow they muddle through. How can I not find a place to heal surrounded by such unconditional love?
It starts with forgiving myself. Where it ends... that's a tale told by others, eventually.
Goodbye, 2004. You were a harsh mistress, and while the results may have been worth it, and my best interests were at heart, I can only pray I won't need such brutal schooling again.
All hail 2005... a better year.