Saturday, February 16, 2013
This trip was harder than previous ones. Much of that was due in part to the ending of a friendship and a business relationship. While the actual split occurred a few years ago, it was freshly brought up on a daily basis. I felt like the widower or the recently divorced, reminded of the loss at every innocent question asked by those who didn't know of the division. I could feel the discomfort of mutual friends who only desired to stay neutral. At those prompts, the old feelings of betrayal blossomed anew... coloring my cheeks scarlet and my heart black. The mere mention of her name made me feel wrapped in the barbs of ocotillo.
Part of those needling emotions stemmed from the feeling of isolation and embarrassment. People had warned me of the unhealthy association and I thought that my story would be different. But their predictions came to pass and I joined a secret club of the jilted, used, and tossed aside. I say that it is a "secret" club because so many people want to be professional and take the high-road, and as a result, they hide what happened to them. I didn't want to be one of those people that suffers in silence, so I made a public announcement on my Facebook page that I was no longer involved – professionally or personally – with this individual. A friend cautioned me that I would be opening myself up to more attacks and more venom. So, I took the post down. But some saw it... and... an odd thing happened. The secret club acknowledged me as a member, sharing their stories in passing. I didn't want to be involved with this person or even stories of them, but there was a strange comfort in knowing that I wasn't the only one. There were dozens of people who all had been misused and maltreated.
Hearing these stories allowed me to let go of my own. I had held it in my heart, coiled like a snake ready to strike. I set the cage of ocotillo on fire. I walked through the flames and felt renewed. I had thought that I had worked through the hurt before, but all it did was disperse the fog until it had a chance to collect again, slithering together and growing new mass and volume.
The thing that I learned is that some people have passed the point of redemption. They will never change and will continue to repeat the pattern, again and again. They pray on those that want to see the best in others. They will charm you with their spin. But ultimately and fundamentally, the corruption that is in their heart is rooted too deeply. They cannot change, because they don't see a need to change. The fault is always in someone else. They cannot better themselves because they see no need in it. Even though the list of those wounded by their words and actions grows daily, the wounded are collateral damage and the idea of protecting their feelings is an unnecessary obligation that is simply not their responsibility.
I see now clearly.
If there is someone in your life who makes you feel small or worthless, do not let them. If there is someone who hurts you, do not let them. If there is someone who is using you and manipulating you, do not let them. You deserve better. If you can identify the problem and see the need for change, you are better than they are, because you can break the pattern. You can stop the cycle. You can say, "NO!" You can shout it out and stomp your feet and reject the poison and propaganda. Do not let another dictate your self-worth. Listen to your gut and let go of those who would do you harm.
This year's trip to the desert was a harder one for me, but one that came with a rich reward... freedom.