In 2002, I left my 12-year old daughter in the care of family friends to relocate to the Houston, Texas area in an attempt to resuscitate my career in the wake of the “dot com” bust.
It was an attempt to launch from Atlanta to Houston, landing at a friend’s house, and using the grace and compassion of their generosity to rebuild my life and then, relocate and reunite with my daughter. The time-line to success was set at 6-9 months. But life doesn’t always run to plan and, when the unexpected is significant enough, even the best and most contingency-laden plans can fail.
Six to nine months turned into one year, then two, then five, and then, eight. I admit, I was so lost in the effort that I lost track of what I was fighting for; because of this, while I may have won the battle, I definitely lost the war.
It’s true what the nefarious “they” say, you can never go back home. Though, personally, I like the original idea best (paraphrasing), “One never steps in the same river twice.” That’s paraphrased and the meaning is often lost to the simplicity of the sentence. But I think about that sentence and I realize that attempting to escape the environment was never the “right” answer; all that I did in the attempt was to cement this reality, this now, in which I have all the “things” I fought for, but none of the people.
That’s not to say I didn’t “make the call” to my daughter to join me at several points along the way. But by the time I could and did, she no longer wanted to be a family. At 14, the world is wrong, life is unfair, and parents are, at best, incurably overprotective.
To her mind, I was far from “at best” as one can be whilst sharing the same conceptual continuum. Family? What family? Where? I recognized all the things in that series of incredulous questions; they are echoes of my own astonished version, given to my parents, returning to me; appearing years later as (and as I suppose I must seem to my own child) a reluctantly aging apologist, seemingly unaware of the realities and effects of anger, frustration, hurt, and resentment over time.
As if that could ever be the case, as if that isn’t the most macabre irony; as if the inexorable cycle, turning and returning, is ever other than horrific when seen clearly through the kaleidoscope of fears, tears, and years.
The moment in which you truly see both sides of the ancient, angry dichotomy feels like being cored; you realize that you are already at the event horizon… no matter of effort can change physics, you know you cannot change the past, and all things, dying, must surrender their matter, their energy. Nothing personal, just the law, ma’am.
My mistake was thinking that only the destination I had set for myself and our family could be the best one to reach. I completely missed every stop along the way, every, single, possibility; mostly because it felt like settling for less, but also because it felt like insufficient return for the overall matter and energy investment of the humans involved – my daughter, primarily, but also myself and those who suffered alongside us, what friends and family existed.
At this point, it doesn’t matter how good the intention; to be certain, no one can trust in a positive intention when they are experiencing negative effects. I was not wise enough to realize this and, in truth, am still realizing the full weight of that sentence, even as I type.
I do not think I can take it all, it is already crushing me. But then, I remember, I do not have to take it all. Indeed, it is not all mine to take. I was not omniscient then, nor am I now. There were countless others around me, any of whom might have tossed me a lifeline, seeing me floundering. There were “family”, albeit singular and ultimately no more capable than I, who might have helped avert the fullness of the disaster and loss. But they were no more able than I, “I think you should call some of the local shelters to avoid homelessness; I wish I could help you, but my husband won’t let me.”
I could write more than a few paragraphs about all the people who looked anywhere except at me as I struggled to keep my head above water. But why? What did anyone else in this world actually owe me?
And now, here, for once, I ask both versions of this question: What did I owe anyone else in this world?
The answers are, of course, exactly what we proclaim in ourselves; the answers are mutable over time and wholly crafted within the self.
I am angry, hurt, and resentful because I want to deliver what I know is my full value. I perceive that my full value is contested, denied, and rejected.
In an instance where my value (not even full!) is denied and/or rejected, I should feel relief and peace! After all, nothing more or less has occurred but that a difference of view is clearly identified.
What should one do upon discovering that one’s value is seen as (perhaps much) less than personally held?
I assert the only thing to do is to withdraw, fully and without regret. To do anything less is to accord validity to a reduction of one’s value; even if a tacit agreement, the long-range affects are both toxic and detrimental to the very relation one aspires to give value TO, so how could anything less than refusal of devaluation align positively?
The interesting and perhaps even amusing part of this is that applying this series of thoughts to culture and broader society explains trends of insularity, removal, and solitude. Indeed, this is where intolerance and non-acceptance intersect and impact potential and pluralism. It is as chilling an effect on multiculturalism as it is family, organizations, or any other human construct – a pattern of behavior that seemingly and quite consistently positively selects narcissism as preferred in the culture, and exclusion as preferred in the society.
It is a cold comfort that I am certain not to be the only human experiencing this.
Candidly, it is a sorrow.