Seeing the blood dripping into the toilet, I realized that I was going to drive myself crazy.
The brilliant red, larger drops than I had ever seen up close, poured out of me after the vomit had made its way through.
Drip, drip, drip, transfixed by deep red permeating the dark beige of whatever had been roiling around in my stomach that could no longer be contained. I felt like I'd never seen that colour before. It was beautiful in a grotesque way.
And I had one of those brilliant moments of clarity that we all wish for and fear at the same time. I couldn’t stay on this ride.
I had to stop this.
It hadn’t only been a day or two of stress that had me tied up in knots. Rather, it had been years of riding wave after wave of insecurity, being attacked more brutally than anyone I had ever known personally, with the odd sort of tentative peace here and there but never truly a culminating victory over anything or anyone. This year, despite being only four months in, was picking up the pace with its frenzied challenges headed up by the reappearance of old demons in my day-to-day life.
That’s what I mean about tentative peace, battles being fought and never truly won, because when people cast you as the bad guy, there’s no end to how many times they’ll need you to get in line and play your role even when you don’t want to.
This weekend put me face to face, and in direct competition with, the people who set me rather brutally on the path that I am on today. They commanded so much power and influence in my life that I went along despite the inherent wrongness of the culture they cultivated; the disrespect, the tendency to throw people under the bus, the shameless using of others, and the rewriting of history as it suited them. And despite all of that, I longed for a moment of positive regard between us, that perhaps in their heart of hearts they could finally see me as an equal worth respecting. I had even planned to acknowledge the good parts about what they did for me. But I didn’t get the chance, and I’m glad I didn’t, because seeing them win this one let me know with their awkward, forced self-congratulating speech that they have not changed. There would never be room for the acceptance that I still seemed to crave, not only from them but from the other people in my life who had kept me in the FOG (Fear, Obligation, Guilt) for so many years that setting boundaries for my own health is still so difficult.
You can’t live your life based on what other people think of you. To do so is too dangerous; your identity can be made and destroyed based on one person’s skewed opinion of you, and it’s not fair to anyone to wield that kind of power.
In that moment, realizing that the bloody nose and nausea had come from a deeply internalized sense of stress, I knew that I had to let it go. I had to break the chains of obligation and guilt, and step more firmly onto the path I had chosen for myself because I know, when given enough solitude and time to reevaluate my choices, how fiercely I believe in who I am and what I am doing, and how much I will continue to fight to build, to grow, to help myself and others prosper, and to create safety in the lives of everyone around me.
To do that, and to become more, to set my boundaries and focus only on what I can control, I can, and must, let go.
And I do so with dignity, poise, and respect.
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