Thursday, May 7, 2009


We all are human boats at sea. We pass one another unexpectedly sailing separate journeys; we make an impression. When our sails catch a gust of wind simultaneously we sail perfectly in synch, gliding.

Each boat we pass is unique, a lesson, a treasured gift.
Together, then apart.

Unfortunately, the learning and the lessons often come in the face of turbulent waves crashing and water overflowing the hulls of our craft, alongside ripping tides. After each storm passes, we assess the damage, lick the salt from any gaping wounds, batten up the damaged areas, mend our sails, and redirect our craft to calm water; taking inventory of our losses, and eventually sailing again.

J and I fit the boats/sailing analogy perfectly, although we have spent far more time sailing apart than together.

Except J was not only just a boat I passed on occasion. For twenty some years, he was also the wind that in my mind, could always right my sail.

Somehow, we always found one another out at sea. Most of the time, we were both lost. Alone. Tired. Afraid. We sought a certain comfort in one another that can only be found in the presence of someone who knows your history from being entangled in the other's.

In high school, J represented the cool, collected, athletic upperclassman we all lusted over but could not touch. In college, he was my elusive boyfriend. He was there when I needed but kept me at an arms length.

I was wild and loud, he was quiet and studious. I ran off to Europe. He dumped me. I came back from Europe with dreams of traveling more. He settled in to a fancy job, married, had a son.

We connected again years later after I had a son. We sailed together again, and then parted. Before and after this journey, I was fractured and painfully alone. He righted me. Then left.

He treated me like a queen when we were together, and the pain of our parting of ways always has been beyond words that exist in my vocabulary.

I implicitly trusted this man in a way I will never trust another human being. I say this because he had me in his arms and he had my trust years and years before my innocence was hardened, taken from grueling lessons of my own experiences.

Somehow, through all the years and our lives apart, we were always able to get immediately back to that raw, initial place; quickly, quietly, like a sweet, cool breeze dancing over a sun kissed burn.

What I didn’t realize until only recently, though, is that when I gave J my implicit trust, I came to protect myself and thereby shield myself from ever fully exploring the relationships I was in at the time because, in my mind, they could never compete with J.

J was so high up on this pedestal I created for him that no man could ever love like him, no man would ever have me vulnerable like he did, no man could, in a sense, compete. I never realized it when I was in a different relationship; in fact, sometimes I tried so hard to fit a round peg into a square hole that I practically killed my spirit off entirely.

But those men, they knew. They knew something was missing, some part of me.
I was never “all in.”

And now, years later as I am more single and unattached than I have perhaps ever been in my adult life, I can honestly, and wholeheartedly say, they were correct. I always did have one toe out the door. I always had this idea, that no matter how great they were…that J was out there somewhere and somehow, and he loved me a little better. I trusted him more.

A little more than a year and a half ago, J sailed by again. Like each time before, J quickly left, sailing on; leaving me alone in his wake, picking up the pieces, tasting salty tears, confused, wondering.

Except somehow this time things were different.

The trust, the pedestal I had J propped on, the person I made him out to be, the sand all came crumbling down around me.

I was capsized at sea.

I realized in the course of an afternoon, that essentially I’d lived inside a lie of J’s withholding his truth from me first for an entire summer, then six months. I was angry, hurt, I lashed out at him like I have never lashed out at a human being, ever.

And then I fell completely apart. Alone.

Nearly half a year later, I realized, that J’s fall was inevitable, that I even set him up for it in my propping him up there in the first place. He wanted so badly to keep from losing that trust, that page in my book, that he failed to tell me when he moved on. It was dishonest. Hurtful. Wrong.

We both knew it and it sucked.
But time passes. Wounds heal. Scars remain. Trust dies.

I found a series of life rafts in the most unexpected of places. I grew friendships. I made amends. I got angry. I got real. I looked at myself. I realized that the place I stuck him, for all these years, it was unrealistic, a fallacy, a lie we both told ourselves. It was unfair.

J was, in all his infinite wisdom, gentle touches, sweet kisses, thoughtful phone calls, and stalwart trust…human. And I had created him to be more than that. In my world, he was invincible.

He is no longer.

He is flawed and broken just as the rest of us are. It took me a very, very long time to realize this. It took me even longer to pull together for myself what impact his standing on that pedestal has meant for me in the other relationships I’ve kept these twenty some years. I haven't begun to reconcile that for myself, but I will.

And then, yesterday, nearly a year later, as I hurriedly scrounged around my office for the pieces of my cycling kit to go on a bike ride…J's name popped on my computer screen.

He apologized.

It wasn’t a perfect apology because J isn’t perfect. It was online, not face to face, just like the last time. I hate that and he know this. But perhaps it's better this way. I don't know that I want to see him anyway. I don't know if I will.

I do know this: he is human, doing the best he can, bailing salty water from his own craft just the same as I do mine. I forgive him, for making the huge mistake of failing to tell me the truth; and instead opting to protect me in a veil of silence and distance.

Forgiveness brings lightness. And for that I am so grateful. It was instant, reminiscent of being held in a tight embrace. I needed it for far too long.

No other man, J included, will stand on that pedestal. It is gone. It no longer exists.

From here on, those with whom I share my life and my journeys….we will share the same footing, the same common ground. I know without a doubt in my mind, that standing on that pedestal brought with it for J it’s own heartache, confusion and a knowledge that he would never live up.

I own this, and for that I am deeply sorry.

I also know that by sticking him up there for all these years, I unknowingly caused others pain and endless heartache, by being fully inaccessible, always one toe curled around a splintery door jam. And I own this, and for that I am deeply sorry.

Trust is elusive now, like the deep line of horizon, except it never comes to fruition.
It never will. At least not in that way again.

For now, my feet are both deeply rooted to this black Iowa soil. My boat is tied to shore, my heart off limits.

I take pause today though, to bask in the glow of the sweet embrace forgiveness brings, enjoying the light, the freedom that comes with it.

He saw his part and I let go.
My boat ready is to float onward, these lessons sewn to my sail.

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