It started out with him like most of the others. Younger, but he was blonde, blue eyed-- an early 20s raver boy who I would later see at the club complete with pacifier and glow stick gyrating on top of the boxes at the smoked out edges of the dance floor. Whitney Houston, Madonna, early Mariah Carey and the like, rattling the walls and driving them all into a fury. There in the trendiest place between the Ohio River and Lake Erie. I have often wondered what a Gordon Lightfoot song would sound like, this modern day wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, with the bell replaced by a siren and the lifeworn and knowing cook replaced by the shirtless, glitter covered guy selling jello shots off his tanned sculpted navel.
It was hell and I loved it. Ex-boyfriend dancing and all. It wasn't yet a pattern when he ended things with the line "I don't know what I want but I know it's not you.". It still wasn't a pattern when I chased for an entire summer the man of my dreams who, for whom, I was only a footnote, or, worse a friend. Even then it was still fun, meeting people and "hanging out", mostly in my local bar. Not quite ready for love yet, but somewhere along the way my intentions changed. I remembered my parents were married at 19 and I started to feel I was missing out-- that my path was not complete without someone to share it with. The deadly combinations of lack of experience; being a dreamer; and being probably more than a bit desperate, impatient, and thinking I didn't deserve the best led the numbers to begin to pile up. I made up for the lost years that most people called their late teens and early 20s, convinced that I could earn a person's love by my actions, my efforts, and my hope. Thinking in my control freak chief fire dispatcher A personality way that I could make it happen. Mistaking too often single nights of fun for the first nights of something much bigger, when in truth, they were often simply crimes of opportunity. In the words of Jackson Browne, "What I was seeing wasn't what was happening at all
Although for a while, our path did seem to climb..." For me that often referred to one night, not the several months or years that should be required in some sort of dating constitutional amendment before you being to think "those thoughts"
Not wanting to be a quitter I tried and struggled-- convinced, like some sort of Gay Quaker Apprentice that It would only take effort-- trial-- chance-- intentions-- opportunity-- and he would come into my life. Some sort of cosmic reward for putting up with the drama, smiling at getting stood up, and giving of myself so freely in so many ways as to prove to them and myself that I was a nice guy-- and worth it.
Upon arrival in NY the pace quickened. A faster and deeper river. One that holds more fish-- and more sharks. Some would last a month or two, one lasted four years; one broke my jaw; more than one exhausted my emotions-- and my bank account. And all the while I got more angry at the sharks. Hurt and stunned that they did exactly what they were supposed to do. s each encountered confirmed not only my worst assumptions about the sharks- but about myself. But it was all misdirected. It may make you wince when watching those Nature shows. You know, when the cute puppy seal becomes just one more triscuit for the Great White. No cheese required thank you. But even the most adamant seal lover knows that this isn't a hunter in search of the pieces of a Madison Avenue Fur Coat, no this is nature-- and the shark is doing its job. It is surviving in the way it knows how. There is no more a reason to be angry at the shark than there is at the seal. Or at us for watching. This is the way of things-- all for a reason, all part of something bigger, and all there to teach us something, normally about ourselves. Including that swimming with sharks, once we can do so, is best avoided. Whether you are a seal, or a guy from Ohio with the best of intentions who learned, finally, what was there all along.
It has taken so very long too see that for so many days I had the wrong end of the stick. I was angry at the shark for being a shark- and convinced that the way to overcome it was simply to try and find a better shark. Rather than try and find a better me. I held onto the scars from their bites, a few leftover teeth and prided myself, even while immersed in the bitter memories left behind, that I was so willing to move right into the jaws again. Perfectly willing to forgive them, perhaps to show them I was the better person. Probably more to prove it to myself. I would show off the trophies to visitors, full of false pride that I had moved on, recovered-- when all my trophies showed was my failure to learn and appreciate the lesson.
But now, as I look down at my arms, and legs a funny truth lies on the surface. There are no marks there. No outline of the Great White's nibble. The pain, the reaction, the memory and the responsibility are all my own- and lie in a place that no shark, or boyfriend, or one-night stand can ever touch. No matter how determined. They were never in need of my understanding, my acceptance, or my forgiveness. No, the only person who deserved these things-- who needed these things-- was me. As I have grown to see that its not about them, it never was. It is about me.
Am I on the right path, doing what I feel to be true, answering my highest calling, not falling into the traps, and knowing that I deserve beauty and wonder and happiness, not because I surviveded the bites-- but just because I am human and I am here. Part of this amazing thing that is life-- and love-- and God.
Oddly now I am thankful for them. All that they showed me and taught me. Each and every one. For without them I would not now know the feeling of climbing out of the river where the sharks lie in wait. I think for now I shall walk along the bank, pause in the autumn sun, gaze at the fall leaves, and forgive the only person who I really truly need to forgive-- myself. Knowing that this is all part of a plan-- that my thoughts create my realities, and that searching for sharks led me to more sharks. Not surprising at all is it?
But now, with the words of Emerson, Bach, and Dyer rattling around my head I am excited in the knowledge that better lies out there. The bells of the Maritime Cathedral will not toll for my wrecked heart-- not any more. I will give love and peace to those I encounter, moving quickly on if my instinct tells me too-- but, for most, stopping to give the best of me-- and likely getting the best in return.
I may even stop by the aquarium.
And Now a Word From The Sponsor
Welcome to my site and thank you for reading. After many times thinking, if only I had a blog, well-- here we are. This blog will feature writings on a variety of topics from roadside food, to leadership in the fire service; politics; culture- gay, straight, and indifferent, my experiences in Ohio, New York and beyond; and much much more. It's my hope that you will find it interesting and that it stirs at least some thought and discussion. I am certain you wont always agree, but that is what its all about right? Oh and one more thing: The views expressed on this site are entirely my own. They do not reflect in anyway the views or positions of my employer.