Dear People Who Love Others,
I read an interesting thing the other day on one of my favorite web-based time wasters. Here is the quote from www.postsecret.com:
"My sister's boyfriend came to find her after she left him.
I greeted him at the door holding a shotgun.
I'm afraid of what I would have done if he hadn't walked away."
While I'm not an advocate of gun ownership in general, unless you use it to feed yourself and your family, I thought, what an interesting expression of love. What a fierce expression of love. This PostSecret resonated with me because of what you will read below.
I grew up in tandem with a girl from elementary school. Born less than a day apart, inseperable twins from separate mothers, we began a tentative friendship in grade 7, when we were entering into the strange new world of our teenage years. We spent our last years of elementary school fairly innocently, and even the first few years of highschool were unremarkable. We got into the typical troubles that other kids got into, experimenting with new relationships, dealing with temptations and the introduction of vice.
Somehow, in our last few years of highschool we diverged. She went away to school, I stayed home, and we diverged. I went away to school, she came back and stayed home, and we diverged even more. In that time, she sunk deeper and deeper into something that I can't articulate; bad choices, depression, a series of choices based on impulse... I don't know. But these things led her to a lifepath she didn't predict for herself in the optimism of her youth. She had dreams of becoming a writer; a dream that grew more and more distant as her grades sunk, and as she later found herself quagmired in the consequences of adult opportunities.
Her family watched. I watched. I felt helpless and unable to help her. I felt powerless to control her path, or steer her path, or even to offer guidance. And I didn't feel it was my place to interfere with her choices. I could not choose her friends. I could not choose how or where she spent her time. I could not choose what she put into her body. And I had no role in who she chose as partners in her relationships. It's not that I wanted, really, to control any of these things persay, but truly, I could often predict where she was headed for certain pain, and I wanted to help her avoid that because I loved her.
I have no idea what her family felt through all of this, but I can imagine. And I've heard the stories from my friend herself, of how her family had to bail her out of troublesome places from time to time. I'm sure these weren't easy choices for her family, there is a fine line between "enabling" and helping, but how can we watch the ones we love remain mired in the consequences of bad choices and circumstance?
At our most recent visit, over two years ago, her and I talked idly about life. She expressed a certain amount of regret, without ever specifying what it was she was regretful of. And I worried about her for all the things she did not say. The man she was living with was abusive. I knew the signs. Having to call in every 10 minutes, complaining of the consequences of raising his ire, and hiding the bruises under her eyes behind darkened lenses. I asked her about those, and she said that she'd provoked him. No, he's not such an asshole, I did it, I pushed him into it. He's rough around the edges, but he's really a decent guy.
A decent guy who happens to hit the woman he loves?
I knew there were no magic words that could convince her that she did not deserve any of her life as it was at that moment. All I could do was let her know that if she ever needed a break, or an escape, that she could come to my house.
I wish she would run to my house. And when he came looking for her, I wish I would be brave enough to love my friend ferociously enough to worry about losing my own sense of control.
I wish I could do more than offer an ear and a place to run to.