It is easy to write about the highs of life, the love that bounces off and to me so freely and kindly, the stories that make me laugh, the characters I hold so dear to my heart. I have been accustomed to protecting the ones I love when I write, never wanting them to experience the pain of being exposed for being human, a sacrifice I know comes from being loved by a writer.
I feel it all the time, the fear, the raw emotion of cringing at the publish button, wondering if the people in my life who are affected by my words will know I cringe, or if they see them as flippant pieces of a life easy to judge through a computer screen, accustomed to my truth, never seeing what it has cost me.
I know truth will always set you free, but I am no longer naive.
It almost always costs you something first, and it slaps you with its humility, cuts with a razor blade, burns like a rope tied to your ankles until you surrender.
My father was the charmer, always going the extra mile to give you cash when you were down to a penny, certain to make you aware that life was not safe without him, certain his gifts were the life jacket he threw, a skill so disguised I would find myself thanking and even apologizing, unaware the drowning was not only a black crazy hole sucking you to darkness.
Life jackets make you float and his were weighted with lies, a hand on my head pushing me under, with a smile and a check.
My lie was believing my madness made me sink.
My shame was that I loved him anyway.
My pain was that I deserved it.
And so, the Collector comes, his gifts as beautiful and pure as the ocean is deep, and I did not see the need for a life jacket, my feet not even close to the water. His love opened me to discover the realms of my truth, that I was nothing I had thought.
I jumped in head first, after resisting the tide to the point I was physically ill in my refusal and fear, the weights of my own lies had kept me far from saving, so far that I didn’t even believe I was capable of floating much less diving.
Through Your Vulnerability Comes Your Invincibility.
I love that quote and here I was, hard and shallow, rigid in my refusal to ever fall into a trap, a pride that formed in believing by never being hurt, you always win. I had to sink to learn to swim.
I don’t write to make anyone happy, not even myself, but I write to be free, to own my truth however misguided and scary it may feel.
The Collector has worked tirelessly to give to me, and I let him on the day I made a decision to love him for free, without a return to my investment. I knew that I had serious pain and betrayal hidden under the layers of this one truth, the truth that I do not operate like most, my love to explore and experience far greater than my love to snuggle up with a safety pillow. Pillows that make some feel soft and warm can also suffocate you in the middle of the night, the night you were destined to dance to a song played just once, and so while the lover snores, I toss.
It never occurred to me you can dance just the same, with men who hate pillows, that I am not insane to want both, my judgements have been harsh, this belief I do not love well.
I am sad at this thought, remembering my mother speak of my boredom with boyfriends, her always telling me to just face it and break up with them, the family phone ringing off the hook, my immaturity and curiosity hoped for the best, my need for freedom and adventure always won.
I don’t want this war and so I chose freedom, a belief that my adventures will always be satisfied, and we all win because in the end, no one gets hurt.
I didn’t know war is war no matter which side you are on, a truth I face tonight, staring at my pillow, not sure if I am being betrayed, by myself or him, or perhaps not at all.
It is the madness of the life jacket, not certain if the weight I feel comes from believing lies, or if the weight is not a lie but a truth I have hidden in my quest to be brave. I know that choosing to love despite the fear and betrayal has freed me. I have learned that I am nothing I imagined, that my heart is capable of more than I ever dreamed, that my father does not have the power to make me afraid.
I do not believe he will get the credits on the end of the screen, at my last breath for any of the choices I make, so what is my movie exactly, the message I have come to speak, the ending I want to imagine?
My ending is floating, the sky warm against my face, my smile wide, my heart bursting, the dreams I cried at birth playing before me, the world watching a timeless piece of art that left an imprint of what is possible when one chooses to love and lose, but love again and again.
It is the mark of the true hero.
Bravery is loving when no one has loved you, not the way you deserve, so you find it on your own, and it costs you but is immeasurable just the same.
Love never abandons true seekers.
So I face this weight today, wondering if I have imagined it into being, if a savior has appeared when I never asked to be saved. If love is real, and a man sends a life jacket, cloaked in the finest of intention, flirting between love and casual lies, how do you trust it? What if the savior is just a piece of my unhealed trauma, not even a savior, and my ending is the reality I crucified him for sending the help I needed?
I am treading water, watching the pull of the tide grab my ankles, pushing me into the unknown dark cold waves of myself, deep and mysterious, and I am awake and alert, defensive and on guard.
It is a paradox, this blind trust of love and faith.
Certainly not all flotation devices are evil and we all need salvation at times but I have trusted the wrong ones too often to risk drowning from punctured holes too naked for my eye to see.
But it is love not fear where the well of healing springs.
It is the making of greatness, this impossible to read life jacket, for it is my only way of knowing if I am the one who has finally learned how to save herself, a thought that makes me want to doggy paddle to safety, the dark sea causing my head to panic and my heart pound.
Sink or swim, I must release the jacket.
It is the only way.
It doesn’t take away the weight, the impossible grin on my father’s face as I grab in certainty only to sink and sink, his life jacket cloaked in a sweetness only betrayal could invent.
This suffocating thing he called love must be exposed, found, and saved, not by the Collector or anyone else.
It is the one thing I want more than any ending in all the world, to trust love because it stands on its own, to know that I am the savior, that no flotation device can be trusted.
That is the point.
I have to let them go by, these safety devices claiming they can save me from the dark pull of my own doubts, my weary distrust of saviors, always appearing at your weakest, the moment before you know you are beautiful and powerful, the very second before you decide you no longer can survive.
I must sink or swim, or both, but I am certain in the end, I will have learned to float.
If only I knew how.