gifts of darkness.

Dear Atheist Reader(s): wherever you see "God," Heaven," or "Angels," just
insert "Richard Dawkins," Stephen Hawking," and "Christopher Hitchens and Margaret Sanger."
It still works, I promise.

I went to see a counselor today. She knows me. It's a working, professional friendship at this point. We don't do coffee; we do office meetups. Every so many years, for a few months at a time. And every time I go back, she goes, "Well, I'd ask you how you are, but I see that you're here sooo...come on in! Your hair looks great, by the way!" 

Her file on me, which she's been keeping since 2007, is about 2 feet thick now. Which I'm actually pretty happy about, because ha! Turns out, back in 2007? I was saying the SAME fricking things I said in 2009, then again in 2011, and in 2014. Today when I sat in the office with her and started, I went, "Well, I'm just a big mess and don't know what the hell I'm doing or why." And she flips through 2 feet of notes and goes, "Yes. That's exactly what you said when we first sat down in 2007...and then again in 2009...and 2011...and 2014." 

So basically: same shit, different decade. 

Have I told you about my favorite poet and poem? My favorite poet is Mary Oliver. She wrote a poem called "Box of Darkness" and it goes like this:

That's my favorite poem. Ever. I learned about boxes of darkness from a man named Steve, and he taught me that what Mary wrote is absolutely true: someone can give you a box of darkness and it's not necessarily a bad thing. 

For example, Steve's box of darkness was so big, and so dark, it broke my heart into a billion little pieces that took me forever to put back together, and some pieces I still can't locate. I've had to learn to let them go, and be okay with having a heart that's a little chipped in spots. 

And yet. 

Steve's big box of dark had me so hurt and upset, that I sat on the floor of a bedroom at my parents' house one night, holding his box of darkness, my tears dripping into it. But then, my dad quietly came in and sat down next to me and just...sat. In the dark. Silent. For a very long time. Probably not knowing where to start, unsure of what to say. Finally, he awkwardly stroked my back and told me what a bum Steve was, and that he was glad I wouldn't be with someone who couldn't see what a gift I was, that Steve hadn't deserved me anyway. My dad hugged me (awkwardly) and said, "Because you're smart and beautiful and I love you." And then about a year later, my father died. So that's a memory I get to keep in my heart now forever and ever: the one time my dad told me I was smart and beautiful and I clearly heard him say the words, "I love you."

Thank you, Steve, for what your box of darkness gave to me that night.

I don't know how many boxes of darkness I have handed out to other people in my life. I hope it's not more than, say, five. And I hope they were all as helpful as the Steve box.

Today, I talked a lot about why, since 2007, I've been so up and down. Why am I fighting Life so hard? Why am I struggling? Why does this pattern keep happening? But then she noted today was actually very different, because even though I'm saying the same things, I'm (literally) not in the same place. I've taken an action. I'm on my own now. And even though I'm still struggling, I've taken a step forward. And any step forward, however small? That's progress. And Life is not about a series of successes, it's about a series of small progresses.

And then we talked about when I'd be ready to take one more step forward and then another step and another, and she said only if there was no chance I'd go back to a life with C. And so we talked at length about that, and we looked at her notes. What I most noticed from her notes was a continuous pattern between C and me, wherein I'd be told I wasn't ever going to really be enough. In one session, he said he knew I was the perfect raw materials for building who he knew I could eventually be...and he was still building me. In another session, he talked about wanting me to reflect back to him who HE wants to eventually become. 

And this, at heart, is the C problem: When do I get to be just perfectly raw and not have to be sawed and hammered and bent and molded? And when do I get to see a reflection of who I want to become? Who's going to reflect that back to me? These are important questions seeing all summed up in, literally, DECADES' worth of notes, had a big, crazy impact on me. I needed to see them from someone professional's side, and talk about them and why I'm not crazy to have them. Because I've got a girl who's going to have to ask herself these same questions one day.  And ultimately, my whole reason for existence these days is Miss M. I want her to be happy. I want her to be loved, as is. I don't want her worried about reflecting anyone else's reflection but her own (she will have to, eventually, because her father knows who it is she's going to be...and this will be very hard for him, if/when she has a different idea). 

And so I closed a window today. I quietly, gently, sadly closed a window that, I'll be honest and tell you: I was kinda sorta leaving cracked. A bit. Just in case. I really, really miss the safety and security of being with someone else; of not having to do it all. But I took a deep breath today and went ahead and made the decision to firmly shut and lock it. 

And I took C's box of darkness and closed its lid. It's sitting with me right now, for the moment, because I'm still kind of attached to it. It's The Known. But when I'm ready, I'll tuck it in the back of a closet somewhere, next to Steve's. And the other Steve's (there were actually 2...ask me if I'LL ever date a Steve again). And my dad's. 

I've learned a lot from C. He's been one of my life's greatest teachers. The reason I am the way I am right now has a lot to do with him. C taught me about good taste - in people, in material things, in restaurants, in adult beverages. C turned me from Kentucky girl to cosmopolitan Atlanta woman. C also taught me the best way to get good customer service over the phone (ask THEM to help YOU). I learned it's okay to say you're excellent at something; you don't always have to be self-deprecating. C taught me how to throw a good barbecue AND a great dinner party. C pulled me out of my shell. I will always, always love C. Forever.

But when it's time to let go, you just have to...release. Hug it to you, tell it thank you, and let it go.

Today, I was given resources and contacts so I know what (legal) steps to take next, where to go, who to talk to. I know what I need to do to keep moving forward. Which I thought would make me scared and sad, but really just left me with a deep sense of calmness, and peace. I am sad. But I am also calm. I'm at peace now. That's really huge. I'm not angry anymore. I only want good things for C, and I want him to be happy and at peace, too. 

I realized today I haven't really been at peace with myself about my decision to move out. And this is what progress, baby steps, looks and feels like. And the closing of boxes and windows and doors and the packing up of hopes and dreams and memories. 

C gave me a box of darkness, and I gave him one, too. And so boxes of darkness are gifts we unknowingly give one another, essential building blocks of growth. And sometimes important memories. The End.

.........oh wait no! Ha! All this peace and calmness talk. You do know that there will be moments of melodrama and angst here still, yes? I mean, I'm a pretty pretty princess on the inside, with a penchant for melodrama. Yes, yes...I'm peaceful and cool right NOW. But don't get comfy. Winter is coming - I think next weekend is Daylight Savings Time, which means the days will be shorter. Less daylight, longer nights? That's when I get REAL dramatic. 

I'm just saying: I can see the light at the end of the tunnel now. I'm still in the tunnel. But I see some light. (It'll be better when we're back in Summertime, though, because daylight lasts longer and I get more sleep.)

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