Monday, June 11, 2018

I Am a Heart Warrior: I Have Survived... Twice.



“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”
-Eleanor Roosevelt

"I wish you did know me, before the accident. For with that grand collision, came a grave consequence.  The receptors overloaded, they burst and disconnect, till there is little feeling. 
Please work with what is left."
-Ben Gibbard (Death Cab for Cutie)

Below is a Post that was originally published in July of 2015.
     I had taken it down due to the nature of how many people, locally here that know both B and I, reacted to this post. They saw it as rather ungenerous and mean spirited. However, I would disagree. It is an honest expression from my experience of how all of that year went down. It was not a very good year and I would say to those people now that B as a friend to you is a far different treatment and set of behaviors from B the boyfriend or partner. The two difference are so stark in contrast, that I would say they are like Jekyll and Hyde. As unsavory as the thought may be, B treated his friends better than he treated his partners. I, personally feel it shouldn't be that way, but I can't control how another person chooses to behave and chooses to treat others. I can hear Hoggle (from the Labyrinth) saying,"It's Not Fair!!!" And Sarah would just simply reply to him,"No. No it isn't... but that's the way it is."



     I have included the original text that was published in 2015 and have also included interjections/updates (in RED) since I have learned the answers to some of the questions ("Questions... Questions that need answers."-Gandalf) I had back then, and, now, that there is more of the story to tell of it.  So, I'm telling it as objectively as I can for being emotionally involved in it.  It's somewhat of a reclaiming exercise.

     The above are excellent quotes. However, I don't think I have looked fear in the face, but I have lived through this horror and I have created a Heart Warrior.


     I had been working on some Art like this piece to help me through the rough time.  To express how I feel in a constructive way, instead of just burning their house down, which would be bad, but equally satisfying.  However, I feel very conflicted this past week in light of Historic events. Ill get into that in a bit. the context is important (I promise.)


     Like the above statement indicates, in 2015 (the first and worst time we broke up) I did work on Art that was intended as therapy for myself, to help focus on my feelings and taking all that negative/destructive energy and transmuting it into a space for creativity, self-reflection, self-love and personal progress.  It appears a coincidence that I reference the arson of my Ex's home.

     One of the therapy pieces I am working on this year (I don't work on them often; only when I need to) is a piece where my Ex's house is engulfed in flames and I am walking away from it. I had posted a photo of this piece in progress and it caused quite a commotion locally with some of his peoples. However, the funny (but not really funny) thing is, not a single one of those peoples actually asked me what it was about, save one. They just assumed I was making some arsonist threat or that I was unhinged or that I was just some bitter angry man. NONE of which are accurate. There was only one person who actually asked me what was the drawing about and I appreciated that. No one else involved actually condescended to be so reasonable, not even my Ex.


     The image is a symbol of my old life (Duh!) and I am making my way away from that life toward a new one, purifying it's loss and the pain that it has caused me through fire and the burning down of it (a symbol of purification and rebirth.) Anyone who studies symbolism in art could have come to that very obvious conclusion, but folks in this town would much rather jump to conclusions, crucify me, and write me off as some monstrous crazy man rather than to simply and reasonably ask me what it means. So... #Whatever (my eyes roll out of my head and onto the floor.) I'll elaborate more on that work when I complete it and write a post about it. In the meantime, back to the Heart Warrior...



     I had thought I was doing quite well recovering from the emotional manipulated Destruction of Pompeii my Ex put me through this past 6 months:  Constantly sucking me back in with kindness and promises of "we'll work it all out" only to break up with me all over again so I could not fully recover from the blow as he kept knocking me down by emotionally manipulating me, the situation and the ways in which we communicated with each other.  It was a trick, a cruel one that he used to punish me.  It's really made me think of how much of a Monster that makes him.  It also makes me question what kind of person does that, really.  It's a pretty cruel thing to do, especially when all I wanted was to actually work things out, to find a solution and work through the problems. But he blocked any sort of progress or possibility for that. There are really only two kinds of people in this world: Problem Identifiers and Problem Solvers.  B certainly is not the sort that likes to Solve Problems, only make them worse or make more problems.

     B has set up the same parameters to limit communication and manipulate our situation to suit his personal agenda and purposes. I'm less inclined these days to be as affected by this strategy as we spent 2 years in couples therapy trying to work it out after getting back together at the end of 2015.  The sad realization after all that therapy was that B is just this kind of person. He is not necessarily a Monster as I previously stated, but he certainly is petty, selfish, cruel and manipulative.  He definitely would be more interested in exacerbating a situation rather than exert any effort to improve it... Unless there was something "in it for him." This time around, I have no interest in working things out as I did in 2015.  I only have an interest in moving forward.



     In any case, Heart Warrior, was a piece that I began well over a year ago.  As you all know I participate in the Illustration Friday weekly inspiration illustrations form time to time.  Well around the end of April (2014) they posted a topic "Survivor."  B and I had just started fighting more than we have ever fought at the beginning of that month. I moved out of our bedroom and into the upstairs (my studio at that time) and he did not speak to me for about a month.  It was a very rough time, obviously, and affected my ability to work on art or to really do anything.  Until finally I forced myself to do something and a week before IF Friday posted Survivor they posted Natural.
 I had created an illustration of a Green Tea Leaf meditating. It was a projection of the state I wanted to be in. I wanted to be calm, and alright where I was at, which was certainly not the case. I wanted to be anywhere except where I was at.  I can definitely say: no one knows how to throw a cold shoulder like my Ex, B.  He's a frigid and distant man and I honestly don't know how I or anyone ever falls for him. The man is heartless through and through and does not care for anyone except himself.  It makes me feel like a fool not to have seen it sooner.  We were together 6 years, and he was able to discard me as a person with no effort at all. It's a little embarrassing to admit being treated in such a way, but that is how I was treated.  I was made to feel insignificant, small, meaningless and worthless.

     None of this assessment has changed much in the past 3 years. B still throws a mean cold shoulder, he is still frigid and distant, and he would still prefer I feel small, insignificant and meaningless.  I would amend my previous statement in that I don't find him heartless. He is just merely selfish, petty and vindictive.  He is more of a "out of sight and out of mind" type in that if you aren't right in front of him physically, his affection and feelings are only proportionate to your distance to him physically. So if you are far away, he doesn't have the time of day for you.  So, for him, it is quite easy for him to discard others, regardless of history, investment or nature of attachment.  So not heartless but just equipped with a very small heart, perhaps.  My Cancerean nature can't quite wrap my mind around how anyone could be "for real" like that; so compartmentalized and detached. However, I'm learning to accept that that is who he is and I can't change it.  I try not to take that treatment so deeply personal (as if I'm being singled out by him, even though it does feel that way) and it is a challenge not to take it so personally.  I don't always succeed with that. After those 2 years in couples therapy, I try to remind myself that he would treat anyone this exact same way, not just me. It doesn't really make me feel any better about it, but it does help me to accept it more now. especially since history has, more or less, repeated itself. I don't feel as foolish now, after everything that has transpired, because I see the pattern now for what it is.  



     So a week later, IF Friday posts Survivor and I have the idea for the piece I completed today.  I just was not strong enough emotionally at the time to complete it.  I sketched it out kinda-sorta.  I had a vision of a Heart (the muscle not the icon)  walking strongly down a road in the middle of a desert. He'd be covered in stitches and scars, implying he had been torn and ripped to shreds but slowly pieced and stitched and pulled back together again.
He's on the road, a Survivor of cataclysmic or apocalyptic events.  I wanted it to feel like a Mad Max or a Resident Evil (3) sort of Universe, where the land is barren and devoid of green or nourishment of any kind. I based his clothes and weapons off concept art for both of those films.  He looks very worn and torn which is how I have felt.


     There is a beautiful Japanese philosophy called Kintsugi.  When things break into pieces, they are mended back with gold. They believe that you should honor the history of the object. That all it's experiences are important and should not be hidden or forgotten.  It is what makes the object beautiful.  I love the sentiment and have thought about it a lot recently.  It's the reason I pulled this idea back out of the morgue and began working on it again.  I knew that I could finish the piece now and really needed to, for myself.  So I drew this little Heart Man and showed all of the scars and places where he had to be pieced back together.  It's important to show fragility and weakness sometimes otherwise the display of strength that comes afterward doesn't have the same impact or importance.  I have planned a few pieces that relate to this philosophy in the context of my recent breakup as a therapy for myself.  I am channeling strength from the creative ether from this practice, I believe.


     I never did complete the other works that I referenced above. I think at this point, I don't really need to.  When B and I got back together at the end of that awful year, I got many of the answers that I was desperately in need of when I originally wrote this post.  And therapy gave me the rest of what I needed to, in reality, piece myself back together in a way that I never would have been able to do back then.  Although, the end result between B and I turned out to be exactly the same (toxic and incompatible), I think that I am more OK this time around and this breakup... After all, it was my choice that ended it, but only because I knew B is not the type of person to look at things that way and see them for what they are and for how we both were an for what we both need that we aren't providing to one another. It wasn't always this way, but it became this way. It's sad, but it is what it is.  




     That is how I felt then and certainly how I am feeling about it now after being dragged through possibly the worst 6 months I have ever experienced at one person's hand.  I made a decision around that time that I shouldn't sacrifice what I wanted to do with my life for someone who could treat me as if I meant nothing to them and that could make me believe that they didn't.  What purpose does it serve to make someone you care about feel that way, anyway?  It was then that I decided that I would move to NYC and continue to pursue a career in Illustration. Which I am working on doing this year (making it happen).

     I still sometimes am angry about this point. He really did put me through a lot, unnecessarily, and if you truly love someone else, this is not how you would treat them, angry or not angry at them. To the latter point above, I have returned to my goal of leaving Georgia and moving to NYC to pursue what I actually went to college to learn how to do. Don't get me wrong. Graphic Design has been good to me and I will more than likely continue to do it to some capacity. However, the real goal is to eventually illustrate full time and let GD be my previously life. I really need a change and look forward to this move this next Winter.



     Thus far things are falling into place and I feel, now, far enough removed from this messy and nasty breakup that he put us through to move forward with my plans unencumbered by an emotional tie to him. (This was so not true. I still feel at times that I'm not "over it" per say and at that time I was very encumbered and emotionally still tied to him. I guess I was just trying to wish it so by speaking/typing it into existence as if it were incantation.)   This sentiment has been driving the car, so to speak, ever since and I have been creating art that would allow me to vent out my frustration and anger about these past 6 months.  Until... Marriage Equality is made legal last Friday with the ruling of the Supreme Court.  Then all I can think about are all the plans that we had to marry each other and for our future life together, etc.  They were like shelves of empty photo albums full of memories that will never happen. Not for us anyway.  Every Facebook photo of a smiling same-sex couple, one right after the other, happy that they can FINALLY be married, like bombs dropping or punches in my stomach. I guess the timing couldn't have been better. We break up and then we are finally able to legally marry. Bitter irony and it has made me feel conflicted for several days about him and about what we were to each other.  Things are not amicable between us, mostly his choosing. We don't speak to each other or have a way to, again his choices. He seems to have the inability to forgive others and move on. Among his uncanny ability to manipulate and freeze out others, he also can hold a grudge like no one else I've ever met. It's unfortunate that our biggest obstacle in working things out or even being friends has been him.


     Marriage... Funny thing is that we got back together, went to couples therapy and still fell apart again in the very same way. This transforms bitter irony into textbook definition for insanity. I'm not exactly certain why we both felt that the outcome would turn out any different than it had previously.  We went to therapy with the idea that it would help fix our problems in the relationship. On the contrary, at least for me, it just helped me see very clearly how the two of us really weren't good for each other, regardless of how we felt. We just didn't work at the core of things. To be very honest, personally, it boiled down to trust. I never quite trusted him again after 2015.  That year and the way we treated each other just changed me, permanently. There was just no going back or unseeing what you saw beyond the veil. He did insist/imply several times that we should get married. The thought, after all that therapy, quite honestly terrified me.  I knew then that I just didn't trust him nor probably would I ever be able to again. If he had actually proposed to me (which he never did. He always implied that was apparently my responsibility to propose should that ever happen) I would have said no. I don't think forcing us into a legal marriage would have saved us anymore than when heterosexual couples have children to "save their marriage." That logic is ludicrous and has never worked in history. So, even though it was legal for us to get married, we still didn't. That should tell you something right there.



     You can't keep from getting your heart shredded and stomped on but you can choose what you'll do next.  I chose to stitch this little heart back together, nurse it back to health with alot of liquor among other vices and get him back on his feet, armed to the teeth, on the road and ready for whatever is coming next in life.  It's a great unfortunate truth that my Ex will not allow us to be amicable and that he chooses to behave in very immature and nasty ways that hurt us both instead of trying to be part of the solution. (He still acts this way: childish and petty. We've known each other for 10 years.  This could have been quite amicable.)  I ran across something Deborah Reber had said about breakups, “Letting go doesn’t mean that you don’t care about someone anymore. It’s just realizing that the only person you really have control over is yourself.”
I can't control how B has chosen to act, but I can choose how I live my life and what I am going to do with it.  I hate that he made me choose between him and advancing my career as opposed to trying to find a way to stay together and accomplish my goals as well. But, it has made me realize that the "team" he always talked about just meant "Team B" and not "Team B&L."  It's obvious my needs and what is important to my life are not important to him unless it's convenient for him and he doesn't have to sacrifice anything or be challenged in anyway.  It's sad because that's how relationships grow and become stronger. So for better or for worse and because he chose to set up the parameters of the situation this way, his string gets cut and he gets let go.  Ultimatums instead of Solutions is such a terrible way to be.  But, I guess that's just my opinion.

     I still feel very strongly about the above paragraph.  B is still very "Team B" and not "Team Couple" or "Team Compromise" or "Team Teamwork." He is still very much a one way street and that was really my breaking point in deciding to end this almost 10 year relationship. This was, of course, following an argument we had had via text 500 miles from each other which was then succeeded by him "breaking up" with me via text. The man couldn't even give me the courtesy of a phone call, much less wait until we were face to face (after 9 years.) Then pretends that it never even happened days later. I knew right then, that this relationship was never going to work. If we were just friends, then we should be just friends. However, B is the kind of guy that refuses to be friends. Like Ms. Reder states, the only person I have control over is myself. When I look back and reflect on this relationship, I am saddened by a terrible realization. When I look at B, now, I can't see the man that I fell head over heels in love with 9 years ago.  I see a stranger; someone that I can't even recognize any longer. I see someone that, given any other circumstance, if I met them today and hadn't known them previously, I really don't like. It's sad, but it is true. I don't even know who that person is when I come into contact with them these days. That truth is just crazy to me when I think about it from time to time now. :0/



     So all stitched up with scars and all, I track my way through the rest of this year until I will move to NYC at the end of this year.  I will miss all my friends here but am VERY READY to Start my new life in NY. A fresh start and a new sunrise to shine on my face, scars and all.  For those of you out there going through a breakup this year, keep your chins up.

Until next time, friends,
Keep sketching, keep thinking, keep laughing and most important of all, 
keep making art.
Cheers,
LEWIS









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