4.39 The Purge


How many heart breaks do you get before lapsing into a bitter disposition? I'm looking for a number here. How many? Just a thought that popped into my head the other night. One of those things floating around in there, waiting for the right moment to rear its head. A file at the bottom of the desk, dusty, and only brought out when I need it the least. I've written many times about how I believe others perceive me. My relationship failings. My inability to maintain friendships. My perspective, despite any success I may attain, that I am a constant failure to those around me. Sure, I've developed a cynical attitude towards certain things, a carefully crafted persona that allows me to say and explore things I can't get away with in real life. But bitterness, bitterness is another story, something I'm afraid of and a state that I've fought off for a while now.

Yeah, it's a new year and all that crap. Time for change, right? The thing is, I've been in a near constant state of change, always trying new things, pushing myself out of my comfort zone. I'd like to think that all of these experiences help contribute to becoming a better person. I've shoved a lot of change into the past year, but with recent experiences and triggers around, I felt somewhat pushed backwards. Devolving.

Time for a purge.

After Christmas, I returned home and started at the bookshelf. Removed anything that I felt did not reflect who I am as a person at the moment. Get rid of those unread books that I've been carting around, the ones I kept promising to read. Instead they sit there mocking me.

Next, clothes. I have a rule: if I move it twice without wearing it, donate it. Filled a goddamn garbage bag full of clothes I hadn't looked at since buying them. Just sitting there taking up space.

Storage space. Look, I'm a very efficient obsessive compulsive person. My place is neat and tidy. But really, I just don't want to look at shit, so I stuff closets and storage spaces. Get it outta sight. I was going to have to deal with this sooner or later. Again, things I've moved several times. Rollerblades, hockey skates, thick instruction manuals for long lost electronics.

It was like I was purging someone out of my life. Those times when a relationship breaks down and you need to erase that person from your space. Destroy the evidence.

You wouldn't believe what I had in there. Crap. All of it. And then I came across a box of old letters, photographs and cards. Surrounded by junk, I sat down on the floor in the middle of the living room, started going through these artifacts. I can't say I'm an especially nostalgic person, but I got lost for about an hour.

The photographs. Old family photographs, pictures of grown up nephews and cousins and uncles and aunts. People I barely remember, others I hadn't thought about for a while. I went deep into these photographs. I then came across a series of pictures of me walking through a forest with my dog, probably almost twenty years old. I wondered what kind of conversation the me of now would have with that kid in the pictures. I would want to leave him be, his heart hadn't been broken yet. Leave him be.

Then I hit the cards and letters. Thank you cards and Christmas cards from former students of mine. Appreciative that I had been in their lives guiding them for a time. The ones from my wonderful parents, telling me of their pride and their love. The ones from friends, recalling experiences we shared. I cannot lie, by the end of this, I had laughed but mostly cried. I cried because of how wrong I have been. How I had a responsibility to these people and I think I let them down.

But I got to one final letter and it changed everything. It made me realize just how wrong I had been. I got it all wrong. From my writer friend: "Pausing from my own struggles with my novel, I thought I would let you know I was very touched by the way you have been expressing yourself. Do not be surprised at having some low points as you open yourself up to explore more deeply who you are becoming. Do not be afraid to let go. Note carefully that you are more emotional and true, but risk falling into abstraction. In your letter you refer to 'my character is walking', but I feel very strongly you needed to say, 'I am walking'. Begin your story. Who is the 'I' that is Paul Dore? What are his taboos that he must frankly confront? Expose. Explore. Your story needs to be written: write it."

What I was wrong about was that I hadn't let anyone down. At least not in the way I thought. Because of recent experiences, friends of mine have been putting my life and work in context for me. Sure, on one hand they have been trying to make me feel better, but I also think they're just being honest and see that I've been struggling and needed to hear certain things. They've told me that even though things were bad, I remained a good person, that I did everything right, everything I could to be a good person. So, yes, I've made lots of changes over the past year, but there remains some things left uncovered. What I have to change is how I perceive myself. I have to see the person that others seem to see. For a long time, I've been very good at looking at what I don't have instead of what I do.

And I realized that I wasn't purging someone from my life by throwing out all this stuff, I was making room for someone. Despite being discouraged by love, there's a strange hope that I will find someone to build a life with, that this is something I want and that person will make me better and I'll make her better. And to you out there that I did fail, to that person out there, I know in my heart that I tried my best, I did everything right, everything I could to be a good person. And I also realized that bitterness has not yet gotten a complete hold on me. Not yet.