Last weekend the hubby and I had another writing group. I had a prompt with the line, “I wish I knew how to quit you.” The story turned dark right away. I wanted to do something funny, but instinct took me down a different path. I didn’t know that just a few days later, I’d realize how significant the underlying message would be. In more ways than one.
I don’t really want to share this piece, but I’m going to. And after the bit of fiction, I’m going to share why I chose to post it.
Mark slammed the door on his way out of the apartment and three photos fell from the wall. Shattered glass flew in all directions and across the floor. Tara looked down at the tattered photos, now slightly ripped from the sharp glass, and shook her head.
Mark’s image was the one she focused on. His dark, wavy hair curled into his emerald eyes. His smile wide and radiant. What had happened that led down this path of constant bickering and fighting? Seeing him happy tore at her heart.
She slowly pushed the glass into a pile with her bare hands. Slivers dug into her skin and burned as they cut her. Blood trickled out, but she kept sweeping the glass. It was all she could do to make herself feel better in that moment.
The pain was a distraction from her breaking heart.
Salty tears ran down her cheeks and into her mouth. The salt also distracted her. Tara sniffled a few times and finally collapsed onto the hardwood floor. A few pieces of glass dug into the rest of her, but she didn’t move. She let them push into her flesh.
The burn felt good.
Tara closed her eyes and allowed a memory to enter her mind. The week prior when Mark had awoken her to breakfast in bed. A single red rose displayed in the mini vase on the tray. He’d sat down by her feet, eyes cast down as he’d summoned words of surrender.
He’d wanted to leave. Felt it was time to move on.
Pleaded for him to stay.
So he did.
Two days ago, he wouldn’t turn down the television. She’d thrown the remote at his head after the fifth time of demanding he turn it down. Then she wanted to leave.
Tara got off the floor and looked around their apartment.
On the surface, everything looked normal. Pristine, in fact. The sofa didn’t have a pillow out of place. There was no clutter on the end or coffee tables. The lamp, that she recalled had caused a fight, let off the perfect amount of ambient lighting.
She walked into the kitchen and smelled the fresh lemons. They were fully ripe and leaking their juices.The aroma made her feel clean, but only momentarily.
The sink was empty. All dishes done and put exactly where they belonged.
Everything was perfect. Too perfect. Everything but her and Mark.
Tara walked back through the apartment the same way she’d come. On the way back, she noticed different things about the same spaces. The chip in the counter from where she’d slammed her cast iron pan down. The carefully placed picture frame in the hall to cover Mark’s fist hole. Then back to the glass still sitting in a pile on the floor with evidence of her blood on it.
She slid into a seated position and leaned against the wall closest to the door, and waited. She knew eventually Mark would come home, apology ready, with some sort of treat for her.
That’s how they worked.
It was always the best of times or the worst of times with them.
Tara waited for two hours until she finally heard the key enter the door and click to unlocked. Light from the entryway filled the dark apartment. It illuminated Mark, like the angel he was.
He walked inside, flicked on the hall light, and reached down for her. She reached a bloody hand up to him, and he grimaced. After helping her to her feet, Mark handed her a small box of Godiva chocolates. As she knew he would.
“What happened to your hand, babe?” he asked in a sullen tone.
She pointed to the glass with empty eyes.
“Let’s get you cleaned up and get to bed.”
Tara finally met his eyes. “I wish I knew how to quit you.”
“I know, babe. Me too.”
I share this because I’ve been struggling to break some bad habits. Things that keep me on a path of abusive behaviors, and no… these aren’t all from others aimed at me. I take part in things that are unhealthy, that hurt people. These are very specific things, which I may go into detail later about, but not now. For the moment, what matters is that these habits are things I took on in my youth to protect myself. I convinced myself that I wanted these things, wanted to be a certain way, when I really despised it.
Occasionally, I go back to those patterns of dysfunction. They’re like an addiction, designed to keep me entrapped and enslaved to the desires. Quitting something you’ve come so used to relying on for safety isn’t easy. Because these habits did give false illusions and feelings of safety and power. But it wasn’t safe. I wasn’t safe, and neither were people I was engaging with. There was power, but power abused.
So this piece I’d written and found tonight, meant more to me today. After I realized I’ve gone down this path again. I have a means to stop these behaviors. And that is in place. But the struggle is rough, even if I’m so fortunate to have people that will keep me on track with being a good person.
Yesterday, and even some today, I got called out on these habits in a big way. In a way that showed me how much someone cares. I know some people might run away screaming because, “Oh no! Not accountability!” But I loved and continue to love every moment of being held accountable for my actions and behavior.
I love being put in my place and knocked down when I need it. Especially when I’m taking part in behaviors that aren’t good for me and are fucking hard to quit.
While my story is about a relationship and my struggles are more about bad habits overall, they very much relate. It’s hard to stop and change directions when we’ve only known one way.
Hard, but not impossible.
Change for the best is in reach if we’re willing to drop our pride and do the work. But that means listening to what people tell us when they give us harsh truths about ourselves. It’s about filtering feedback to weed out those that only want to blame us for things, and those that give honest and constructive feedback. This is something I used to let get in my way of listening to people, but now I have such amazing folks around me that I know when they tell me something, I need to listen. Because they listen too. And they work hard to break their bad habits as well.
At least I see these habits now. I understand why I’ve been taking part and how they only breed more dysfunction. So I will work hard, as I usually do. Because if there’s one thing I know for certain, I can’t go backward. Growth is my only option.
*image by Julia Freeman-Woolpert on freeimages.com*