Ah, could I lay me down in this long grass
And close my eyes, and let the quiet wind
Blow over me--I am so tired, so tired...
~ Edna St. Vincent Millay
This morning, the tallest tree in my back yard stretched its naked branches skyward and swayed in the wind. The last amber fragments of leaves spun free and swirled over the still-green grass before coming to rest in a drift of red-gold-brown piled against the fence. The dance of the leaves was beautiful, but now they just look weary and faded like the rest of the foliage that has fallen over the past few days. Today I feel about as substantial as those leaves - dry and wispy, as if a stiff breeze could carry me away.
It is October 31st, Halloween and also the end of domestic violence awareness month. I had intended to post at least five articles about intimate partner violence this month, but personal issues have intruded and I am left struggling to stay level. The difficulties I've been facing have forced me to take a long look at how far I've come in the past two years. I am not displeased at the progress I have made, but I still find myself at risk of sacrificing too much for other people. Love often demands sacrifice, and I am not adverse to reaching compromises, but all too often I find myself laying my desire for consistency and stability down on the altar of another's needs and wants. It is constant struggle to find some semblance of peace between the tension of the lives of others and my own. I don't think relationships should be this difficult, but it is all I have ever known; how do I find my footing on sinking sand?
If I had distance and perspective it would be easier. I could look at this situation from the outside like a stranger peeking in through a window, seeing life in snapshots and glimpses and making decisions with the comfortable surety that they could not really affect me. From the outside the choice is simple - I determine what I can and cannot live with and I act accordingly. But on the inside, I agonize over what those choices will do to people - real flesh-and-blood people whom I love.
Still...how many times have I said that in order to love others we must love ourselves? It is finally time for me to think first about what my own unwillingness or inability to choose will do to me. I cannot afford to let my core be destroyed on someone else's altar. We are adjured to love others, to put others first - those of us who have been abused have not only been told to do so, we have been forced to, in the most painful of ways and because of this, acting in my own self-interest is well-nigh impossible for me. I have been preconditioned to feel selfish and evil when I even consider it. I have been taught to deny myself, to sacrifice all that I am so that others can have what they want in the moment, whatever that might be. The question is no longer "should I put myself first?" but has become "how can I reconcile a lifetime of learned behavior with this voice crying from my own inner wilderness that a straighter, better path must be made?"
Oh, but I am tired. My mind swirls like the early morning mist. My heart is withered and wasted with the struggle to find balance between myself and another. I know the journey is worthwhile but I am so tired; there may be miles and years ahead, but I can't bring myself to care. Like the leaves, I want to let go and just be carried away, to drift, and float, and fall...