I like to think myself as seeing people as they truly are, looking beyond labels. This morning I realized just how shallow I can be.
I first heard about Sam a few months ago. He is one of my neighbor’s brothers and she told me he was getting out of prison just before Christmas. At the time I didn’t give it much thought, just conversation. She was excited she would finally get to see him again. I was happy for her, ’cause I’m such a caring, compassionate guy.
Today she was coming up the stairs while I was on the balcony, Sam was behind her. She introduced us. I remembered the conversation from months ago and realized he had just gotten out after an 18 year stint.
We talked for the next hour or so. About his plans. About how his life had changed in the time he was “away.” He was smart, articulate, positive. He owned his choices and was quick to point out life had been more than fair to him. He paid the price for the choices he had made and he believed he would also pay the price or reap the reward for the choices he is making now.
He’s a guy I could hang out with and have a good time.
But here’s what it showed me about myself I didn’t like. When I went back into Area 51 after our talk, I was surprised by him. Without me even realizing it, I had in my own mind a “picture” of what an 18 year ex-con would be like. Seeing himself as a victim. Unintelligent. Negative. Angry at what the world had thrown at him.
It made me wonder how many other “categories” of people I dismiss without realizing they are “people” not just a category. Political affiliation. Religion or lack thereof. Skin color. Geography. Socioeconomic status. Job.
In 2017 I’m going to attempt to see more “people” and less “category.” That might be the best Christmas gift I could receive. Thanks Sam.
I don’t know the origin of this quote, but I love it. If you know, comment below and I will give credit.
This time, He broke up.
He had taken his time. Waited. Waited to figure out if She was going to be all-in. Waited to see if She would impose Her own curfew. 3 months.
Of course in waiting, judging, evaluating there is always a danger. Reading into action or inaction. Misinterpretation.
Miscalculations leading to pain. Pain leading to stagnation.
But He had decided. The pain needed to end. The lashing out needed to end. They needed to end.
He spent Saturday morning crafting and discarding emails. Looking for words. He wasn’t angry or hurt, He just wanted it to be over. To be as painless for both of them as possible.
His email to her was not eloquent. They both hurt each other, this needed to stop. He loved her, but neither needed the hurt.
He asked her to call. To talk. To put it to rest. She replied she couldn’t until evening. He, not being patient and wanting to just finalize, sent Her another, longer, more eloquent, more caring email. Loving her still, but believing They still must be done.
Later, she responded. By text. “I love you. I’m losing my boyfriend and the only one I want to comfort me is you. Come up.”
The words caught him off guard. He didn’t know She still loved. He didn’t know He was Her “boyfriend” – that was a level of relationship He assumed They left in May. What about the Others?
He drove to her Sunday. Confusion. Elation. Not having a plan.
Sunday, they talked. Openly. There were no Others in her life. But there was an issue. A reason She had seemed more distant. A reason She withheld words of care for him, A reason she had fought to not love him.
A reason she had never shared but loomed large in her mind.
Embarrassed and fearful of His reaction, She finally shared. If They were to go on, if She were going to be “all in”, if they were to move toward a life together, He had to make a change.
Surprisingly for both of them, He was not upset nor even surprised. He understood. It was a reason He had assumed had been there all along – even from one of their first texts. “Not everything is Porsches and rainbows, my life is messy right now.” He had known and been working to de-mess his life.
He had not made much progress. It scared her, rightfully so. A future meant something. She couldn’t tolerate a future of fear, of uncertainty.
He got that.
He would try. Willing to take new paths – or at least consider them. Willing to put His life together for Himself but open to Her gaze. She needed movement. That’s all She asked, to see.
He could provide. He already had to fix the problems in His life, and letting Her see wasn’t an issue.
He asked for change from Her as well. He wasn’t sure how She would react. He thought She would refuse to try, say it was just the way She is. “Sorry ’bout cha.”
But She didn’t. She was open and affirming and caring. She wanted to go on, try, make this work if it was going to work.
She wanted Him in Her life. He wanted Her.
Aphrodite is cruel and fickle. She gives us love, but always with pain. Fear. “But what if..?”
That night, as they lay together entwined, She said “I wish this was enough.” He wished it too, but He also knew They could do this. He could fix; She could attend.
He left hopeful for “a better…“
All of us are flawed. Some are flawed beyond reasonable measure. Most of us are appropriately flawed.
Appropriate flaws are good. They make us interesting. They keep us humble. They give us the impetus to grow, to be “a better…”
But even appropriate flaws, during the time between recognition and “better,” can prove fatal. Fatal to a life, a goal, a relationship.
Maybe, just maybe, in a rare instance, we can find a repair. A small jewel to cover the injury in the diamond. The scar, the flaw, may always be there, but maybe, just maybe, with time and patience and skill, even the scar can become beautiful.