I will not be a pawn

I tried to make this place my place

I asked for providence to smile upon me with his sweet face

Yeah but Ill tell you

My place is of the sun and this place is of the dark

And I do not feel the romance I do not catch the spark

My place is of the sun and this place is of the dark

(By grace, my sight grows stronger)

And I do not feel the romance I will not be

(And I will not be a pawn for the prince of darkness any longer)

Indigo Girls (Emily Saliers) – “Prince of Darkness”

That’s one of my favorite songs by the Indigo Girls, or anyone. I feel those lyrics, as though I could have written them myself (if only I was a talented poet). That song came out years ago, but it seems that over time it has resonated more and more with me.

I tried. I have tried to make so many places, or even people, my place, but it was not to be. I asked for providence to smile upon me, but there was only consternation. Through it all, I have never felt the romance. Ever. For a very long time, I could not catch the spark, either.

For me, the spark is the singularity of my essence, my spirit, my soul. That tiny place where all that I am intersects with everything else that is. I have spent a long time not feeling the spark of creation, the spark that marks the tiny place of connection with the Source. The place where I hope for a better place that is my place. And I do not know if I have found it, or if I have found it many times and lost it, and I grieve. We all grieve, I think.

When I cannot feel the romance or the spark, the darkness is palpable. So, I must ask myself what’s happened, what’s blocking that connection, what’s blocking that feeling of belonging and the feeling of yes, this is my place, these are my people, this a place of light. When have I felt that? Have I ever, or have I just settled for something that felt only slightly better than grieving?

I feel that I have settled. Settling is the kiss of death for a heart that yearns to give birth to something. For me, settling has meant giving up, abandoning fledgling dreams, becoming comfortable with the darkness. I do not want that to be my place. It’s someone else’s place, I think.

My pattern has been to allow other people to define my pace, to define me. I have been a pawn to so many others it’s dizzying to count them all. When I was getting sober, and even slightly before that, people would tell me that I give up my power very easily, very willingly. I didn’t understand that, and really just wanted them to be quiet because they didn’t understand how badly people were treating me. I had nothing to do with it, because I was just the victim.

I did not realize then what a willing victim I had become. Because I did not believe in myself or even that I had a right to be here, I was so grateful for anyone to give me even the slightest bit of attention, affection, time. People can smell desperation on your skin, and the predators amongst them smell blood and begin circling for the eventual kill. I thought circling meant they were still interested in little old me. Not so much.

The older I get, I continue to regret that I didn’t get some of this sooner. I feel as though I have wasted so much time. But it kept me off the streets, quite literally, all those nights when I was too angry or hurt or scared to be out and about in crowds of sharks. I was bleeding, and did not know it, but they knew it.

It has always mystified me what other people see when they encounter me. I know that some of them write me off almost immediately, based solely on aesthetics. Whatever. Some may come in for a closer look and maybe conversation, and that goes smoothly for a while, until I trample with heavy feet some social cue that I didn’t get the instructions for. Whatever. Some are politely dismissive, and I suppose that happens to some degree with just about everyone at one time or another.

In the past, the far distant past I must say, when people were dismissive and ignored me for the most part, it became a challenge. It became an obsessive game that I was compelled to win. You are going to pay attention to me, because I have the power to make that happen. Um, well, no you don’t have that power, but yes, you are making quite a fool of yourself. That pattern lasted far too long, and I lost so much of my self-respect. I also lost hope for quite a long time, and became more and more desperate.

Looking back on that pattern, which I must admit will pop up from time to time when I get my motor running, I feel very sad for that person I was. Some of that was learned helplessness, some of it was addiction, and some of it was just me. Just me, who believed I should always be that perfect, cute grandchild who didn’t have to do anything for people to love her, didn’t have to be responsible for her own messes, was given grace when she made the mess. Life was good.

That worked just fine when I was three. It doesn’t work when you’re 33 or 43 or even older. Precocious gives way to obnoxious, little princess gives way to self-centered drama queen. I was the last to know. I just kept bashing my head against brick walls and getting more and more angry that the wall was making my head hurt.

Numerous people tried to impart to me the age-old knowledge that when you bash your head against a wall, your head will hurt. To make the pain stop, stop bashing your head against the wall I didn’t get it. I couldn’t hear it. You can’t hear things like that until you are ready on some soul-deep level, and I wasn’t ready. So, I kept bashing my head against the wall.

The wall, interestingly enough, was of my own making. I presumed for a very long time the wall had been the place where my will met up with the will of other people, and it was a barrier that I could not overcome. It was their wall, and I just didn’t have the right stuff to scale it, not pretty enough, not rich enough, not thin enough, not smart enough. Whatever the key to the lock was, I didn’t have it. DOOM. I am just not enough of something, and never will be. JUST DIE. Well, let me work on that…and I did for quite a long time, in slow motion, just to make it last longer.

My understanding of my place is that I can’t make anyone else create it for me. I have to do the work to make my place. What I’ve come to learn, the hard way of course, is that my true place is not out there. I went through quite a long period of time wrestling with my identities, all of them, and coming to the conclusion there was no place in this world that had a container to fit all of me. Having that view of the world is self-defeating, and I regularly defeated myself, but still fervently wishing the world was different.

What needed to be different wasn’t out there, it was in here. I needed to be different on the inside. Inside me is the place that wasn’t my place. It was the place the darkness was preying upon, whittling it down inch by inch, molecule by molecule. I was a pawn, doing things to excoriate the very essence of who I am. I was a pawn to the other people’s version of who I am supposed to be, what I am supposed to look like, how I am supposed to behave. That’s where the power drains, that’s the horrible sucking sound I was hearing in my brain.

So, I will not be a pawn any longer. I am clear on that, but it takes practice to reclaim your place, and it takes effort. Some days it really is a struggle, because some of it is counter-intuitive. When someone asks me to do something, my natural instinct is to people-please and say yes before I’ve assessed my ability or willingness to do it. This has not worked very well for me over the years, but I have made some progress with it. I will have to work on this probably for the rest of my life, though. Some of us are just born with that switch activated, and the best thing for me to do is accept that as just apart of who I am. I can work on being aware of when it’s not in my best interest to be a people pleaser, and keep moving. Sounds simple, but just not all that easy. But, nobody ever said it was going to be easy.

It’s interesting for me to be thinking about “the spark”, and how exactly that works in my life (or doesn’t as the case may be). When I thought I felt the spark, I think I was lying. I was feeling something else, sometimes hormones, sometimes addiction, sometimes grandiosity. But it wasn’t that spark of creation, the spark that tells me I’m connected to where I come from. That’s the spark I crave.

So how do I get there, how do I get that spark? Maybe the spark is always there, but I have to clear away enough debris and flotsam of the past to feel it. That’s the prince of darkness, the detritus of my own making that I won’t clear away, the wreckage of the past that. It’s clogging the drain and blocking the purging effort, so I have to find a way to move that on down the line.

The wreckage of the past is an interesting port of call. It’s hulking and rusted and not doing anyone any good sitting there. I keep thinking it can be used for something, but I think it’s much better just hauled away. If there’s anything that can be recycled, the recycling center will figure that out. Let’s just get out the trash bags and get to steppin’.

My wreckage is made up of mistakes, hurts that came from making mistakes, all the times I rejected the writing on the wall and edited it to make an impressive diatribe on a useless topic. It was still the writing on the wall, and it still urged me to abandon ship. But I have never been one to listen to good advice, at least on the first reading. Trash. That needs to go into the trash. The entire pattern, not each singular incident or memory, but the whole pattern. That will take care of all the incidents, and hopefully make it impossible to repeat.

Of course, in reality, I cannot trash mistakes. I am not perfect, no matter what so I am going to make mistakes. What I can dispense of, however, is the impulse to be perfect and the resultant unforgiving and punishing self-flagellation that goes along with it. That’s going to take some doing, but maybe it doesn’t just disappear, maybe it’s just improvements along the say. I am not the same person I was 30 years ago, desperate for breaking down someone else’s wall, so there’s improvement to be had. I am just not sure I have ever forgiven myself for being so incredibly self-destrucive.

Forgiving myself has never been my strong point. I am still beating myself up over conversations I had when I was 12. Of course, I can’t remember my commitments on any given day, but I can remember something from 1972. But, that’s how I roll. Perhaps a reasonable goal would be to realize that I can recalibrate, reorient, reroute and stop doing that. Or at least stop doing it so often.

Forgiveness in most situations has been daunting for me, because when people have done a wrong thing, a hurtful thing, they may or not have regret about it. If they have no remorse, I don’t see any reason to forgive them. I certainly don’t see any reason to announce that I have forgiven them, or attempt to establish good and loving relations with them. I’ve found that only serves to make other people more comfortable, and it certainly does not give me any warm fuzzy feelings of contentment.

What I do hope to get from forgiveness has nothing to do with the other part in some long-ago dispute or direct action like property damage. It has to do with me being aware of what happened, and remembering how I got there. It has to do with forgiving myself with learning and doing better. It’s not old behavior if I keep doing it.

My place is of the sun. This place is of the dark, or maybe I am not ready to see. Maybe I am asleep. In either case, the operative work is “I”. What am I going to do to make this place my place? I can ask providence to smile upon me, but I still have to do the legwork.

This is my spark. There are many others like it, but this one is mine.

Published by annzimmerman

I am Louisiana born and bred, now living in Winston Salem, North Carolina. Fortunately for me, I was already living in NC before Hurricane Katrina decimated my beloved New Orleans. An only child, I now feel that I have no personal history since the hurricane destroyed the relics and artifacts of my childhood. As I have always heard, c'est la vie. My Louisiana roots show in my love of good coffee, good food, and good music. My soggy native soil has also shown me that resilience is hard-wired in my consciousness; when the chips are down (or drowned)...bring it on.

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