And no victims.
In fiction, there is a villain to oppose the hero. In the wake of a villian’s terror, victims call and plead for help. In real life, no so much. And that’s just the way it is. No matter how much you want there to be. It is a hard concept for many of us to let go of.
In the days and now weeks since Papi’s death, I have thought a lot about this idea: villains, victims and heroes in everyday life. When we are hurt, we want someone to be responsible. We never want that person to be ourselves. When our heart is broken, we want to blame the one who did it. The one who made us feel this way. But is that healthy? Is it healthy to always seek to blame someone for our woes?
The simple answer is no. I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on what didn’t work out in my previous relationships. The common factor in all of those relationship was me. Sure, some of the guys I dated broke up with me in harsh ways but that only makes them a jerk not a villain. I’m not the victim. They weren’t the bad guy. They just weren’t the right guy for me and when they realized I wasn’t the right one for them they left. I was hurt but not victimized.
There were a couple that were toxic and not nice people. Yes, Patrick, I am looking at you. (kidding, mostly).
That maybe is over simplifying it. There are toxic people out there. People who seek to victimize others. They want to be the villian and get off on it. What I am talking about is villianing everyone with whom you have a relationship that doesn’t work. Playing the woe is me card over and over again and hoping that something will be different.
When we seek to blame others and take no responsibility for our own unhappiness, it is really hard to take responsibility for our happiness. Why is one in our control and the other not? There will always be things outside of our control but not everything is outside of our spheres of influence.
We can work to control our reactions. Notice, I didn’t say control our reactions. No matter how hard we work, it is impossible to control all of our reactions. We can get better at it. It has taken medication, therapy and a lot of self-reflection to be able to control some of my reactions.
Twenty years ago, I was a hot mess. I may still be a hot mess emotionally at times. Adulthood is a series of events leading to the collection of your shit and the collapse of your shit. We are all at some point in the cycle. Some people are better at keeping it together than other. There is also a whole league of people that are incredible good at making everything seem like it is all okay dokey when it isn’t. I like to call them influencers.
These days, I am pretty good at making it look everything is shipshape when it isn’t. Not because I don’t want people to know the realities of my life, because if I stop moving long enough to explain things to them something else is going to come crashing down on my head.
Papi and I had a complicated relationship. I never hated him even when things were twisted. He was never a villain to me. I don’t understand why he did the things he did, but I loved him. I loved him so so much. He wasn’t the villain. I wasn’t a victim. We were two people who loved each other, were horrible at communication.
When I reflect on my own childhood, I see a lot of things that were done to me. I didn’t have power and agency as a child. Adulthood comes and we aren’t always ready for it. There is no magically awakening that occurs when we turn eighteen. We don’t suddenly get all the skills necessary to live as adults. We don’t learn how to deal with each other.
I’ve been a teacher since 2006 and one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that adults don’t act very adultlike much of the time. They are petty and sometimes cruel for no reason. Logic may as well just be a pretty wreath of flowers that smells horrible. It is as rare as common sense.
Growing up as an eighties kid, a lot of the movies I watched pitted the underdogs against the popular kids. The good guys against the villains. Real life isn’t black and white. It is shades of grey and colors more beautiful than one imagines. It is seeing someone you love grow, love and live a life that makes them happy.
Papi had that with his partner. There is never going to be a day that I don’t miss him. There may never be a time that I don’t wish things had been different between us. But knowing he was happy, he was loved and loved in return, makes me smile.