The Long Mistake
Originally published February 11, 2015
I made a big mistake which took me a long time to recognize. And as my life went on, I compounded that mistake until there was no going back.
When it began, it was just for fun. I wasn’t looking for anything more than a temporary distraction. But she was not the kind of girl one trifled with. She made me laugh and she made me think. Each time I thought I had come to the end of her, she pulled me in deeper.
And before I knew it, I loved her. And she loved me.
We were bound. We both knew it. But she alone tended the tie that held us connected. She kept the line in good repair so we would not drift apart. I paid it no mind because I assumed she would always take care of it. Often, I would drift away from her until we were out of sight of each other. This hurt her, I know. She wanted to let go, but could not. All I had to do was tug the line, and there she would be at my side, loving me again. In my selfish, childish heart, I believed it would ever be so. She was mine forever and nothing would ever break us apart.
Eventually, she stopped minding the rope. For her, there was nothing much at the other end except me with all my faults and lies and disrespect and silences and selfishness and carelessness of her feelings. The line began to fray with neglect but I did not notice until one day, I pulled and came back empty.
She had finally moved on and was lost to me forever. The knowledge of it made me sick.
Losing her was my first mistake.
My second mistake was living the next decades as if it didn’t matter. Everything I did was just another form of running away from my feelings, from relationships, from the fear of my own vulnerability.
As I got older and felt the end coming near, I realized I needed to make amends, not just to her, but to all the people I’d hurt and disappointed. She was gracious and listened to my feelings, out of habit no doubt, because she was kind. But she was not moved. My words changed nothing. Apologies are meaningless unless one sincerely intends to stop the very actions one is apologizing for. My bad behavior was already too deeply engrained. It was too late to change and part of me that would have made any difference. She had no reason to forgive me; no reason to trust me. She didn’t need my love. She didn’t need my friendship. I didn’t even understand what was required. I had nothing to offer her or anyone else.
The pain of the loss hit me anew. Finally, I was beginning to understand just how much I had wasted. She had been my moral compass. From her, I always heard the truth. I should have held her close. Instead, I let her go and spent my life adrift. If we’d stayed together, I thought, I might have been happy. I might have lived a peaceful life. She would have kept me righteous. She could have stopped the self-destructive cyclone my life had become.
And so I regretted not just the loss of her but what my life had become without her. And I died choking on that regret.
All the currents of my life had pulled me away from her. I was destined to travel no other route than the one I traveled. It was not for her to keep me on course. That was my own duty. Certainly I could have kept her if I had loved her more than I hated myself, but if I had been able to do that,, I would have had to have known then what I only understand now.
The tragedy of my life was not that I lost her. The tragedy of my life was that I’d missed the opportunity to learn how to love.
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