18: Thank You for the Venom

I’ve been quiet for the last few months – even for the slow pace of entries I’ve had since I started. Truth is, it’s because I’ve become sort of scattered. I fall out of obsessions just as easily as I fall into them (remember when I was talking about fear?), typically when I hit walls or just find new ones (or both), and I still don’t know where the fuck to go from here. My life is… sort of good right now. I’m more or less living in a harem anime, I actually have multiple groups of friends, and my personal sense of terror is dead and buried. To top it all off, I just got a new place with Skye and Kyle. (Yes, my girlfriend and the guy who introduced us. Who also dated her. Who also dated my archnemesis – his terminology, not mine. Who also has overlapping partners with me now. What even is my life.) But that sense of terror was what compelled me to start digging in the first place, and while my life as a whole has moved forward in the last few months, the kind of personal progress that was behind it hasn’t. Truthfully, I don’t know what to do about that. It’s not that I’ve lost a reason to keep going, necessarily. It’s more just that I’m lost. It’s sort of like I’m in a post-game scenario: sure, I could max-level everything, or go to Mt. Silver and take on Red, or even just continue partying with this newfound (and accidentally hijacked) squad, but I don’t have the same sense of direction that I did. Even this has been sitting in an open window as a draft for longer than I particularly care to admit. Still, though, occasionally something interesting comes into my field of vision that I need to take apart…

Ramona still tells people about me from time to time. She tells people about how much of a disaster I am. (Again, evidently verb tenses are lost on her.) About a version of me that doesn’t exist anymore, and that I’ve made damn sure won’t exist again. I think. And to be blunt, I’m sick of it. Hell, just a month ago she made a point of telling a mutual friend, directly in front of Skye and me, that because she “wanted her to be safe” hopefully we hadn’t all come out together. Mind you, at this point a very small number of people actually care, because by now most of them know a person and not just the object of somebody’s stories. (For that matter, River knows better. She could be a topic of her own, but I digress.) But some don’t. Some will make their judgements on increasingly inaccurate descriptions of me, and increasingly inaccurate accounts of things that happened literal years ago. Even Kyle told me at one point that it’s gotten just as old as I think it is – that “it’s bullshit,” because people aren’t static. It’s less that I have a problem with being disliked (I have no problem running into Julie, for example) and more that I have a problem with being looked at like something that I’m not.

It’s distinct. But it’s not isolated. It’s not new. I want something different – I want real fucking peace and not just some kind of ceasefire – but I want it as much as I wanted to rebuild every bridge in my life in the first place. The whole thing is weirdly paradoxical – you could easily say I’m fixated on my annoyance with this, but that annoyance is predicated entirely on actual progress. It’s worse to me that these kinds of things continue to float around, specifically because they’re not true anymore. On one hand, this makes me question if I’m better at all, if I’m repeating this sort of pattern. After all, I’m also the one who’s been saying this whole time that I’m not a fundamentally different person, just also not one who’s quite so deeply flawed. On the other: I’ve been consistently drawing contrasts between now and this time 3 years ago, fully owning my mess in the past tense but more or less disavowing it in the present. How much of this a real metamorphosis, and how much of it is surface-level polish? I’m essentially dealing with the Ship of Theseus question on a personal level, except that depending on the way it’s framed I could take one of two essentially opposing viewpoints. The whole thing raises questions about identity: how much am I defined by what exists now vs. what used to, and how much weight do others’ definitions hold as opposed to my own? If you ask Ramona, my definition is a mess of a human being that’s not safe to be around. If you ask Roxanne, that definition was never true to begin with. If you ask Skye or Kyle, you get somewhere between them – favorable, but still acknowledging that at some point she wasn’t too far off. Hell, if you ask various others that I’ve spent time with in the last year or two, my definition is my hair. If you ask me? To be honest, I don’t fucking know.

I’ve also been saying from the beginning that I’m the one who’s a mess. (Remember how it’s at the beginning? “I am not the hero.”) I’ve been saying that these events primarily exist because of me. And I’ve been generally avoiding mention of Ramona’s capacity for drama, aside from occasionally poking fun at her rationale and some of her more over-the-top reactions (seriously, who the fuck calls someone “space junk”?), because it’s never been the point. But both are true. Just as her personally trying to isolate me doesn’t negate her having reasons for doing so, my excessive attachment doesn’t make her any less of a life-ruiner. (She ruins people’s lives.) I could say this for Emma, for that matter. I grossly overestimated our friendship (all while taking it for granted), and she left all of her friends for a guy. (Actually, “I grossly overestimated our friendship” describes a lot of these. But you knew that.) This is a difficult balance to strike, and so far I really haven’t. The point when I started all of this was really the first time I didn’t default to deflecting, and since then I’ve defaulted to assuming blame – or ownership, at the very least. (Argument for a fundamental essence: at no point here did I develop a concept of balance, or moderation. Argument for metamorphosis: I’m looking at this with more nuance right now.) And in either case, I haven’t been looking at a whole. (Cue Roxanne telling me one more time that I’ve been too hard on myself.) I’m not about to actively try to take anyone’s high-status man candy, technically good physique, or ignorant band of loyal followers, but that doesn’t mean I can just ignore that there’s an MO here while claiming that I have perspective. That would just entail a different kind of denial.

At the same time, though, I honestly do want to see her fix that. Clearly it’s possible; I did, after all. (It raises questions, incidentally, as to why I’ve never had this attitude toward Claire.) As people have stopped taking her seriously, she’s slowly been disappearing from this scene she fought so hard to keep me out of (and jumping from crowd to crowd is actually a pattern both of us have had – though strangely I sort of feel like I’ve found a home in this one), but I can’t just revel in watching her vanish. Much like Claire – much like myself, even – it’s not a net positive if she’s just out of all of our lives, because even if it’s better for me (or Matt, or Kyle, or Roxanne, or Skye) personally, anyone who has patterns that toxic is bound to just become someone else’s problem if all that changes is environment. And if I’ve learned anything from all of this, it’s that you eventually run out of bridges to burn (and she burns them at a rate approaching me), and once that’s happened you end up a sort of alone that I quite literally wouldn’t wish on my enemies. (I do sort of wish I could mess up all her stuff, but aside from all of the reasons why that’s a horrible idea I’m also not sure it would even bother her.) It’s a recurring theme in my life lately – I’ve run across this whole question of how we do treat those we’re opposed to in a parallel incident recently, watching people from home who claim (and not much else) to love their neighbors hurling attacks at one another over differing politics. Looking at this particular trouble, with its particular context, I started to see a strange link, through yet another set of words that were drilled into my head but never modeled or explained: “love your enemies; do good to them that hate you.” (Luke 6:27, if any of you are curious.) And through all of this, I’ve started to gain some sort of working definition of what that means. (I could discuss at length how twisted it is that I’ve only learned this from time spent among a bunch of heathens rather than from the people who actually claimed to be teaching it – and I have, elsewhere – but beyond the fact that my learning it from Ramona is still problematic it’s a completely separate topic.) I think she’s a mess – one with toxic patterns just as cyclical as mine – but I don’t hate her. I can’t, no matter how much she’s gone from terrifying me to just pissing me off. If anything, I’m just disappointed, because after the last three years all I can see is the ability to be better than this.

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