Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Heroes and Myth

When I was little my father got me into mythology. It started with Greek then gradually spread into other cultures. I loved the rich stories, the life lessons, and the triumph over life's obstacles. 

The heroes (mostly men) were portrayed as strong and fearless leaders. They were idolized for their skills and perseverance. 

Those stories stuck with me. I loved the idea of a hero; noble, courageous, and proud. 

I as I got older I realized that knights in shining armor are nothing without the armor. Everyone was just playing dress up. All lacking in emotional fortitude. 

The first man I loved refused to cope with his mental instability. He tried to hide the fact that anything was wrong, and to his credit he did a good job. I came home from work one day to discover that he moved out. No warning, no explanation. He just walked away from our life with the same casual stride you would take as you pretend not to see a piece of garbage on the ground. 

I wasn't worth the fight. I wasn't worth turning around for. 

He used to love to get me cute things: small toys, stuffed hello kitties, cards with hand drawn notes and illustrations. I held on to everything for far too long. I carried it all with me for another five years and two moves. Boxes of heartache I wasn't ready to unwrap. 

One day I got brave enough. 

I poured over every memento and trinket. All the hand written "I love you's" and promises of never ending love. In that box I found the simple truth: if any of this were true he would still be here. For the first time in a long time my sentimental heart was still and in its place I could feel the primal flowing of ferocious blood. I threw it away. I threw it all away and cried tears of joy. I became unburdened of his weakness. 

The great love came years later. His intelligence and commanding presence were certainly how you would imagine a hero to be. He was strong, tackled problems head on, and had a loving heart. 

A major turning point came when he lost his job. He had gone most of his life being in control of his situation. For the first time he felt lost. He refused to lean on me when he needed me. I learned that his fatal flaw was his need to control which would manifest itself in rash decisions. Before I knew it he booked a one way flight. 

I traveled thousands of miles to see him twice more. The last time felt like the last time. He wasn't waiting for me and the airport and when he did show up he was distracted by his phone. A stark contrast from his open arms and teary smiles the first time. He paid less attention to me, there were fewer pictures of us laughing and being silly together. He felt distant. When I got upset he watched me cry and waited for me to "calm down". He didn't hold me and cover me with kisses like he used to. He picked a fight with me hours before my flight home, turned his back to me and graded papers for his class. My visit came at an inconvenient time during the school year and I was putting him behind. He had no second thoughts about pushing me away.

It was a long flight home. I was the one trying to make it work but I was painted as the burden. My eyes would well up with tears and I would just stare out the window. The woman sitting next to me knew I was hurting. She didn't speak any english but her concerned expression was the closest thing I had to comfort on a nine hour flight home. 

We hung on for a little while longer but ultimately broke up. 

I remembered back to moment after an argument early on in our relationship. He let me put my arms around him and I could feel him nuzzle his face into my neck. He said I was good at "making him melt". I wish I still had those powers. I wish when he said he'd love me forever that forever was a little longer. Eternity seems only reserved for bitterness and spite. Whatever powers I once had were no match for his callousness.

When I tried to love him despite his stubbornness I was only met with silence. I watched as the very things he promised were the things he withdrew from me: affection, communication, and compassion. The man who loved me the way I had always wanted to be loved had gone to extraordinary lengths to distance himself from me in every sense of the word. 

When it came to my relationships I wanted to believe the best in them, give them the chance to be the hero. To overcome the obstacles and rise above victoriously. None of them ever did. No one fought like me. 

When things got rough they crumpled under the weight of armor constructed for show. The ornamentation was a facade and the functionality was the cost. They came to play the hero while I was already slaying demons. I walked boldly towards my fate to realize too late they were not strong enough for battle. I was forced to go alone. 

They all said they loved strong women, but only if you're not stronger than them. Had they been true warriors they would have risen to the challenge. 

It's as though everyone is in love with their own weakness and committed to their shortcomings. 

If you must be in control why can't you be in control of your emotions? If you must be stubborn why can't you be stubbornly altruistic?

Chivalry might be dead but I promise you, integrity went first. 

I learned a young age that men were unreliable as role models. I had one uncle who taught me how to fish only a few short years later stop taking me because I was "a girl", another uncle who refused to take medication in favor of drinking. I have a rocky relationship with my brother who seems to thrive on negativity and pessimism. I have grandfathers I didn't know well because of enormous age gaps and geographical distance. 

I didn't realized it until I got older but most men I knew were difficult to admire.  

I think that was part of the reason I had so many friends that were boys in school. I was trying to fill in some of the gaps I saw within my own family. That being said, I haven't spoken to my own best friend in months. He gets busy and I fade into the background. I always had a feeling that he was more important to me than I was to him. 

Feigned heroics turned into myths. Warriors died out a long time ago.

The only exception to this overwhelming lack was my father.

I remember sitting in church next to him. It was early in the morning and I was tired. I could see other children leaning against their parents shoulders, some even had their arms around their children. I leaned in towards my father and tried to rest my head against his arm. He turned his head towards me and whispered "What are you doing? Sit up straight." 

I snapped back up and kept my eyes forward. I looked out at all the cuddling families. I was around seven years old at the time. I already knew that being affectionate was a risky move. It just wasn't his nature. His father, who was military trained, had a difficult life. My grandmother died young and affection slipped away with her. My father grew up without her. Throughout his younger years he hardly had a positive female presence. I could understand that. 

He always had pictures of the Archangel Michael slaying the demon around the home and in his office. He was the only man I knew who never gave up. He was the only one who persevered and rose above. 

Our bond relied on intellectual pursuits. When he read to me it was never children's books. He read whatever book he was already reading out loud. The book he got me about Greek Mythology as a child was probably way too advanced for me at the time. But I loved it. I read it over and over again until the pages fell out of the binding. It was my father who told me that anything can be taken from you, anything except what you hold in your mind and your heart. 

I learned to be an Amazon, fearless and brutal. Stronger and more resilient than the men around me. Able to reach the ugly depths of my emotions and find the unending fuel to my strength. A small, yet deceptively powerful conqueror. Domestic enough, but never quite tame. 

Let the weak ones fade into myth, I shall become the legend. 

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