Tuesday, August 9, 2016
Thom (Part 2)
Last night I made a very selfish post (which I deleted) because, like Thom, I have a demons that I struggle with every day - one of the same demons, in fact. My biggest demon is Doubt and it whispers and screams and lies about how I am incapable of perceiving truth or reality, and often that trusting people is simply naivete. I don’t think this demon will ever grow strong enough to make me follow in Thom’s footsteps, but it has left me with enough scars that I fully understand why he couldn’t keep fighting any more, and I love him too much to be angry that he gave up.
When we fight demons that are stronger than our cognition, we hone weapons to stave them off. The most effective weapon against this particular demon that I have ever found is to treat logic and empirical evidence as dogma. The most frequent thought exercise I engage in is identifying how two perceptibly similar things are different; if you can tell two similar things apart, you can understand that each merits a different approach which can prevent unnecessary or undue judgment. It has taught me patience when I disagree with the decisions of others, it has helped me guide people to make decisions with the fewest negative repercussions, it has helped me professionally by allowing me to better discern the needs of others, and, most importantly, it has taught me to value motivation and intent as key measures of success. How a weapon turned into a positive tool is beyond me, but I am very glad to see the world through that lens.
Ire is another demon of mine, born of disappointment, confusion, and regret. Unlike Doubt, this demon is far more likely to harm others than myself and yesterday I lost this battle. The very same logic and dissecting I use to fend off Doubt often helps me keep this under wraps; when you can see how differing motivations yield different decisions, it is easier to come to peace with disagreement. As I began processing this tragedy, one of the first things I did was divide any questions I was left with into two thought-boxes: ones that could possibly be answered and ones that never could be - the latter serving as a mental trash can. As I cycled through the “why’s” and “what if’s” and “did I miss something’s” I made sure to actively ignore them should they resurface. The one question left that I could not force into the mental garbage bin is “What was I to him?”
Despite what people might think, I am actually an incredibly private person. When I was having problems with Thom or previous guys I had been interested in, I either kept it to myself or found someone so far removed that there was no risk of contamination (until VERY late in this series of events). I would never assume that his interest in me extended beyond friendship; to try and place a special value on our relationship without confirmation would be to demean the value of the very real grief of every person whose lives this amazing man touched. I never want to be the sort of person who values their own speculation over the demonstrable, palpable pain of others.
Despite my best intentions, it still leaves me with that one question for which there actually could be an answer: what was I to him? Were the situation reversed, as I stated, I would have discussed the situation with someone very far removed from him logistically. Thom had made a very concerted effort to keep his family separate from his friends, which - despite how depressing the circumstances - made me think maybe there was an answer within reach. Until, that is, even his mother had literally no idea who I was.
The selfishness and pain in me wanted to talk to her and see if maybe there were some story in which he inadvertently had relayed how he felt without specifying me by name. Fortunately the less selfish part of me wanted to sit down with her and literally ask “What/how much do you want to know about your son?” since I can’t imagine how much his cutting her out must have hurt. When she declined my request to discuss things privately, the part of me that had hoped even a non-selfish conversation with her might answer some questions simply shattered. This would mark the third time this week I literally, physically ran from something I couldn’t emotionally process.
As it turns out her reluctance was only due to sitting causing her back pain, but by this point my brain had shut down and I was a sobbing mess. This was particularly jarring because he had just seen her a few weeks prior (right when he and I had started talking again) so I had incredibly high hopes for some sort of closure from anything he may have told her. Instead of answers I felt so unimportant that not only did his family not know of me in any capacity, I wasn’t even significant enough to merit private discussion.
Some of my demons fed on this like lions pouncing a gazelle, and I let them control how I framed the entire evening: that all I could feel was irrelevant, forgotten, and unworthy of consideration. I caused some people I care deeply about considerable harm in exuding such negativity over something that meant so much to so many people, and although I’ve made my apologies I have no idea who else may have been impacted by this wholly undue negativity.
What I really took from the evening was NOT how little I meant to Thom, it was how many lives he touched and that I was lucky he was ever a part of my life - in any capacity - even if only for a moment. What I took from the evening was a determination to be as understanding as I can in any situation or dispute - no matter how small or trivial - on the off chance someone might be feeling the pain I was in that moment. What I took from the evening is that it is not my place to think my love of him was more valuable than his need to end what he felt was ceaseless suffering. What I took from the evening was that his last thoughts were of making sure his loved ones knew that this was not their fault and that he simply wanted the pain to stop. What I took from the evening is to know that all I can ever do is try to make anyone I encounter’s time here better, and that I have a lot of apologizing to do because there are people with worse demons than mine and I cannot allow myself to devalue their struggle simply because I am tired.
I love you, Thom, enough to hope that there really is an afterlife.