Good thread. Thoughtful topic.
#1 lifechanger for me: I met my teenaged son in a Thai restaurant for lunch. He'd been living on the street and said he was hungry. When he opened his backpack I saw a sharps container full of needles and knew that he'd moved from smoking meth to injecting. And I knew he would keep on stealing from me and lying to me as long as I let love tell me to give him the chance.
Love, it turns out, does not mean giving someone else inordinate power over your life.
Now when I read personal ads that say "want that special someone to make my life complete" I think, No thanks. I am the one who controls my life, the only one. If you want to be the center of someone's existence you'd best just move along, move along, nothing for you here.
I can see an argument for that being limiting. I can also see an argument for it being adult. I can love; I just require artistic control of my part of the play, and I do not want to control anyone else's part. I truly believe I connect fast and open up honestly when I meet the right person. Feedback I've gotten validates that. I'm not in hiding, I'm not closed down. I own me.
Living with an addicted son is pretty dark. I wrote a bunch of details and then deleted them. But, being a hiker, here's the metaphor I use most:
I lived for a long time in a dark valley by a swamp. Then I walked out. I struggled over windfall logs and through brushy patches. The forest opened up, the underbrush thinned out. The trees grew farther apart and the light started coming in. I reached a few meadows, some promising open places. Then in July 2009 I came out above timberline. Now I can see everything opening out before me. I don't need any trail: I can walk anywhere my desire and my abilities take me.
It ain't heaven. The hills are still steep, the going can be tough, it's still gritty and sweaty and requires as much work as ever. But I can see and I am free. And I don't have to go down from the high country ever again.
*laughs* I'll see just how that little fable plays out when my son gets out of prison in mid-June, huh? He'll want to step right into the role he had before he fell. Gonna be stressful. But I can handle it -- I've gotten real good at self-control and emotional triage.
Ariakas, I envy you your experience with relationships. Same for a lot of the rest of you -- you've done so much. I'm really naive and behind the curve in that respect. So I treasure the chance to learn from you, even if it's just words on a forum. Thank you all!