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Friday, September 11, 2015

There is a tiny red bird in my tree.

I was told by a good friend once that I could be a good leader if...

Then he went on to talk about all the reasons I could never be a good leader, as if I had somehow indicated that was a thing I wished to become. I listened, bemused. Leadership is something to which I have never aspired. It ranks alongside politics, animal husbandry, chemical engineering, municipal sanitation work, and construction. My friend, however, seemed to believe I was being untrue to myself and letting down all those people just waiting for me to lead. All those people.

I don't really listen to anybody. Darrin will attest to this, as will anyone who has known me longer than a day. So hearing what my friend had to say about all the reasons I was failing my imaginary leadership role had little effect on my self-esteem. It did, however, as is often the case with me, set me thinking. Why do I shun leadership? Why does it not appeal?

I know people who like to see their names attached to many things. I'm the Facebook freak who removes tags and has to approve pictures and posts placed on my personal page. I don't care if I'm known for anything. I don't really do anything in the hopes that future generations will look to my example and be grateful that I lived. The last thing I want is to be a person others look to for advice, guidance, or leadership. I'm actually pretty happy not being noticed. Perhaps that's why I still blog.

"But you're a very strong woman," argues my friend. I believe he has confused stubborn and intractable with strength. I simply don't give in unless I want to. You could argue the color of the sky with me until doomsday, but if I've decided it's green, and I don't feel like capitulating, I'll simply walk away saying, "You can think it's whatever color you wish. But it's green." And I'll do that even if I know the sky is blue, simply to be unpleasant. That is not strength.

"Look at what you've overcome," Friend insists. But I don't want to. It makes me sad. It's not that I don't feel grateful or at peace because of the issues I've fought through and laid to rest. I fully acknowledge that what I've done in the past decade took more stamina that many people want to think about, and that there have been moments of utter exhaustion while I gathered myself so that I could go to work again. But it was all about me. Always. It was about being able to live one more day. It was about not being afraid that people would hurt me. It was about discovering who I am and who I used to be. And it was about acknowledging that I can't do everything and sometimes other people are responsible for the things that have hurt me. That's not courage or grit or anything remotely brave. That's survival. Every person alive today has experienced survival mode in some form.

"You have optimism and you don't let life get you down." Well, my friend, I'm unsure if that qualifies as a great leadership quality. What I am certain of is that you've never read my blog. Ever. Because losing faith and struggling to find it, wondering if I'll every be happy again, fighting the impulse to seek death over life-- that's what I'm really about. I have an innate ability to be happy. That, perhaps, is unusual. But it never saves me.

The day before my birthday I showed someone, for the first time in my life, the remaining scars that attest to the pain and sadness I battled as a teen. They're atypical, longitudinal marks; thin white lines along the length of my forearm. They're not the measured horizontal lines of a true cutter. I don't know why, after all these years, I allowed them to be acknowledged. The spectator said simply, "You were serious," and I replied, "Yes, I was."

I was serious about expressing pain I could not talk about. I was serious about wanting to die. But I was not strong enough, or courageous enough, and I did not know enough about human anatomy to make those cuts carry out my wish. And in all honesty, I do not remember carving those lines. Their surreal presence on my arm assures me that I did.

I was never meant to lead. I was meant to survive. I was meant to acknowledge that I am surrounded by love and pain and hardship and beauty. Few people would enjoy walking where I wander. But the true reason that I will never lead is that I have no cause. There are many from which I could choose. I listen to loved ones on both sides debate and cringe and writhe, and I feel their energy slide over me without going inside.

G. K, Chesterton once said, "If a rhinoceros were to enter this restaurant now, there is no denying he would have great power here. But I should be the first to rise and assure him that he had no authority whatever." The quote makes me giggle a bit because, no doubt, such assurance would get Mr. Chesterton killed. I have no wish to decide who or what has authority in a restaurant or anywhere else, and clearly, having survived this long I have no wish to die. But I believe my attempt at a leadership role would be tantamount to telling a rhino, well, anything at all. He's not going to listen. No one else will either.

Having said all this, and fully understanding that the following statement has nothing whatever to do with the topic of this post, I am somewhat distressed that we can have a political candidate who not only demeans women (and everyone else - let's be honest), but uses his verbal maltreatment of others to gain the fame necessary to advance his standing in the polls. I thought we, as a people, might be evolving beyond that. It seems I was wrong. I am currently seeking to purchase an inexpensive deserted island upon which to live out the remainder of my days. It need not have internet access, telephone service, or fast food. It would be nice, however, if it had a cave. With bookshelves.

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