I started a big ass fire today in my parent's backyard, big enough at one point to singe my mom's rose bushes nearly fifteen feet away. They both watched me out the window as I fed the fire more and more fuel. When I ran out I stood there watching until my dad walked around the house carrying a handful of wood.
"Figured you could use some more," he said as he went to set it down on the gravel skirt around the fire pit. "Maybe you should toss a couple on too," I suggested. He threw more than a few in, we were both burning for the same reason. When the fire got big enough I began to throw things into it other than wood. Pictures, cards, books, a hat and some tee-shirts. You see I was not setting any ordinary fire, this was a funeral pyre.
There has been a lot of hurt going around in the past month, too damn much to process all at once. Too damn many people have been burned by the fire I set, but I wasn't the only one throwing fuel in. Some threw sticks in, others threw gas and others still fanned the flames as they grew. Regardless of that fact, my family has been seriously hurt by all that has happened. They were not the ones feeding the fire; they were a thousand miles away in the dark as their oldest son self-destructed. On the other side of the fence there was a family who acted like they were trying to put the fire out, but in all actuality they were fueling it. For that they all had to burn.
This fire I set in the backyard was not some foolish act of spite, it was a cleansing ritual that we all needed. When the switch flipped in her head, they showed their true colors. They cut and ran, leaving behind four shocked and very hurt people with no explanation as to why they were making the moves they were making. When my dad threw the first log in the fire I saw something release from him, the same thing I had been releasing with each log I contributed. Anger, spite and hate. These three words do not hold water in my family. For too long they have defined me, but no longer. They have been burned.
I've been having a lot of trouble letting go, something I'm certain my former "better half" is not struggling with. I've been talking about it a lot in "crazy camp" each day. Talking about the loneliness, the guilt, the pain and the betrayal. My counselor suggested something very simple.
"Patrick, go set a big fucking fire and throw all the shit that she gave you on it until there is nothing left."
I did just that. I burned it all, well everything except my Brian Williams autograph because I fucking love that dude, but moving on. The wind flipped the pages on the burning books that I threw in and I felt like something inside of me was dying. It was something that needed to be killed, something that I was having trouble letting go of. Someone I was having trouble letting go of.
I watched that fire burn for almost two hours until the flames began to finally die off one by one, and then I turned my back on it and went inside to have dinner with my parents. I can still smell the smoke in the clothes I am wearing, a cleansing smoke. You see, I cannot go on fighting the battle for myself if I am constantly weighed down by the events of the past. I must move forward at all costs. The past must be left in the past. I cannot have constant reminders of her around my house if I am expect myself to be able to let her go. They had to burn.
There is one reminder, however, that I can never burn away for it is a result of past burns. This reminder resides about eight inches up from the inside of my wrist on my left arm. My "tattoo," a result of countless cigarettes snuffed out in the same spot after each time in my life that I have self-destructed. It is a scar that will never go away, but I do not want it to. It is a reminder to be vigilant, lest I end up in the same mess again. We keep what we have through vigilance and I must remain forever on guard against my disease.
I was at my uncle's meat processing plant on Saturday cleaning up the trash in the front yard before I cut the grass when I ran into a very stunning reminder of what it means to be vigilant. This butcher shop is located in one of the worst areas of Milwaukee and let's just say that one finds some particularly interesting garbage along the small strip of grass between the building and 35th Street. As I reached down to pick up a coffee cup I found something sticking straight up in the air, slightly hidden in the grass. A hypodermic needle. I came not more than an inch from being stuck by it and having all the trauma and associated stress that comes with that, but I missed it. Such a clever metaphor someone somewhere had left for me in the grass.
As I go through my life picking up the trash that has been left behind, I must remain forever vigilant or I will get stuck. My addiction is always there, waiting to swallow me whole. It is a fearless enemy that never needs to eat, sleep or drink. It is resilient, will never give up and if I let it, it will destroy me once again. Maybe next time it does I will actually make that long dive into the Hudson River, but I'm not going to let that happen. You see, it was for that reason that I set the fire this evening. I set that fire to put one distraction that had its foot on my throat out of its misery. I don't need her preventing from the one thing that I need to focus on right now. Me.
For that, she had to burn.