July 4th, 2021
Introducing the revelation that opened my eyes to just how expensive it is to make excuses for people's abusive behaviors. Before I can get into the revelation, I have to first give you the background for the design. If you know anything about me, you know that I am first and foremost a storyteller. As such I am a huge! movie buff. My current all time favorite movie is the Matrix. No matter how many times I watch the movie, it always finds a new way to speak to me. Like most people, one of the concepts that hits the hardest, and spoke the loudest, was the concept of the Red & Blue Pill. For those who haven't seen the movie, Neo (the main character) discovers that he is living in a computer generated construct meant to imprison his mind, while the AI system of machines uses his body as a battery to power them. He has a chance to get free of the construct and escape into the real word, but he has to make a choice. He has to choose between the Red and Blue pill. If he chooses the Red Pill, his mind will be unlocked, he'll be freed from the Matrix (the construct) and can live in the real world with all its harsh realities. If he chooses the Blue Pill, he'll return back to his old life as a slave to the Matrix and believe whatever he wants. However, choosing the Blue Pill means choosing to ignore the truth that his world is not real. On a broader, more philosophical scale, the Red Pill represents the harsh, unpleasant truths of life. The Blue Pill represents ignorance or ignorant bliss. The design of this painting is derived from the concept of the Red & Blue Pill as well as the characters from the Matrix.
That being said, over the course of the last nine years of my life, my drug of choice has been the Red Pill. I am addicted to the wisdom, understandings and philosophies derived from asking why and how. I have used wisdom as medicine, numbing and healing the pain inflicted by others. It has been my anchor, keeping me from drowning in the traumas of my past, by understanding what happened, why and how it impacted me. It also keeps me anchored to truth, ever considerate of all the different perspective involved in a situation. By focusing on wisdom and understanding, a deeper empathy was born along with a new ability to humanize those who'd hurt me. This gave me access to more patience, making it easier to withstand bitterness and show people more grace. My affinity for wisdom and empathy is the reason I would've considered myself "Woke" at one point. It was only until recently that I discovered that the the wisdom keeping me Awake to the actions of others had actually created A Wake for me. Sounds crazy right? Let me break it down.
In the painting, you'll notice an array of gears in the background. If you look closely, you'll see that each gear is outlined with the name of a character from the Matrix. Those characters are the following: Mr. Anderson, Cypher, The Woman in the red dress, Persephone, Agent Smith and The Architect. Mr. Anderson is Neo's real name and he represents people who are stuck in the indecision of staying who they are expected to be vs becoming the more they were meant to be. Cypher is one of the people who escaped the Matrix put couldn't handle the harshness of reality. Instead, he betrays and sabotages his friends in order to be reinserted back into the Matrix. He represents self-sabotage and blatantly choosing to live a life of ignorance. The Woman in the Red Dress was apart of a program designed to distract Neo away from his focus, which tricked him in front of the other end of a gun. She represents choosing distractions.
Persephone was an a woman married to a powerful man who long stopped loving her and was instead constantly cheating on her. Instead of moving on, she became vindictive by sabotaging his plans and helping Neo, who was his enemy. She represents the person who complains about the wrong done to them but won't do anything to change their circumstance, choosing instead to stay and be petty and vindictive. Agent Smith is the main villain in the story, who's primary job was to hunt Morpheus (Neo's mentor) to get the information he needed to kill those who had been freed or were free of the Matrix. He represents the people sabotaging the efforts of others in their pursuit to free themselves from bad habits and the traumas of their past. Lastly, the Architect is the AI that created the Matrix. In the third movie, he confronts Neo with a choice. He can either follow his heart and save his girl, which would also risk the annihilation of Zion (those free of the Matrix). Or he can choose the logical choice, sacrifice his girl and guarantee the survival of Zion by resetting and restarting the Matrix. This, of course, is what the Architect wants because it keeps him in power. The Architect represents the seeds of doubt and disbelief in more, favoring the logic of settling for society's expectations of you vs the vision you have for your life. In one form or another, all of these characters were the archetypes for the people in my life.
Now for someone who loves the harsh truths of life, you would think that these harsh truths about the people in my life would warrant a permanent removal. Ironically, it was these harsh truths that convinced me to let them stay. Why? Because in my own journey of self-discovery, I've repeatedly run into the very real revelation that a lot of my own behavioral issues were not maliciously intended but instead a reaction to the mistreatment, mishandling and abuse of others. Overtime, that reaction hardened into bad habits and eventually cemented into my personality. I had to learn to stop seeing myself as the villian in other people's stories and learn to view myself as someone who was simply hurting from all I had endured in life. In other words, while it is very much my responsibility to heal, mature and grow out of these issues, the way I originally turned out was not my fault. It was that same logic that led me to empathize with the people who hurt me. I used wisdom to garner me understanding for why people treated me the way they did. The more I understood their past and how it was affecting them, the more I stopped seeing their actions as villainous, giving me more patience and grace to deal with their issues. I recognized that they too had been dealt a lot of abuse and that they, like me, just needed someone to love them through it. I just needed to give them time to grow out of their issues, just as I had learned, and am still learning, to do with my own.
That might sound noble, maybe even a little humble, but it was far from it because there was an even harsher truth that I was in denial of. The truth? They were intentionally choosing to be destructive. Up until this point, I was excusing their behavior because I thought they were oblivious to their destructive cycles. After several conversations, confronting them about not only the way they treat themselves, but how I felt about the way they were treating me, I began to realize that they were fully aware of their destructive patterns. Not only that, when confronted about it, they often showed no remorse about the pain their behavior was causing. The lack of remorse made me reevaluate the conversations we were constantly having about the struggles they went through. It was then that I began to hear the truth. There was always some excuse for why they were making decisions they knew wasn't best for them. Either that or they were constantly deflecting blame to everyone but themselves. At some point, I realized they were habitually placing themselves in relationships and circumstances that created a scenario where they would end up the victim. It was too hard or too much pressure to take responsibility for their lives and grow. Better to keep their lives at the mercy of someone else's abuse and avoid the pressures of progress.
The symbolism of their choice to be destructive is represented in the design color of the gears. The gears themselves represent the mind and the thought process within it. You'll notice the background gears are outlined with the name of a character in red, conveying the fact that those in my life were aware of their destructive patterns. The inside is blue, conveying the choice to remain stagnant and content in destructive cycles. However, the gears also represent my mind and the thought process within it. From my perspective, the gears represent my having full knowledge of just how destructive the people in my life were (represented by the red) and yet, in the name of patience, I chose to make excuses for them. My choice to allow them to remain in my life despite the continuous pain they inflicted, is represent by the blue. In other words, I was ironically guilty of the same destructive cycles as the people in my life.
What's worse, is I had no idea how expensive it was to continue to make excuses for people who clearly want to remain destructive. If you look in the middle of the painting, you'll notice the giant hourglass. The hourglass represents time, of course, but it also represents energy, identity and focus. I spent so much of my time and energy focused on everyone else's problems, trying to "save them" from themselves, that I had no idea I was sacrificing my own mental and emotional health. More than that, you'll notice that the hourglass is almost completely empty, short of the gears. That's because I was completely blind to just how stagnant my own life had become. It never even crossed my mind how much of me I was sacrificing to cater to the improvement of someone else's life. They were the distraction I was choosing. Leaving them in my life created a conflict of interest. I could not acknowledge my own truths, namely the pain they were causing me, and accept and excuse their behavior at the same time. I had to choose between them and me and I kept choosing them, thinking that was the right thing to do. I thought it made me selfish to acknowledge my own pain and prioritize myself by setting boundaries that would've effectively shut them down. I thought it was my responsibility to take on the burden of their issues, not realizing that there wasn't room to deal with their issues and mine. By choosing their truths over mine, I effectively locked myself out of growth, healing and progress, instead becoming stagnant for years (as shown by the red gears). But everyone has their breaking point. Mine came when I was slapped with the reality that I too was sabotaging and stagnating myself.
Enter The Great Purge. I completely switched gears and decided everyone choosing to remain destructive was a danger to my health. They were either removed altogether or removed and replaced behind new boundaries that kept them from endangering my peace of mind. Now on one hand, purging people did bring an immense new level of peace. Not having so many people, their opinions, issues or influences in my life, gave breath to new, unlimited perspectives. I started realizing how many of my choices were made in respect to what was expected of me instead of what I wanted. This caused me to ask myself a different set of questions than I usually would have. The answers I found altered my decision making process and completely changed the course of my life away from what I was forcing myself to do or be to what I was naturally drawn too. In short, I started thinking about what I wanted and what made me comfortable for a change.
On the other hand, this transition has been difficult. I have been physically independent for awhile, but mental independence is an entirely different arena. Removing my own excuses means I now have to take full responsibility for my actions in ways I didn't even know existed. It's been great having all this extra free time, but now I'm having to learn new disciplines to use it wisely because I can no longer point the finger at those that were once holding me back. I'm in the process of discovering the parts of my personality I suppressed to please and keep people in my life. Giving myself room to explore the positives in these areas, after I was repeatedly convinced they were a detriment, burden or inconvenience to others, scares me. I'm having to relearn me, through my eyes and its been hard because I first have to unlearn the me that was created from their eyes. So while this journey has been freeing, it has been by all accounts a challenging transition.
And yet, it is a journey I'm still excited to continue. This leg of the self-discovery journey has only been a few months long and I've already learned so much, about myself and others. It's as if my eyes have a new, more vibrant lens equipped with new zoom features. It's been nice to release myself from old pressures by redefining rigid concepts that were once holding me hostage to false perspectives of not only myself but the way I viewed the world. For the first time in four years, I've loosened the reins on plans that were created under the pressures and obligations of others and decided to allow myself to explore the path of the unknown parts of me. *Raises a glass of sweet tea* So here's to the fresh of life and I look forward to writing, and possibility painting, about what I find.