We all do it. We see the glaring red flags and we color them over with a color that is much more to our liking. Denial is an amazing paint brush.
I had one of these situations unfold over the weekend. Due to privacy concerns for another, I won’t go into details. But let me just say police were involved and it was an out-of-control dumpster fire.
It is so hard to love someone who seems hell bent on destroying everything around them. And you, for legal as well as moral reasons, just can’t walk away. Delusions that, in a few short months, you will be able to walk away, plague your every day.
Parenting is hard and it is never over. And the only thing I see people be more delusional about than their kids is their spouse or significant other. People show us who they are, what they are and how they are...and we refuse to believe it. Over and over again until there is nothing left but the truth that has really been there all along.
I have done this. I still do it.
I think for the most part, we all begin doing this because we want to think the best of people...including ourselves. We want to believe that everyone is moral, decent, right. We want to believe that we are capable of attracting someone who is all those things as well. We fail to see sometimes that we are just the mark. The easy target. The one that can and will be manipulated into making these other people’s lives so much easier and better.
As someone who was taught to think positively and also to endeavor to see the best in people, this has backfired a lot. But it has really been this most desperate desire for love and belonging that has caused me to sign up for way more than my share of misery.
For most of my life, I didn’t even see it. And just went from one relationship to the next, sometimes I was the monster, sometimes they were. But I didn’t see the pattern. I didn’t see my own involvement for sure. I didn’t see. And often, it was because I didn’t want to.
There were red flags galore...but I just got out that can of green paint and brush and quickly altered those alarming red suckers into green lights all the way.
I have paid dearly for that particular behavior...so have others.
Why do I do it?
I am not unique. I do it for the same reasons everyone else does it:
I want to believe in something other than what is before me.
I want to get what I want.
I want to avoid that which I do not want.
I want the people I pick to be in my life to show up in ways that they are showing me they are not capable. I want them to be different anyway.
I want what I want, when I want it.
It really isn’t anymore complicated than that. Truly.
I do not want to see the warning signs as warnings. Instead, it is so much easier to just dismiss them completely and then be shocked and confused when I get what I likely knew was coming the whole time.
In short, I paint those fuckers green so that I can keep a high opinion of myself and get to be the victim one more time.
Wow, that is a very ugly truth for me.
I swear on all that is holy, that I do not want to be a victim. And yet, despite all my years of work on this particular subject, I keep getting that laminated victim card to reappear in my wallet time and time again. I just really, really want it to be someone else’s fault. That way I do not have to look at my shit.
And guess what? It is always my shit. Even when it is other people’s behavior that makes it so much harder. My refusal to see the truth and own it as reality...causes us all to suffer, me, usually most of all.
Life doesn’t have to be this way...or maybe it does. Maybe that is what life is really. One red flag after another until we are dead. Life’s errand to show us continually that we are the ones that settle, we are the ones that accept the unacceptable. We are the ones with the issues that bring on the circumstances of our lives. We are the ones.
I am doing my best to rid my paint inventory of the color green. I am putting down my brush and remain open and willing to show up and just let those flags fly and do my best to let them be. To examine them from a further vantage point and in no way engage to change their alarming color to something that suits me better in the moment.
What I have learned is that they are red. And they are there for a reason. And often, I cannot change the reason. And changing the color only fucks me up more. It is like deciding to call broccoli chocolate. It all works until I put it in my mouth. Then there is no denying that no matter what I have told myself, broccoli isn’t anything like chocolate and there is nothing I can do to change that. If I want to eat broccoli (which I don’t) then fine, but if I want chocolate, I am going to have to stop insisting and acting as if broccoli can ever be chocolate.
We delude ourselves far more than other people. Doubt me? Try being conscious of just one thing a day. Watch your own mind fill-in the cracks in the character of someone you love who is fucking up their lives. Watch all the ways you make excuses, given them latitude, gloss over their failures, large and small. Do this for just one day. And you will see that that which you are examining is really more like an epidemic in your life.
In short, we can only deal with the red flags we acknowledge. We can only address the issues we are willing to own. We can only move forward with reality when we stop insisting it is something else. That is how we heal.
Red flags are not punishment. They are signposts designed to wake us up and help us to not fall down the rabbit hole again. Red flags are warnings. And until we see them and heed them, we are doomed to ever move beyond our own denial and fear.
Put down the green paint. Resign your position of alternate color flag painter. It doesn’t work. It never did.
In the end, reality always wins. Life is so much easier when we just stop trying to alter reality and just accept it. And that would include allowing all those fucking red flags to remain red, glaring and cause for concern. I am learning, slowly, we can pay now or we can pay later. And the pay exacted later always feels more exacting. I wish it wasn’t so...but, so far at least, that has been my experience.
Red flags are there to wake us up and give us a chance to alter course. Our own refusal to see the flags for what they are is our biggest mistake that cannot ever be altered until and unless we stop insisting that an issue is not really an issue until it is on fire.