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The Archer

“I’ve been the archer and I’ve been the prey...who could ever leave me darling, but who could stay”. Taylor Swift


When I first heard these lyrics, I sat up in my chair. It pricked something deep within me. It was a truth that I could not avoid any longer. And despite seeing it in that moment, I spent another year working to avoid this most inevitable truth. And I tried to move forward in spite of it. And instead of forward progress, there has just been more predation. Despite a sincere and strong desire for something else, to be something else.

Childhood sexual trauma alters you forever. I mean if you are lucky enough to survive it. Most don’t. Casualties in their own lives, often, most often, by their own hand. I know of what I speak. This idea of predator and prey has been a theme of my life that I have studiously avoided with all that I am. Not wanting to look at how I got to where I am, and why.

Somehow believing that because it wasn’t my fault in the beginning, I was just a kid, that somehow that absolved me from responsibility, accountability for that which I did.


I have come to an ugly realization about myself and that is this predatory behavior I exhibit where men are concerned. Always a conquest, always selfish. My sponsor told me today that I was consumed by this selfishness, which when she said it, I knew it was true. But at the very same time, I knew that I had no identity without it. Selfishness has become an armor of sorts, most especially in affairs of the heart or, in my case, flesh. Affairs of the heart, I know little. The flesh, I could write several novels and still only glance off of what I experienced.


I am not sure what I thought, if I did at all. I mean I was schooled young, groomed to be prey, but all the while learning, examining, rolling over and over in my mind, predatory behavior. Seeing how if you are careful, and manipulative, and controlled, you get what you want and you are relieved of caring exactly at what cost.


I have never sexually abused someone. I have not had sex with children or even minors, but there is some element of my early experiences in all that I have dated. Some element of that first experience that fucked me up for life. And I have hidden behind the shadows of shame, guilt, fear, and addiction. I have used them all as smoke and mirrors, from you, for certain, but mostly for myself. To keep me from really seeing who and what I was.


I have been the archer and I have been the prey. And that gives me a unique perspective on things which until today I was unwilling to own, face or accept. And writing this, putting it out here, for you to judge, condemn, disdain, forgive or relinquish, is hard. Painful and fear laden. But I have to own this most aberrant conduct, lest it kill me. And maybe another.


Last night another romantic venture ended, as it should have. I feel awful about it. I feel sick that I took advantage. I knew better and yet I did not behave in accordance with that knowledge. I took and I knew that I should not. I pray that the consequences be mine and not his. That he able to see that I am the one that was wrong. He just trying to stay alive in the rocky tides of his life. I knew better but I could not resist, I could not not engage in the predation.

I do not like calling it that. It feels harsh and incongruent with who I think I am. But it is my willingness to call myself out as I see myself, that I pray will save me. I am not all better, just a better dressed version of the scarred and marred child that was so long ago prey, that learned that the best way to get your needs met is to not really care about others. Only yourself, but then to warp that up in a storyline that paints an easy exit, because of the past. And endless spiral of sickness and selfishness that belies the time that I have spent attempting to get weller.


I did own my part last night. And I meant it. The glaring misconduct on my part, gross, inappropriate, selfish and destructive. I grant myself no pass, no passage, no excuses. I was wrong. I was sick. And I am sorry. Not the kind of sorry that I am going to feel better about all of this today, or even next week. This is the kind of self knowledge that must sit and simmer for weeks, perhaps years until I find the courage to dig more deeply into that which ails me and do the very hard work to change.


I had the opportunity here but I didn’t take it. Instead, I took what I wanted, caring little about the other person, in a well worn story that is designed always to get me what I want, except it never does. Just an endless spiral of hope, laced with fear and abuse and self loathing that searches for salvation in the arms, of well, almost anyone.


I hate myself today. And yet, even with all my fear and loathing, my self destruction is in remission for the moment. I did think about drinking. And to be honest, it wouldn’t kill me fast enough. And I thought about offing myself, but that also wouldn’t really resolve the issue, because even as I left this world, I would take this predatory version of myself with me, into whatever comes next. So instead of the dramatic exits, I chose instead to walk the dogs in the woods, cryking myself into a different mindset. Walking the hills, letting loose all the pain and suffering I felt and feel. Feeling terrible about myself, and knowing that I just have to sit with my stuff for awhile. I knew better, and yet, yet, I did it anyway. I was reckless and selfish and cared only for self. And I am ashamed.


Now, I do not know about you, but I will go to great lengths not to feel this. It takes me right back to that past that I so attempted to leave, repeatedly. Where I was without recourse or options. But today, I saw that my attempts to leave that which haunts me still, only was the first thought in a long string of thoughts, that keep me forever stuck in an endless cycle where men are fodder and so am I.


Today as I hiked the Ridgeline and saw the sun rising in the sky, I thought that perhaps, maybe, if I work really hard to own my shame, and guilt and fear, and hatred, maybe, just maybe I can change it. This predatory dynamic that has dogged my life and relationships with men. I am attempting to own it, publicly so that I may heal. And not do what I just did again.

Who could ever leave me darling?

And who could stay?

Everyone and no one. I never understood that this is the only result until this morning. And it is my fault. Regardless of the underlying reasons as to why I got this way, and how. It is mine now and I have to make some hard choices about how I am going to live out the rest of my days from here. And today I am just in it. Consumed with shame and guilt and self loathing. And even while I wrestle those demons, I see and feel that they pale in comparison to what I did to someone else. Someone I care for. Someone I did not intend to hurt. Someone I only want good things for. Someone for whom I have no malice, ill will or hatred. He has enough of those things for himself. And for the first time in a long time, I see that I have them too. And they color everything I do, every relationship I have, ever interaction, every date, every moment I am engaged in relating myself in this world. And I have been powerless to change that...because I refused to own this most basic and fundamental truth:


In the experience of my own abuse, I learned how to abuse others. It was not intentional or even really conscious. It was just part of the process. And I saw that being deceitful and dishonest and selfish gets you what you think you want and it delivers you to the high tower of not really being able to see how your behavior affects others. And so the behavior proliferated, and continued and grew ever greater, despite all the years of work, therapy and knowledge and grace.


I have no idea what Taylor Swift was talking about but her words in this song, have helped me own this most dark and shameful aspect of my being. So I leave them here for you, to ponder, reflect and with the most desperate hope that my willingness to own that which is most shameful, provides me a path forward that is not based on selfish interests that were handed down to me in an invisible scar. Instead, I own them here in the hope that someday, I can be different. Better. Kinder, more caring to myself and others. That I can put healing first, my own and others. And never allow myself to engage in this type of predatory behavior again.


I am the archer. And I am the prey. And I pray that in owning this most unfortunate and ugly truth, that I can become something else. Perhaps, maybe, if I can summon all the bravery I can, the combat can be me, fighting against the stuff within me that was ingrained at such an early age, and eradicate that even if all that ever remains is a gaping wound that bleeds me out. That better still than to do what I have done one more time. Maybe someday, I will not hate my reflection for years and years...


Combat, I'm ready for combat

I say I don't want that, but what if I do?

'Cause cruelty wins in the movies

I've got a hundred thrown-out speeches I almost said to you

Easy they come, easy they go

I jump from the train, I ride off alone

I never grew up, it's getting so old

Help me hold onto you

I've been the archer

I've been the prey

Who could ever leave me, darling?

But who could stay?

Dark side, I search for your dark side

But what if I'm alright, right, right, right here?

And I cut off my nose just to spite my face

Then I hate my reflection for years and years

I wake in the night, I pace like a ghost

The room is on fire, invisible smoke

And all of my heroes die all alone

Help me hold onto you

I've been the archer,

I've been the prey

Screaming, who could ever leave me, darling?

But who could stay?

(I see right through me, I see right through me)

'Cause they see right through me

They see right through me

They see right through

Can you see right through me?

They see right through

They see right through me

I see right through me

I see right through me

All the king's horses, all the king's men

Couldn't put me together again

'Cause all of my enemies started out friends

Help me hold onto you

I've been the archer

I've been the prey

Who could ever leave me, darling?

But who could stay?

(I see right through me, I see right through me)

Who could stay?

Who could stay?

Who could stay?

You could stay

You could stay

You

Combat, I'm ready for combat



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