I used to walk in everyone else’s paths. Pre-made paths are easier to follow, even if they’re uncomfortable because someone else is right in front of you.
I spent many years in an unhealthy relationship. There were times when I knew I needed out, but I was always convinced to stay. I ignored my intuition and my instincts. I ignored my primal self. I ignored my talking self. I ignored my divine self. I pretended I was fine, everything was okay, life was good – and sometimes it was. Sometimes it was terrible, and I stopped knowing how to tell the difference.
I stayed for so long because I didn’t have the tools to leave. It took strength, knowledge, self-awareness, and a circle of support, and I utterly lacked those.
It also took dedication to myself and my own path.
Leaving my partner meant leaving the path I knew so well, the path I stepped onto even before I was an adult. Even though there was abuse, there was also comfort. My partner was my caretaker; she ostensibly did the house work I hated, she made the meals, she (again, ostensibly) took care of our child, and she offered me comfort and a well-forged path. I never needed to make decisions for myself, because she made them for me. She walked in front of me, bushwhacking and blazing brightly so I didn’t need to do much of anything. She was everything I ever needed, right when I needed it – I never had to look in myself for anything because she was always right there being what I needed.
It felt safe, even when it wasn’t. It felt good, even when it wasn’t. It was comfortable. It was easy.
Change moves slowly.
When we moved to Chicago, I found a spiritual path that was steeped in self-work and self-knowledge. I’d never heard either of those phrases until then, but once that can was opened, I found that I was starving for it.
I devoured rituals. I inhaled classes. I steeped myself in the community, in the path. I made friends – real friends that cared about the me that was actually me. The chains loosened, but didn’t yet break.
I wasn’t ready. I was still looking for someone else to forge my path for me. And, rightly so, when my friends realized that, they pushed me away. They didn’t want the kind of relationship I was seeking, because they were strong in themselves and I was not.
It was a hard lesson.
But the seeds had been planted.
It wasn’t until I found myself that I could leave her.
We moved away from Chicago, from the community. I was again friendless, but this time I was stronger.
We met Pace. During our first ever conversation, Pace told me my life sucked – and she was right. I used my new found tools to evaluate and renovate, and turned my life around.
And I started resenting my partner.
It was like I was a teenager all over again, only this time I was rebelling against my wife instead of my mother. I hated how she treated me. I hated how she acted. I hated spending time alone with her. We started arguing for the first time in our relationship – and we’d been together over a decade at that point.
I started really growing. I found myself resenting the easy path and drawn toward forging my own – but with a partner who wanted to control me, wanted me to walk in her footsteps, it was difficult at best. Self-work and self-knowledge were her enemies but my most cherished allies.
I found myself drawn to strong, fierce people. I started forming friendships with incredible people. Real, deep bonds based on mutual love and trust and respect. I created a support network full of friends I trusted with my life.
And the inevitable happened.
After a time, I got out of the fog. I spent a week outside of the control and abuse, and realized that I needed out – right now, no waiting, do not pass go, full stop.
I broke out of our relationship. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.
But even then, I wanted someone else to forge my path for me. I’ve never forged my own – how could I? I don’t even have a lantern or a machete! I don’t have a map! Now I’m lost in the dark and it’s cold out here and the wolves will eat me!
Okay, but I had a support network. Friends. Pace. My mom and brother.
And I continued to learn. Continued to grow, to develop myself. In a lot of ways, I’m very young – my growth was stunted. I learned to stop holding myself to standards I had no way of meeting, standards for those without a lifetime of abuse. I learned to love myself and to stop abusing myself.
And I learned to see when I would jump on someone else’s path.
Like being raw.
Being raw was hard. It was ridiculously hard. But it was still a path – and a path others had forged for me. Like being vegetarian or vegan or omnivorous or carnivorous, food labels are a clear example of pre-formed paths. You’re a vegetarian, so you eat (and don’t eat) these things. And so on.
But being raw brought this to light for me, quite sharply. In food and in most things, I’ve always wanted to do my own thing, follow my own path, and do (and eat) what feels right for me. But I’ve also always had someone else tell me what to do, so I grew to want that, too. Or instead. Having someone else make decisions for you, whether you want them to or not, weakens your ability to make good decisions for yourself.
Again, it’s a teenager thing. Teenagers struggle with independence because they’re used to being treated like idiots who can’t make decisions, and then they make stupid decisions because they don’t know how to make good ones. We aren’t taught how to make good decisions – we’re taught to let others make them for us. Parents and partners alike. And in an abusive setting, it magnifies.
My decision muscles needed buffing.
When I decided to stop being raw, I decided to start eating what I wanted. Not to go back to being a vegan or a vegetarian or anything else, but to be a Kyelitarian. To listen to my body, to learn what I need for nourishment and health and fitness.
And I freaked the fuck out.
I spent over a week eating by default. I had no idea what I wanted, so I just ate what Pace wanted to eat because (again) it was easy. I looked in the fridge and freezer like I was searching for the Holy Grail. I’d mope in front of the pantries as though moping would suddenly make food appear, all ready for consumption. Yummy! Mope flakes in misery milk!
And then, I realized what was happening. I was pathless! I was flailing because I no longer defined myself with handy food-based labels, so I no longer knew what to eat. My little inner child was desperate for comfort, so all I wanted to eat was comfort food (most of which is craptastic for health). But I didn’t want to eat those things because they’re so bad for me in general, so I was really stuck.
Becoming an Edgewalker.
I sat on my porch swing with my beautiful wife and whined about food for about an hour. In the process, I realized the whole “why won’t someone else do it for me” desire to walk a pre-formed path thing.
I started bawling.
I cried for what felt like several hours. And then I sat up straight. I realized how badly I want to forge my own way, to walk my own walk, to sing my own heartsong. I realized how amazingly afraid I am, and cherished my fear and my self. Honoring the fear makes it easier to work with myself instead of against myself (or in spite of myself). And I realized I was ready.
I forgave myself for being afraid. For wanting to take the easy path. For not being as “advanced” as many of my peers and friends. Forgiveness made forward motion possible; the act of accepting myself as I am now, and loving myself fully, gave me the courage to further act.
And I deliberately chose the Edgewalker path. I took myself off the easily marked, beaten path and joyously started blazing my own trail. And you know what? It makes all the difference.
Today, in the bookstore, I wandered over to the spirituality section. I always wind up spending a lot of time there, every single time I visit a bookstore. I’m looking for something, searching for that path, the one that’s perfect for me that’s already been carved out and marked.
Today, I stood there for about fifteen seconds. I scanned the books, then threw back my head and laughed. I’ll never find it, I realized, because my path is not beaten or marked. I walk on the edges.