The Devil You Know

Here’s the thing about that cliche. It’s only useful if you are aware of the devil being discussed. If it’s the normal variety of personal demon, chances are his “evil” machinations are taking place totally under the radar. It’s the secrets hidden from our view that cause the most problems down the road. Everything’s sunny in Philadelphia until isn’t. The perpetual “fog of war” within ourselves usually only lifts when it’s far too late to do anything about it.

I committed to defeating my devil on the morning of February 23, 2019. Every second of every day until that one, I had been breathtakingly blind and naive to “his” negative impacts on my life and the lives of those around me. Didn’t know him. Didn’t want to know to him. It was so much easier to deflect and deny the most painful and embarrassing aspects of my behavior. Once the blinders were ripped away, however, I couldn’t see anything else and what I saw shamed me. At long last, I found a sense of shame.

It hasn’t been easy. My imp is clever. Deep rooted. Damage that started not long after I entered the world took nearly fifty years to metastasize into a cancer that consumed everything and everyone in my life, including those I cared about most. My son. His mom. My mom and siblings. Close friends. Co-workers. So many individual acts of indifference and idiocy stacked up behind me that I quickly came to the conclusion that I’d never fix any of it. All I could do was resolve to listen to my better angels instead.

The amazing thing about forgiving yourself is that you can’t wait to seek the forgiveness of others. Yesterday. The awful part is knowing some things may never be forgiven. Never be forgotten. I may have squandered the last of my second chances on bullshit ego games and a lack of emotional intelligence. That was a bitter pill to swallow without buckets of bourbon. I choked that bastard down dry, though, and I’m so much better for it. Not every epiphany includes rainbows and butterflies. Some are just hard lessons to learn.

There are so many things left unsaid that I’m bursting at the seams. So many words I may never get to say that the sadness is palpable, profound and seemingly permanent. I’m happy I learned new coping skills recently, so I can actually function at work and with my son. I’m eternally grateful to my mom who helped shine a light on the part she played in creating and sustaining my devil. Without her courage to be brutally honest with both me and herself, I’d still be blind. Until I saw the ending of my marriage from a female perspective, the thorn in my eye sabotaged any hope of a new beginning.

The devil I know was far less powerful than I imagined. Infinitely less powerful than the power I willingly gave him. Irony can be as bitter a pill to swallow as regret. Now I’m in Limbo. Can’t move forward. Won’t go back. The only way out is through the darkness of not knowing what comes next. Not knowing even the basic outlines of where I stand is killing me. My imagination has long been subject to the devil’s whims. This feels like another test. Is the devil really gone? Can I let him go to empower my life and the lives of those I love? Finally? Just let go. Forever.

I believe I can. Feels like I already did. It’s why I’m so finely-attuned to every emotional ripple of this journey now. Letting go of my devil is the hardest thing I’ve ever done without exception. I still have faith there is a reason to hope that I’m just not feeling today.