Fossils

Several months ago, I wrote a blog about an old flame whom I felt hadn’t done much to evolve in the years that had elapsed since our last communication. The archaeologist in me (or perhaps the codependent girl in serious need of therapy I used to be) recently dug around and discovered that, true to form, this man is still the man I knew—and that is unfortunate. He has, in the words of my therapist, fossilized. And like all fossils, he can serve as a teaching tool.
Our fossil dates to the tail end of Generation X. Preferred pop cultural references are from the 80s: Wall Street greed, Bret Easton Ellis inspired descriptions of night life and, most disturbing, the homicidal tendencies and the language of a serial killer a la American Psycho. He has returned to the stomping grounds of his college days to continue his preferred activities of drinking, gambling, and chasing women.
Why do people change? So often, we make the mistake of trying to change others. We do it out of love, out of boredom, out of selfishness. So often, those others don’t change. And we ask ourselves why. Why won’t he stop drinking? Why won’t he/she stop being so materialistic? Why won’t she open up and be honest? When the question should be, what is it in me that rejects this person as she/he is? I tell my students as they grapple with issues of family, friends, and romantic relationships, that we have the power to change but one thing: our reactions to events and situations we face. We can choose to stand by and suffer as he sinks into alcoholism or face that only he can decide if he wants to be clean and sober. We can ask our spoiled children to surrender their cell phones, credit cards and car keys or we can hope that a stint on a VH-1 reality show will be the tough love they need. We can accept a relationship with a woman who is secretive and deceptive or we can move on and find a partner with whom to share healthy trust. In the end, we can only change our own minds and hearts. I had to learn this lesson through experience and loss.
I changed. He didn’t. Though I’d like to think so(and I gloat quite often), it doesn’t make me better than him. He has chosen. I have chosen. I can continue to change, for my daughter, for myself. He may not want to change ever. He, therefore, is for me, a point in history, and an interesting case study. I’m not willing to calcify beneath layers of dust and rock.

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