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The origin of the match




My therapist asked me why I immediately torch the bridges in my life at the first sign of needing repair. I told her because by the time it comes to that, I’ve already lit the match. Then I went on to tell her something I was certain she had already gathered about me, which is that I operate in absolutes. Black and white. Right and wrong. Not gray. Not sometimes bad and sometimes good. Absolutes.


Absolutes tell me what I should do and who I should let in. Grays are scary. Unpredictable. I’ve lived with unpredictable. I’ve lived with a father with a temper. A father with a drinking problem. A father that loved me unconditionally and was my safe space. At least until he wasn’t.


I’ve made friends and then been bullied and tormented by those same people. I’ve learned the hard way that letting others in hurts. It’s why I rarely do. I’m honest, mostly to a fault, and I let it all hang out. But emotionally, I’m still guarded. People see me but don’t know me.


I’ve always been able to sense pain before it comes. Being surprised by it enough in my life made me hyper-vigilant to its onset. I trained my mind and body to be ready. So I enter all relationships with a box of matches. Then when I have to use them, I act as if doing so caused less pain than if I had stayed and tried to make it better. I tell myself I’m better off—and maybe in some cases, I am. But I’ll never know.


Knowing the world is gray, and the people in it are too is a hard reality to swallow. Because when you’ve spent a majority of your life bracing for disappointment and being ready to run at any given moment, you miss out on the ‘what could have beens’.


I don’t regret my life, but I regret the fact that I have spent it preparing for pain and then doing all that I can to avoid that feeling. But I can’t change the way I chose to cope as a child, but I can change the way I grow as an adult. So now I do the work to put down the matches and try to take each situation as it comes. Doing everything I can to process it instead of running from it. Because running from pain doesn’t take it away; it only trips you up later.





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