The Cage

Freedom can feel an awful lot like not being wanted. It’s no wonder then that so many of us rush back into that cage again. And again. I’m reaching the point in being single that I wonder now why anyone would want to give that up just to be captive again. It is as if we find value in ourselves only if someone else wants to possess us.

Our value is our desirability to others.

So, self-worth is tied to being controlled by someone else. Whether it is a partner, God, family, our government, or our jobs. Co-dependence is a royal bitch, people. And there will come a time in your recovery when you realize that you don’t have to buy into this. Your value doesn’t depend on someone else wanting you Your value is whatever you want it to be.

I thought about this for a number of reasons. One of which was thinking about the time I was dating a woman who had a very good professional life, she didn’t really want for anything. Emotionally, maybe things were different, but she was so surface that I doubt I ever really knew her all that well. After a twenty year marriage, she waited only a few months before she started seeing me. We had an on-again off-again kind of romance that really wreaked havoc on my life for a time.

I was no different, though my marriage had dissintegrated years before I finally got out. I was probably more emotionally open to connection with someone, since my life had been devoid of it for so long. My value was tied to the money I brought home from work. The chores I did around the house. Enforcing draconian laws over the kids. It was never enough, but my value was tied to Family. Until it wasn’t anymore. Until I decided it was time to find what I valued about myself.

Hell, I’ve been single for years in the interim since my divorce. Sometimes it is lonely. Sometimes I am content. Free. I’ve done therapy. Traveled. Had experiences. Hardships I had to overcome alone. Defeats and victories with no one else to bear witness to them. I feel no less valued for it.

That woman I dated got remarried not long after we broke up. In total, after a twenty year marriage, she was right back in another one. She might have spent about three or four months on her own. Figuring her shit out. None of them were consecutive. She needed marriage for intimacy and emotional connection, just as some people think they need religion to be spiritual. For her, marriage came with the emotional factor as well as the more practical aspect of finances and image. Like we are living back in Edwardian times again.

I see this happening a lot. Especially to those who have dated or been romantically involved with me. The foster boyfriend, finding forever homes for wayward women. But that’s a whole other post. You see, I can be good to someone. So good to them. But I’m not wealthy and I’ve been told I don’t look very attractive on paper.

Like I said, a whole other post.

I used to crave that connection. That moment when you meet your forever person. The optimist and the cynic in me are at odds over that debate. The optimist says that these women just found Their Person after dragging me along for so long. Sometimes things just click, so they say. The cynical side of me says they just went back to old patterns. They didn’t really learn anything and just clung on to what was familiar. For whatever reason, they need that cage to feel valued. The world is terrifying outside of those bars.

A little bird could get lost out there in the world without a cage to keep them safe.

At the end of the day, unless you have actually done the work to figure your shit out, it will always come bubbling back up to the surface. No matter how you change your persona, no matter how far you distance yourself from those who got to know you, no matter how many times you start over. Wherever you go, there you are. And if you don’t figure out what is rotten in you, you won’t ever get out of that cage. You’ll just trade it for another one.

But, like I said, some people are more familiar with that cage. It’s comfortable in there. If the world you create continues to let you down, there is comfort in knowing you controlled your own self-destruction. I’m still learning how to deal with that about myself. If you don’t expect too much out of yourself or a situation, you won’t be nearly as devastated when things go to shit. The truth is it will hurt just as much. Trust me.

With love, the love you have for others will always fade or temper into something else. Sometimes it becomes a patina with character and other times, that tarnish just crumbles and decays. The love you have for yourself isn’t a cage. It’s a chilly wind on a summer day.

Or, you can get out of that cage and fly far from it. You might surprise yourself just how far and high you can fly. The worst thing we can ever tell ourselves is “We’ve always done it this way.” It’s the death knell of the spirit, of a workplace, and a relationship. Of the self.

Time to do something different. Something better. Something scary.

Here’s a song that partially inspired my post. The rest was inspired by the shudder I got when I realized just what everyone is running back into. Companionship is wonderful, but if you are the same broken person, and they are the same broken person, and nobody has done the Work…you’re just going to cut each other on your sharp edges and pull at each other’s loose threads. The same fights. The same tears, screaming silently in a different cage.