The Most Bitter Lesson

I cannot save him. I cannot save anyone. I could not save my mother. Or my father. Or my siblings. I have helped people along the way. The neighbor with cancer who needed someone to step in. The students, full of self-doubt, who needed someone to believe in them. The family member with a mental illness who needed someone to care.

But I cannot save him.

It’s not your job, friends say. But I’m his wife, I say. His best friend. If I do not warn him, no one else will. No one else has. He has to save himself, they say. Your job is to save yourself.

I know from the Twelve Steps that only he can save himself. And that he must do it for himself, not for me or anyone else. But here is where I get stuck. I see the wound in him. The young boy, lying in a corner, curled against the pain that immobilizes him, snarling like a wild animal at those who would tend him.

But I see too that trying to save him is also a way of hanging on, that not walking away is pretending I am not losing him. I promised him I would never leave him, I say. And that too is a way of avoiding the pain of not being chosen.

I thought we had embarked together on a spiritual adventure meant to help us both grow. To heal. I am shattered to realize I am alone on this journey. That he has abandoned both me and the journey.

Years ago I wrote what friends told me was a message to myself: But you want your wound bleeding and raw, willing to sacrifice even your soul mate, to keep from changing who you think you are. I think I see this in him now, but what do I know of his spiritual journey, what he is meant to learn? The real issue is What am I meant to learn?

What you are unwilling to walk away from, is where you get stuck.

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