Don’t Burn Out the Candle
Appreciating Failures Rather Than Making Them Fatal
“I’ll never stop drinking,” he said defiantly.
And at that precise moment, something inside me died.
For I suddenly realized how foolish I had been to think he would change. Had he ever intended to quit drinking? I wondered. Or had it only been my dream?
Had it only been a burning desire inside of me to save him from himself?
Now, today, ten years and three months after his death, I finally realize that moment was a monumental moment for both of us. It was a moment of disclosure. A moment of decision. A moment of destiny.
For as Sarah Ban Breathnach says, “Setting the world on fire comes with risks. Unfortunately, we usually don’t realize this until smoke gets in our eyes.”
For him it was a fatal decision. I’ll never know if he regretted that decision or not. I just know he died surrounded by empty beer cans.
A Smoldering Flame
And as for me, that moment haunts me. Simply because, as Ban Breathnach also says, “a smoldering flame can be just as deadly as a flash fire.”
And as surely as the sun rises in the morning, whether the day is cloudy or not, I’ve experienced the clouds of regret that comes with knowing that I couldn’t save him.
That, in fact, I didn’t help him at all.
That maybe I even made things worse. Because I added fuel to the fire by demanding that he quit drinking. And that I really took the responsibility of his drinking on my own shoulders. Instead of letting him carry the responsibility for himself.
Because maybe if I hadn’t been so determined to see myself as his savior, maybe if I hadn’t been so lost in my own misery, I could have been there for him.
Maybe I could have inspired him to quit drinking.
Maybe I could have provided a safe place for him. A place where he wasn’t afraid to go to when he felt lost. (If he ever did feel lost. And alone.)
But I never realized that until it was too late. I never realized how unloving I really had been. Until …
My youngest son mentioned that he had asked his dad if he would ever get back together with me. And his dad had said, “I’d just get hit over the head with a frying pan.”
And I was shocked into the realization of his not knowing how much I still cared. His not seeing that I still wished he would stop drinking.
And I finally saw how unkind and uncaring I had been to him. How hostile my behavior had been. For, instead of being angry all the time, I could have been compassionate and understanding.
I could have given him warm smiles and reassurance that I was glad he had come home.
I could have forgiven him for his foolishness.
But I didn’t.
Instead, I was a cold-hearted fishwife. I was the bitch of the west who locked the door of my heart as well as the door of our home. And left him without a place to go to for comfort.
And I didn’t even realize that he couldn’t possibly miss me. Simply because I didn’t leave him with even an ember of that loving fire inside of him burning.
Sure, he had his beer to comfort him. But I wonder if it was really that comforting. And now, I suddenly am faced with the thought that maybe it was actually much more comforting than I ever was.
Something’s Out of Whack
So, instead of feeling that there was something wrong with him, I probably should have realized that, as Ban Breathnach also says, “There’s something terribly out of whack: you.”
For as Ban Breathnach puts it, it’s all up to you. It all comes down to you and the decisions you make. For you are responsible for making the lifestyle changes that you need to make in your own life.
And maybe I could have helped him realize that truth. The truth of being responsible for yourself and your own decisions.
But I didn’t even see that truth myself until it was too late.
Too late, I saw my need for love had turned me into a control freak. Too late, I learned real love is letting ourselves value each other, instead of controlling each other.
Too late, I discovered real love is refusing to settle for the psychological death of failing to be the real you, the person who knows how to love others without setting both of your lives on fire and burning out the candle.
Burning out the candle of love, as well as the candle of life.
Instead of Settling for Tyranny
Lately, I’ve learned that you need to kindle the fire of love in your heart that provides warmth and security and compassion for others as well as for yourself.
You need to kindle a love that burns in your heart for as long as you live.
Kindle a love that burns on even after your death.
For it’s your steadfast devotion and constant care and soulful compassion for others (and even for yourself), that will burn on in the hearts of your loved ones’ memories for as long as they live.
That is the legacy of true love. It is a legacy I am striving to leave in my children’s hearts.
My hope is to replace the pain that alcohol abuse leaves in a child. Replace that pain with love.
To help them realize they are loved for who they are. Instead of being expected to conform. Instead of being controlled. Instead of living in tyranny and being forced to give up who they really are.
Choosing to allow others to choose their own path is a sign of real love. You teach them the value of pleasing themselves, the value of fueling their own self-love …
Instead of trying to please someone like me.
Praying For All Your Worth
For true love isn’t a matter of control. It’s a matter of setting others free. Free to live the life they desire to live. Free to learn to be who they really are.
Free to choose who they want to be … and inspiring them instead of controlling them.
All while you pray for all you’re worth that you can waken others resolve to transcend their hurt. Trounce their heartache. And teach their hearts to forgive themselves as well as others for any weaknesses, frailties, and failures.
As Sarah Ban Breathnach also says, “Failure stretches us beyond our conscious capacity so that we can grow into our authentic selves. That is failure’s generous gift.”
Instead of dying from a multitude of regrets and a thousand failures, you need to realize that your appreciation of the gift of failure validates the growth of your authentic self.
Simply because your appreciation for your own humanity proves that you are moving forward, towards the person we were born to become.