Letters from Maggie: An Unlikely Correspondence. Part 5

Other women tell me I have a high tolerance for bullshit. I’m not sure if this is good or bad. On one hand, I didn’t do myself any favors by sticking it out with Leo for nine years—unless there’s some super-grande, el-Cosmico design I can’t see.

I mean, one hopes.

And when one hopes, one believes an arc of transformation is possible for every person. Otherwise there seems to be no point to our lives, if people are incapable of improvement. Surely we aren’t doomed to keep living out the same destructive patterns, like mindless fractals of pain.

For all my spiritual striving, I also sometimes fear this is the case. So, on the other hand, one doesn’t want to be too demanding. If it’s true that we’re all hopelessly fucked up, there’s no reason to expect perfect love. Perfect friendship. Perfect self-control, and unwavering, unilateral support. Such things belong to angels alone. We must accept one another’s shortcomings with grace and forbearance.

At the same time, there’s such a thing as too much tolerance.

Yesterday someone came into the place where I work, escorted by a police officer. The person was crying and one eye was swollen. I need to use a computer so someone can come get me. I don’t have my phone, the person told me. 

A few minutes later the crying person returned and said, My boyfriend decided to beat my ass this morning. This is the last time.

 You need to get out of there, I said.

I’m already gone, the person told me. But I wondered if their resolve was the lasting kind.

For years, I’ve regarded Maggie with a mixture of annoyance and despair. She and I had much in common, but what we didn’t share seemed crucial: Maggie couldn’t walk away, or didn’t truly want to. She wasn’t the ghost of me, she was a woman I’d never met, with her own issues and desires.

I needed to give up the idea of saving her. All over again, I found myself facing, from the other side this time, the fact that saving someone else isn’t even possible. All we can do is offer aid; real saving must be done each person for themselves.

I also had to let go of the idea that I knew what was best.  Maggie wasn’t a weak person; her relationship with Leo had outlasted mine and she had presumably endured more. It was none of my business.

And then I think of my own marriage. I think about the times it’s been hard, the times we’ve both wanted to call it quits. And yet I stay because it is my marriage, a thing we’ve worked so hard at. Our love is an old fixer-upper house, full of charming quirks — and ancient damage. We’re always rebuilding some part of it. I dream of the day the house stops falling down, and stay because he’s my husband, my dearest friend, my love.  Because I don’t believe a better man exists.

I have to accept that this may be how Maggie feels about Leo — no matter how undeserving I think he is of such devotion, that love is hers to give. Hers to waste, as the case may be. Hearts are stupid sometimes.

Or maybe, like I once was, she’s mired in inertia and self-doubt, which are by-products of many years spent in a relationship with an abusive partner. Maybe, like me, she can’t bring herself to say the word “abuse.”

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