It's weird how you can listen to the same song again and again and then suddenly it occurs to you why you like it so much... it's telling you a story that you relate to.
I love Imagine Dragons. I've yet to hear a song by them that I don't like. When Believer first came out, it was definitely no exception. The lyrics spoke to me... but what were they saying?
I was blasting it in my car on my way home from work a couple of days ago and it hit me.
This is basically a map of my love life.
Every lyric held the bitter broken rhythm of betrayal, bruises, and the bad boys of my misspent youth.
Every verse held rhyming melodic heartbeats along my misguided road to monogamy.
It may not play in the exact order in which it happened but not all chapters have to be aligned for a story to make sense. I had to go through the middle to really understand the impact of the beginning... and I never would have reached the end without that awareness.
Maybe all this will do is get a song stuck in your head and it will only make sense to me.
Or maybe... with a little help from Imagine Dragons... I will sing you my story.
First things first
I'mma say all the words inside my head
I'm fired up and tired of the way that things have been
The way that things have been
He was a firefighter. So was his twin sister who lived with us. No one would believe me.
She'd go for a walk when the yelling would start. Later, she'd come back and pull me aside and tell me to stop making him angry. It was my fault and she was sick of it.
I believed her.
He got me fired from my job because he wouldn't stop calling. He threatened every man I worked with. He got me to stop going to visit my parents. Secluded and dependent on him, I lost my voice. He was over a foot taller than me and so much stronger.
I didn't cry when he locked me in the closet. I didn't scream when he slammed me into the wall. I didn't show the bruises in the shape of his hands that twisted around my arms.
I did cry when I went to my father's store and we sat in his office and he looked me dead in my eyes and asked if I was afraid.
He could see what I was trying not to show. I lied. But he knew.
I tried to leave once on my own. I ran over his foot as he stood by my locked car door trying to break the window to pull me out. I broke two bones in his foot and I knew there would be consequences if I went back.
I still went back.
I couldn't leave on my own. When I knew I couldn't stay anymore, I called my dad. He showed up and made it clear there would not be a single move made in my direction.
What pushed me over the edge?
He threw my dog off of the porch. She was okay, thankfully, but I was more willing to protect her than myself. My dad got us out of there and we moved in with him. Unfortunately, my dad was off on a business trip to Las Vegas only a few days later... and he knew about it.
He called so much that he killed my phone battery even without my answering a single call. Then he called my father in Vegas and told him that if I didn't answer my phone, my father come back to find his daughter dead in the living room. My cousin came to stay with me and we called the police.
They called him and told him to leave me alone but legally, there was nothing to be done. I couldn't even get a restraining order. There was no record of any violence against me because I'd never reported him. We didn't have shared children (apparently that plays a role even if there's no hospital records) so the officer hoped a call from the police would be enough.
It was. For that night. It was months and a changed phone number and all of my social media blocked and put on private before I started to feel slightly safer. He still knew where I lived though.
I don't think I ever really felt safe again until I started training with an FBI Agent and learned how to defend myself.
No one messes with me now. NOW, if you lay a hand on me in violence, you better kill me because if I get back up, you never will. I found my voice. I found my power. Fired up and tired of living in the way that things had been.
The bruises healed and there were no scars. At least not physically. But there are times when someone grabs my arms that I'm right back there. Helpless.
Until I remember that I'm not.
Second things second
Don't you tell me what you think that I could be
I'm the one at the sail, I'm the master of my sea
The master of my sea
The atheist and the devout Christian.
We were doomed to fail. He called me a heathen and told me that as a woman, my opinion only mattered in the kitchen.
I would just go stand in the kitchen and keep talking.
He was a complicated contradiction within himself. Devout in his beliefs yet divorced. Damning of my gay friends yet unopposed to birth control and sex outside of matrimony.
I knew we could never work. What did the future hold for us? A wedding in a church spewing words I didn't believe? Raising children as indoctrinated followers of a path I was strongly against?
But I loved him.
He was smart and he was funny and as different as we were, he understood me. He was a successful engineer with both an intense masculinity and the soul of an artist. He took me to see Idina Menzel live in concert. He bought me and my best friend tickets to see our favorite comedian.
He walked me into the doors of the FBI Manhattan field office and introduced me to the man who became my mentor.
He also bought me a pink bible and would tell me to summarize the pages he assigned me to read. He tried to create a Christian in an atheist.
I couldn't be who he wanted me to be and when we both gave up trying to change me, my heart shattered. He had loved me so much that he longed for the day I'd become who he wanted. I had loved him so much that I longed for the day he'd accept me as I was.
We had a lot of trouble keeping our distance from each other. We were both dating other people but still seeing each other occasionally and while neither of us physically cheated, we both did emotionally. We still loved each other.
I don't know when I finally saw the forest. The trees were thick and beautiful but they were a lie. A lie about me. I had to become the master of myself and stand up for who I really was.
That meant leaving him behind.
I was broken from a young age
Taking my sulking to the masses
Writing my poems for the few
That look at me, took to me, shook to me, feeling me
Singing from heartache from the pain
Taking my message from the veins
Speaking my lesson from the brain
Seeing the beauty through the pain
You never forget your first.
Especially when a matter of weeks after taking your virginity, they dump you for your best friend then take her to prom.
I didn't go.
I couldn't stand to see them together.
They turned the entire school against me with rumors and lies that made them innocent and me, somehow the villain of my own story. That was about the time I started really writing.
I didn't really have many other people to talk to. People I didn't even know seemed to hate me so I just wrote everything down.
He was easier to forgive than she was. She was my friend. He was a wolf in a football jersey.
Forgive may be too strong a word. I got through it and over it. We've seen each other since at social gatherings and we acted cordial, as adults do.
But you truly never forget your first. I thought he was my first love but he was really just my first... first.
He was also my first experience in true heartbreak and as for my friend, she was my first real betrayal and combined the two broke me from a young age.
Everything that followed has been the chapters that were built from that one.
There were so many other ways this story could have gone. I don't believe in regret though. Everything we go through and everything we do... these things make us who we become and I won't regret who I am.
I do on occasion rewrite the story. But you can only edit your history so much.
Third things third
Send a prayer to the ones up above
All the hate that you've heard has turned your spirit to a dove
Your spirit up above
I was choking in the crowd
Building my rain up in the cloud
Falling like ashes to the ground
Hoping my feelings, they would drown
But they never did, ever lived, ebbing and flowing
Till it broke open and rained down
It rained down, like pain
Not the one.
Not the one.
The game of cat and mouse that I hated and loved and wished away and craved and despised and desired.
We were truly good at two things.
Fighting was the other one.
Even on matters which we agreed upon, we couldn't get to the conclusion the same way. So while we both started at A and ended at B, we'd fight over the best route between them.
People said he made me mean. But I have to admit, I liked who I was when I was with him. He brought out the worst in me, that's definitely true. But he was so narcissistic and arrogant, confident to the point of being cocky that he wouldn't allow me to be insecure.
Insecurity was weakness. Tears were weakness. Feelings were weakness.
We were above it.
We were above monogamy and public displays of affection. He compared holding hands in public to special needs kids being led around a zoo (though his wording was a lot less politically correct).
He didn't value emotion or even connection. He valued physical pleasure, intellectual stimulation and numbers games.
He had all of these theories... one of my favorites was the law of the missing toothpaste cap. If he went to a woman's home and there was no cap on her toothpaste, she'd never see nor hear from him again. Reason being that a bathroom is a small room and if you're so incompetent as to lose a toothpaste cap in a small room, you're simply not worth knowing.
Then there was the 90-10 strategy. He believed that if 90% of the world's population were to die off, the remaining 10% would live in utopia. He wasn't murderous, don't get me wrong, it was just a theory in his mind. But he could get you on board and make you believe it, while also assuring you that there was never a guarantee you'd be part of the 10% in his utopia.
He was one of the most intelligent people I have ever known and for him to find me worthy of going up against in verbal battle was a compliment. It was foreplay.
It didn't hurt that he was also strikingly handsome with dark hair and blue eyes that turned gray when he was angry, dimples that you could swim in parenthesizing a perfect smile and his toned and tan Greek physique held one tattoo. Five Japanese symbols (one of the eleven languages he spoke fluently) that he said were the five keys to living a happy life.
He never told me what they meant.
He never told anyone.
I don't even think his tattoo artist knew. He'd say if you wanted the answer, you had to find it for yourself.
Either learn to read Japanese or... well... figure out life.
I hated him as often as I loved him but I truly believed for many years that all roads led back to him. All men were nothing more than speed bumps on my road that ended with us together.
We were magnets and we'd flip between an undeniable attraction to each other and repelling each other. It wasn't until I met the man that I would later marry that I finally stopped chasing him and letting him chase me.
I walked away without a second glance over my shoulder.
I had to actually see what was missing to realize that everything right about this man was totally wrong for me.
Oh let the bullets fly, oh let them rain
My life, my love, my drive, it came from pain
People hear the things I've gone through... the things I've survived... they tell me how strong I am.
I don't know if that's true but I know I never should have had to be. In some instances I put myself into the situation. In others, I stayed long after I knew the situation was all wrong.
I was strong enough to walk away from them all in the end. I was strong enough to get past it and to find the right man. But am I strong overall?
Maybe. But it took years.
So I'm not so sure.
Last things last
By the grace of the fire and the flames
You're the face of the future, the blood in my veins
The blood in my veins
When you find the true love of your life, you know it.
You just know.
Like you know your own name, you know that their lips are the only ones that can speak it like a poem.
He terrifies me but not like the one who hurt me.
He terrifies me in a way that only someone you give your whole heart to can scare you. Loving someone so completely is giving them the complete ability to shatter you... and trusting them not to.
He understands me and makes me laugh but not like the one who tried to change me.
He understands me in a profound way that doesn't need words. He can tell by the fact that I'm calling and not texting that something has happened. He can tell by how I wake up in the morning if the day ahead holds dread for me. He can make me laugh over the same silly ridiculous things over and over, even without saying them. The memory is all it takes and I will burst out laughing. And he'll laugh with me. We share a comfort that only comes with real connection.
He excites me and intrigues me but not like the one I lived to fight with.
I used to think that without fighting there was no true passion for each other. We fight, we're married, married people fight. But we don't go to war over every little thing. It's more like arguments that start with a fury and end with a conversation and laughter and promise to do better.
He makes me want to do things I never imagined as part of the fabric of my personality... like sign a mortgage to a home that we both own together. Put down roots and remain in the same place (as long as it's NOT Florida) and trust him... in a way I haven't trusted a man since I was burned at the tender age of 16.
He is every love song I hear and every sappy thing my weird sense of humor doesn't allow me to say but he hears it in my silence.
He makes me a believer.