Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Pharisee Back in the Saddle

On December 7, 2008, Riin Gill's rabbit Rudy died. I wanted to express my condolences but wasn't sure if I should. I asked my friends; they all agreed I should. This was unusual on two levels. One, most times my friends would recommend I avoid contact with her; this time they actually thought it was a good idea. Two, every one of my friends agreed; usually, I would get differing opinions. So I wrote a simple note of condolence; we all thought she'd appreciate it.

Four days later, she castigated me publicly on her blog for my act of kindness. In doing so she snapped me back to my senses because in that moment I realized that, despite appearances to the contrary she so carefully cultivated in the public eye, she has no concept of compassion. The woman I'd fallen in love with was at best an illusion, at worst a lie. I haven't written a posting about Riin since that day and I thought I never would again; there was nothing left to say.

Until now.

The fact is, I still have my own regrets. Riin may have been manipulative, selfish and sometimes cruel but I was not blameless; I made my share of mistakes, too. Most of them I've long since made peace with but one regret I've carried with me all these years was the fact that my influence drove her off the saddle of her bike.

I try to encourage people to cycle, not discourage them. My opinion of her personally notwithstanding, it always bothered me that I was part of the reason she gave cycling up. It bothered me so much that initially I desperately tried to get people she knew to talk her out of giving it up. I realize now I had no business doing that but at the time I was in a desperate state of mind and felt like I had to do something; that was all I could think to do.

However, I eventually realized there was nothing I could do to get her back in the saddle if she didn't want to go. This is the only thing about Riin I still feel pangs of regret about to this day. I always thought this would be a cross I'd have to bear for the rest of my life. It's been almost three years since she last rode; I figured, if she hadn't gotten back to it by now, she never will.

I don't check her blog very often anymore. Once in a very long while I'll think of it and poke my head in just out of curiosity. Well I did that a few days ago and discovered a posting she made almost a month ago. "Punk Pin Cushion on Wheels." Hm. She still has her predilection for whimsical titles, it seems. I was skimming it when the second paragraph, a simple four word sentence, caught my eye: "I rode my bike."

Most of the time I honestly don't care anymore what Riin Gill does (which is why I check her blog so rarely) but this, I must admit, I am genuinely happy to hear. I suppose I'll still feel some regret for the three years she spent off the saddle but at least, in the end, she got back on, and every time anyone puts their butt on a bicycle seat (especially one who actually knows what they're doing in traffic, as Riin always did), well, that's always good news.

As I expected, she took several swipes at me in the entry. To her credit, however, she did not call me a "stalker" for a change; she called me "controlling." Well you know what? That charge I'll plead guilty to. I've always been like that; it's something I learned growing up. Every single member of my family, in one way or another, was controlling and manipulative. Not that they're bad people; it's just that, like me, they grew up with that behavior and thought it was normal.

However, in the interim, I've learned to recognize this flaw in my character and, like my homophobia of my younger days, I've fought hard to change it. In fact, it was my breakups with Riin, and later Lisa, that finally shook me to my senses and made me realize this was a flaw in my character that I had to deal with.

This is something I still struggle with. I still feel the urge to be controlling, particularly when I think someone I love is going to get hurt. However, most of the time now I work out my urge to control in fantasy or in writing rather than actually trying to control the person. Like my homophobia, which is now totally a thing of the past, I hope I'll eventually not even have these controlling urges but, for now, I just have to watch myself and make sure I don't act on them.

Now the question that I can't help but ask myself is this: is the fact that Riin is going back to cycling a sign that maybe she's starting to learn from her mistakes as I have?

I can't know for sure but somehow I doubt it. Her biggest problem, by far, is her lack of compassion; it's been my experience that if you haven't learned compassion by the time you're 30 or so you never do. Also, as her friend M pointed out, Riin can't admit to making mistakes in the first place; it's hard to learn from mistakes if you don't acknowledge them.

This is unfortunate. Riin does have it in her to be a better person. Though she does not feel compassion she understands the concept at an intellectual level which suggests that perhaps she could learn it if she wanted to. The problem is in order to be truly compassionate she'd also have to learn self-sacrifice, the concept of accepting some personal discomfort for the benefit of someone you love; this is something that is beyond her comprehension.

There have been many times in my life when I have accepted significant personal suffering, occasionally even risks to friendships, even my physical safety, to protect the people I love; that is the essence of compassion.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition defines "compassion" as, "Deep awareness of the suffering of another coupled with the wish to relieve it." Riin does have a "deep awareness" of the suffering of others but she lacks conviction in her "wish to relieve it." She'll help you if it doesn't cause her any difficulty but the moment it causes her even the slightest pain she instantly turns her back on you.

I was in deep trouble in my relationship with Lisa and didn't realize it. Now, it wasn't Riin's responsibility to get me out of that (she couldn't help me if I wasn't prepared to help myself which, at that time, I wasn't), but it was her responsibility, as my lover and my friend, to tell me the truth about the trouble she could see me in. Surely she must've seen it; she even witnessed Lisa assaulting me with her own two eyes on more than one occasion.

She didn't want to tell me the truth because I had always said Lisa and I were a "package deal," that she'd have to accept both of us or neither of us. Now of course that meant that telling me the truth about what Lisa was doing would've risked our relationship, yes, but if she really cared about me she would've taken that risk; when you really love someone, it's their happiness, not your own, that's the priority but, to Riin, everything is about what makes her happy, not others.

In the end we lost the relationship, anyway, because Riin and I would never have worked if Lisa had stayed in the picture. If Riin had had the courage to say that to me it probably would have caused us pain in the short term but, in the long run, I think we would have come out stronger and survived but, to do that, Riin would have had to experience true compassion; she would have had to truly understand how I felt and loved me enough to take that risk.

Actually, now that I think about it, the best thing Riin could've done was to say, "I'm leaving you unless you leave Lisa." She had a right to do that. I was choosing to stay in an abusive situation; that didn't mean she had to. Chances are saying that would've ended our relationship in the short term but, in the long run, when I finally hit bottom and lost Lisa (which was inevitable anyway) Riin could have been there to help me pick up the pieces.

Does that mean she should've sacrificed her happiness entirely? No, of course not; like I said, getting away from Lisa and I was, in the short term, the right choice on her part. It was the fact that, in the end, she abandoned me completely that demonstrates her total lack of understanding of what "compassion" means. If you're unwilling to accept any suffering, or take any risk, to help someone then you don't truly understand what compassion truly is.

Or at least that's the way it seems to me, looking back on it. Could I be wrong? Could Riin be genuinely compassionate somewhere deep in her heart but, because of some emotional baggage I don't know about, is simply averse to taking the risk she might get hurt helping someone?


I always try to keep an open mind. I have learned from my mistakes. I'm not totally dismissing the possibility that Riin may have, too; it's just hard for me to believe. I have to admit, if Riin actually dropped me a line tomorrow and said, "I'd like to find out where we both went wrong," I'd be willing to have a dialogue with her. At the very least it'd give me the opportunity to apologize, perhaps even atone, for some of the mistakes I made.

Of course, in order to do that, Riin would have to have enough compassion to recognize that I might, in fact, have learned from my mistakes in the past three years... so I don't foresee Riin seeking me out any time soon...

Yeah... that's probably for the best...

Well. It seems she can still stir a little emotion in me when she talks about me, even after all this time; I went way off on an unintended tangent here. I guess I really do love her. Well, the illusion of what I thought she was, anyway.

Either way, my thoughts and feelings about her notwithstanding, I am genuinely happy to see the only cyclist I ever knocked out of the saddle back in the saddle again.

I genuinely wish her luck.