Saturday, March 21, 2009

My River Isis

[Photo by ippei+janine under a Creative Commons License]

Better never to have met you in my dream than to wake and reach for hands that are not there.
-Otomo No Yakamochi

Day 75

Somewhere in the shadows of my emotional landscape, obscured by dense and long-forgotten trees and grasses, there's a hidden stream. Deep and clear and dark, it runs with forbidden and frighteningly powerful emotions. Tenderness and sorrow spill over its banks. I can place my hand here in the moist earth and feel the cool slip between my fingers, and I can bare it. I've written songs here, sang the songs of others. It's the deeper waters that are swift and dangerous. There are pieces of my life down there, visible in the flashes of sunlight that occasionally stab through the ferns and vine-draped branches. I'm afraid of these pieces and I fiercely protect them. If the undercurrent sweeps them away, some remembered part of me will wither and die. This glade is pungent with the aroma of poetry. Prose is impotent here, as the rational has no power.

This river of memories is where I must go to sort through the lost women in my life. Those I've left behind. One of the things I did when I used (chemicals) and acted out (pornography) was allow myself to bathe in these waters. With my inhibitions artificially lowered, I could breathe life into those buried memories, and re-animate them. The tangled cascade of sensations that make up first love (or forbidden love) would come flooding back. This is no longer an option for me. It wasn't real and it wasn't healing, and it blinded me to life. Authentic experiences are a washed-out gray when you're using. You can't see the earth after staring at the sun.

So as I do my fearless moral inventory, I'm slowly plumbing my River Isis to discover its true nature. I'm trying to fish out the memories, dry them off, honor them, set them aside, and move on. I ran across one today. It was a brief online exchange with Elena. Much of the River Isis belongs to her, and I may never purge it of the scattered pieces of her presence. But I'm trying. Because to linger over the illusion of imagined and immoral love is an artificial experience. It contains none of the risk and effort and sacrifice of real love, and it can never embrace me back with grace and acceptance. This is what I share with the real, flesh-and-blood woman who sleeps in my bed.

I must leave the river for today, walk away and back into my life. If I stay I will drown. But I'll come back because I must. I've avoided this place for too long, and its power over me is incongruent with serenity. I often find myself lost here unexpectedly, and knowing the way out is essential. Most recently, I was whisked here when reading Cat's post on first love. I saw this place from my wife's point of view in a post by Willow. These words (and others) have helped me to pull back the branches and take away the mystique that fills the darkness. Maybe this landscape can be tamed after all.


  1. The longer I am in recovery and the more I grow as a person, the more I see imperfect as beautiful and worthy of reverence. The love I have with my husband is that much more special for all that has gone into it, not because it is an idealized vision of romance and two souls meant for each other, but for the interesting ways we connect or affect each other.

  2. Hi- I've been reading your blog with great interest and hope. I am fifty-three years old and have been struggling with multiple addictions and mental health issues for over forty years. I can relate to everything you written and that strangely gives me a sense hope and a feeling that I belong to a community. Thanks. John

  3. John - Thanks for the comment. Glad you relate to the craziness. Addictions and mental health issues are amazingly tough and complex, but the beauty of a diligently worked recovery program has been even stronger for me. Problems that seemed insurmountable are revealing themselves to be workable, and I'm finding joy along the way.

  4. Eli,

    Your depth of emotion and ability to express it continues to amaze me. You seem to be doing such a great job of being honest and loving with yourself.

    I can sense your deep love for your wife and it does help me believe (a little) that my husband is telling me the truth when he tells me how much he loves me.

  5. That 4th step is a mutha;)

    Great post.