I was never the black sheep. My personality was never sheep-like. It was more like a goat’s. I would butt heads (figuratively speaking) sometimes, just for fun. I easily digested (figuratively speaking again) things that others found inedible, unpalatable. I adjusted to new (social) terrain very quickly and rarely lost my footing. I was smarter than I looked or acted. I was at home hanging around with the herd, and sometimes I just liked perching atop a mountain by myself. I could be stubborn or easy-going, spastic or graceful, noisy or quiet, and sometimes if I was startled I would faint. I was the black goat of the family… and everywhere else.
College and marriage tried desperately to drive that out of me. Both institutions really wanted to to conform, toe the line, jump through hoops, and do others’ bidding without question. No self-respecting goat would ever do that. This goat came horrifically close, though. Even the strongest of us can be beaten down. Everything hinges on at what we hit bottom and decide: Is it time to call it quits, or have I really had enough of all their shit? In April of 2003, after trying to “fix all [my] problems” because of an ultimatum from my passive-aggressively abusive then-wife, I finally told her I had really had enough of her (and everybody else’s) shit. (I didn’t put it that way, though. I wasn’t rude.) She said nothing for about thirty seconds, though she looked at me like my hair was on fire. I remember what I said.
“I’m done trying to change myself any more. You knew exactly who I was when you married me. We dated for almost three years and lived together for two. I never lied about who I was. I never acted differently around you. You’ve made me miserable for years. You’ve known, but you’ve not cared, just demanded I change more to suit you.”
She said she’d leave if I didn’t reconsider.
I told her: “Do you you gotta do.”
That was it. She moved out later, in August. It was such a relief. Yeah, I was depressed, directionless for a good while. I’d not been single in ten years, and I still had the kids with me most of the time. I had next to no money and no prospects. I was off the chain, though. I was a free goat. Now, seven years later, I’m much more confident, stable, and happy. It’s taken a while to get here. Along the way I’ve dropped several other toxic or unhealthy relationships and come to terms with them and things done (and not done) during them. There’s still more work, shaping up to be done. I’m still getting my sea legs back. (I know that’s not a good goat-ish analogy, but it’s the best one for the point I’m trying to make.) I’m in a good place, though. The outlook is good.