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Good Guys. Bad Guys.

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Greg and I love to watch a good show together in the evenings.  In fact, at any given time, we’ve any number of shows on deck.  We’ve got our 45-60 minute drama-ish show.  We’re watching through Parks and Rec (one of my all-time favs) and that fits the bill for a light-hearted, 20-30 minute show.  We’ve also got our family show for when everyone is home and feeling together-y.  It’s a nice variety.  And we’ve seen some great shows in the last year.

Sneaky Brilliance

We’re currently watching “Fleishman Is In Trouble.”  It’s an awful lot like another show we watched a few months ago, “Mammals”.  Before you go adding it to your watch lists, know that you will be signing up for a deep dive which will make you very uncomfortable.  Good writers know how to make you laugh and relax and then they send the arrows of truth flying right into the bullseye of your heart. Both of these shows boast a sneaky brilliance that could turn you wrong-side out before you even know what’s happening to you. In both cases, I found myself seriously triggered.

Each show is a bit circuitous in its storytelling.  Backtracking here and there so that, eventually, you get the whole story.  The couples fall in love.  They do the familiar, gross, adorable things we all do when we’re newly in love.  It’s quirky, I’m smiling along and identifying with it all.

And then, of course, the stories take a turn.  Life gets real.  There are the struggles that feel insurmountable.  Meanness that gets a little soul-crushing.  Betrayal, hurt, isolation.  As I’m watching along, I am painfully identifying with all of this too.  For as much as we’re all different, and our lives are on different tracks with different outcomes, our stories are very similar.  It’s what makes shows like this so powerful.  We are the characters we’re watching.


I find myself coaching the characters.  It’s got to be annoying to Greg although he hasn’t called me out on it yet.  I try to use my inside voice as I unsuccessfully direct, “No, don’t say it like that. . . Stay.  Stay.  Don’t leave.  Stay. . . . Take a breath, don’t lash out . . . “  On and on my regrets flow out of me.  Hindsight and all that. 

I am very fortunate because over the years, my ex-husband and I have been able to have some very healing conversations.  We have each taken responsibility for parts we played in the shipwreck that was our marriage.  There have been apologies, and forgiveness.  Time is, indeed, a healer.


But when you are in the center of storms that threaten to destroy everything you love and hold dear, you better believe there’s a bad guy and it’s generally not you.  It’s him who isn’t listening or trying.  He is the one being unreasonable and cruel.  It’s his fault.  He needs to wake up and realize how desperately his decisions are causing me to suffer.

It’s just easier when we have a good guy and a bad guy.  We can all rally around the good and reject the bad.  We get to be on a team, we get to agree.  It’s vindicating.  But when it becomes clear that both characters were happy and in love and both characters became lonely and isolated because both characters played their parts as the worst versions of themselves, things get muddy.  The good guy is the bad guy.  They are the same.  Now who do we root for?

I Am The Good Guy . . .

I love to identify as the brave, adventurous, generous protagonist.  In the story I’m working to tell, this is the role I have cast myself in.  And yet there are plenty of times when I am judgmental, sullen, critical.  I get insecure and needy and afraid.  Sometimes, I wear myself out with my opinions on how everyone should behave.  I get so annoying to myself that I need a break.  A break from myself.  Cool it already, Taya, you’re wearing me out.

I would rather always be the light version of myself. But I am both lightness and darkness.  I am the good guy and the bad guy. 

The Space Of Nuance

The Vietnamese Buddhist Monk, Thich Nhat Hanh writes in his poem called, “Please Call Me By My True Names”:  “I am a mayfly metamorphosing on the surface of the river.  And I am the bird that swoops down to swallow the mayfly.  I am a frog swimming happily in the clear water of a pond.  And I am the grass-snake that silently feeds itself on the frog.  I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones, my legs as thin as bamboo sticks.  And I am the arms merchant selling deadly weapons to Uganda.” 

The truth of our existence is that we are both.  All.  The wholeness of us unfolds when we accept and love every part.  And until we are able to soften into this process, there will always only ever be right and wrong.  Good and bad.  The problem with this is, the fullness of ourselves and our lived lives and relationships happens in the space of nuance.  In a space where there is room for all the things.

This is an exceedingly difficult space for me to hold for myself.  I am the frog.  I am the snake.  And yet that is as it must be.  Therein lies the balance in the universe.  The crying in laughter.  The joy in pain. 

Again, Thich Nhat Hanh writes, “My joy is like Spring, so warm it makes flowers bloom all over the Earth.  My pain is like a river of tears, so vast it fills the four oceans.”  We are both.  We are all.  It is the bittersweet truth of our humanity.


This is what Susan Cain calls bittersweet in her book of the same title.  “It’s an authentic and elevating response to the problem of being alive in a deeply flawed yet stubbornly beautiful world. . . bittersweetness shows us how to respond to pain:  by acknowledging it, and attempting to turn it into art, the way the musicians do, or healing, or innovation, or anything else that nourishes the soul.  If we don’t transform our sorrows and longings, we can end up inflicting them on others via abuse, domination, neglect.  But if we realize what all humans know – or will know – loss and suffering, we can turn toward each other.”

And this is our great hope.  Finding out that we are not alone.  That there is a space of love and kindness for us that exists even at the ugliest ends of ourselves.  It is a brutal and beautiful truth.  Beauty can bloom out of our deepest, darkest woundings.  The ones inflicted upon us, and the ones we, ourselves, have inflicted.  But it is a tough story to watch.  And a tougher one to live.

Greg and I stayed up way too late last night to watch our show unfold the story of the impossible meanness and cruelty, the callous dismissiveness that hurt people inflict upon each other.  It was very raw for me as I have vivid memories of being in those same situations not so many years back. 


And yet even in the midst of my triggered spiraling, I was reminded of the smoothing flow of time.  Of the people who came close to me and made space for me to be wrecked and angry.  I got to be as big and as small as I needed to be.  I was accepted as the good guy and the bad guy. And in that space, I found my healing.

“Please call me by my true names, so I can hear all my cries and laughter at once, so I can see that my joy and pain are one.  Please call me by my true names, so I can wake up and the door of my heart could be left open, the door of compassion.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh

If you are the good guy, or the bad guy, or if you are seeking the courage to be whole, let’s be friends~

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