I, Ethan Pitney, was a fighter growing up.  I don’t mean that I got in a lot of fights.  I never fought people.  I fought to control myself because there were so many situations I had no control over.  When no one in your class wants to talk to you and all the other boys pick on you, you grow up feeling impotent in social situations.  I couldn’t stop them from trying to hurt me, all I could control was my reaction.  As they seemed fuelled by a need to inflict misery on others, I chose to never hurt anyone.  I chose to prevent my anger from being expressed.

            Now my sister was asking me to surrender that control, to stop fighting.  To just let go of something that had defined me since early childhood, made me different from my peers.  It went against everything I had ever chosen.  Ever believed in.  I had accomplished everything in my life through control:  sheer force of will.

            And now my sister was asking me to trust her and give that up.  Trust had always been a problem for me.  I might never have been able to make the right decision, but, luckily, I’d had some help.

***

In the desert I had stopped going anywhere until I remembered what my will was capable of.  I started walking west, just following my feet, without any clear sense of what to do next.  I just knew I couldn’t give up, couldn’t stop moving.  It wasn’t long after I started my march that I was interrupted by a familiar voice.

            “For a moment there I thought you were giving up,” Raphael announced.

            I looked up and saw him reclining on a boulder, as if he had been taking a nap while waiting for me to walk by.  But I had seen that rock for miles before I reached it, and knew that it had been unoccupied until just this moment.

            “I may have considered it,” I acknowledged.  “But it seemed out of character.”

            Raphael floated down to the sand on his white wings and then stepped closer.

            “I disagree.  It’s been a part of your personality for quite some time.”

            “Are you trying to be insulting?” I asked calmly.

            “No, just pointing out something you have probably never even thought about.  Yes, you have tremendous willpower when you’re seeking a goal, and that’s to be commended.  But you have a tendency to sulk and withdraw when you don’t achieve what you want, or when the goal doesn’t live up to your expectations.”

            “I don’t sulk…” I began to disagree, but then I thought about it.  I avoided my friends in university after losing Faith, I shunned classmates after a few were bullies, and I obsessed over Hope when she rejected me. 

            “Yes, you do.  If you’re honest with yourself.”  Raphael saw me processing what he was saying.  “If you accomplish what you set out to do, you feel good about yourself and the world.  When you don’t get your way, you sulk and then fall into depression, taking it out on everyone else by leaving them.  I just want you to be aware of that.”

            I considered it.  “It seems pretty selfish, when you stop to think about it.”

            “Do you remember how you made yourself feel better after a bad day as a child?” Raphael asked.

            “I’d play by myself,” I said.  “Lego, or G.I. Joe, stuff like that.”

            “What kind of games?”

            “I don’t know.  I ‘d tell myself a story, an adventure.”

            “Who was the hero of those adventures?”

            “I was.  Or a character based on me.  I lived through my games, and then did the same thing with writing stories as a teenager.  Are you saying that I’ve been treating my life as an adventure story, starring me as the hero?  When the world doesn’t acknowledge that I’m the good guy, I just block them out?”

            “You catch on quick when you try.”  Raphael smiled.

            “Why are you telling me this?” I asked.  I felt extremely foolish, and I wanted to know why he felt the need to bring it up.

            “Because it’s not just your story, Ethan,” Raphael said.  “I need you to understand that.  You have a part to play, but it’s not all about you, and we don’t have time to wait around until you get over your sulk.”

            I felt ashamed at these words, and knew my cheeks had flushed.  He found a way to make it worse.

            “Who are you to sulk over Mara being gone?  She’s been away from you for not even a day, and yet you felt the need to collapse and bewail your fate.”

            “I know she’s your daughter, and you must miss her when she’s away, but I love her too,”  I began.

            “I’m not talking about me.  Have you ever thought about Mara’s life?  How she feels?”

            “What do you mean?  I care about her more than anyone…”

            “Did you care enough to realize that she waited for you for five thousand years?  That she’s watched you grow since birth? And she was unable to touch you, talk to you.  But you, you have the right to complain as soon as she’s left your sight.”

            I turned away, my face burning.  “If you’re trying to make me feel like a self-centred fool, you’ve succeeded.”

            “I’m not trying to make you feel foolish.  I’m trying to wake you up to your responsibilities.  And to the fact that this is all about more than you and your adventure story.”  He said this from behind me, his tone kinder.

            “What do I have to do?” I said, turning to look at him.

            “First, you have to let go of that ego.  The need to be the hero.  This isn’t your story.”

            “It’s God’s,” I said, looking up.

            “It’s good to hear you say that.  But thinking it and trusting in it are two different things.  You’ll have time out here to practice, but try and learn it as quickly as you can.”

            “Anything else?”

            “One more thing,” Raphael said.  He waved his hand, and a scene appeared in mid-air, as if someone had opened a window in reality.

            I stepped forward and peered into it.  I saw my sisters and Mara at my childhood home.  It appeared that they had welcomed her into the family.  Gwen and Evie were following Mara, though I could not fathom why.  I had picture only, there was no sound to this odd ‘television.’

            Mara nodded, said something, and then led my sisters through the house, to the basement.  Down there she stopped in the playroom, where we had kept our toys for years.  On a table against the back wall she showed them my masterpiece, a city built of Lego.  I had built it with Gwen before leaving for university, and it seemed that she had left it on display.  Using pieces from our castle sets, pirates, towns and space, we had built an enormous metropolis populated by spacemen and archers, pirates with rifles, and knights on horseback.

            “I remember this,” I said to Raphael.  “Why are they looking at it?”

            “Watch,” he said simply.

            I did.  Mara pointed out one wall of the city, where we had staged a battle all those years ago.  The wall had been knocked down, and the city’s army had spilled out to fight another army outside.  Some soldiers were knights, others were astronauts with swords, pirates with laser guns, citizens with bows and arrows.  We had let our imaginations run wild.

            “Remind you of anything?”  Raphael asked.  I shook my head.  “Gwen recognizes it.  She holds the answers.”  He pointed to my younger sister, who had a look on her face like a light bulb going off.  A ‘Eureka’ moment.

            “What are you talking about?”  I asked, turning to him, but he had leapt into the air and spread his wings, heading skyward.  I was left in the desert, alone again.

            Man, I got sick of having sand between my toes.

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