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The Bridge: When You Dance...
By Darryl James
Youth has a way of fooling us. It lulls us into thinking that that the world will be as it is for the rest of our days.
It can even lull us into thinking that we can purchase certain pleasures of life without ever having to pay.
But one thing is as certain as death and taxes-when you ask the piper to play while you dance, then you must pay the piper.
Let me tell you a story to illustrate the meaning of that phrase.
When I was twenty-one, William, an older Black man who had been a mentor to me advised that I needed to focus on one woman and not try to have them all.
He told me that I was so busy dancing to the piper's music that I wasn't thinking about the time when I would have to pay the piper.
To me, he sounded silly-he was older, married and had never been the ladies' man I thought I was.
But I held on to and replayed those words over and over again. They made sense to me, even though I thought that they did not apply to me. From my perspective, they were more relevant to the brothers who cheated on their wives, or brothers who were actually players.
I wasn't a player, I was just protecting my heart and having fun.
William, was certain that his words were relevant to my situation.
"If you are seeing more than one sister, it is impossible to find and have a real relationship."
"I don't know about that. If the right one presents herself, I can let the other ones go."
"But how will you know that any one of them is the right one, when you have more than one? You will continue comparing each one to the other ones, and finding faults that you will refuse to tolerate. If you had just one, and focused on her, it is quite possible young brother, that the two of you could work things out."
Conceptually, I was able to feel what William was saying. But in the reality of my life, I still believed that the right one had to present herself first before I made the commitment.
"That's a pretty idealistic view of the world, young brother. Things don't always work out that way. Sometimes, the right one is with you, but you can't see her because your vision is clouded. Let me ask you: How many sisters are you seeing now?"
"And why are you holding on to the other two?"
"Because I don't want to focus on one and end up hurt."
"You can end up hurt by all of them. But perhaps most importantly, you can end up hurting all of them. And remember--you'll eventually pay for the pain you bring. It will have to come to back to you."
William was a strong Black man. A man who was committed to his principles, to his marriage and to his children.
William knew and understood the games I had been playing with women. He recognized them because he had played them before his marriage. And he had paid for the games he played.
I respected him because I knew he had lived and experienced what he spoke of. But I thought that he was a different kind of person from me, and that the things he said had no application to my life.
William understood much of what I was dealing with. But what he didn't understand was the pain I was already carrying and the fear it brought with it.
I had tried to love and love didn't love me back.
I had no business trying to be in love because I had not healed. There could be no real loving in my life until I faced my fear and my pain and resolved them both.
My heart was a festering wound from all of the bumps and bruises of life and love.
My heart was full of pain, but I moved from each sister to the next as though I was ready to love again, and I was not.
I had allowed numbness to dilute the pain. And I had allowed a darkness to envelop my heart to disguise the pain. But the pain had never left, it had grown.
I spent a great deal of time trying to run from the pain, but it lived with me. I tried to do everything I could to avoid the one thing that had been consistent throughout my life.
And now, I had realized that nothing could keep pain at bay.
Lies could not keep pain away.
Detached sex could not keep the pain away.
In fact, detached sex could eventually allow the pain to grow and descend upon my heart without warning, searing through the darkness and numbness to become a dominating element of life, above all else.
Sex could not save me.
No, I could not use sex as a weapon to keep the harbinger of pain from knocking at my door.
I could not continue to use and abuse sisters as a means of attempting to keep others of them from using and abusing me.
None of them deserved the pain I gave them, because most of them tried to bring me joy, while protecting me from pain.
I danced with as many as I could to soothe myself. The piper was playing such sweet music.
And then I loved three. Three who left me in succession and with unique pain from the unique love that I had for each one.
I discovered it was possible to love more than one woman.
And I discovered it was possible to hurt from each one.
In the midst of pain, I realized that I deserved what I was feeling. And, in a way, I was glad all three left me and I hoped each was a better woman for it.
I wanted them all to leave me.
As much as I hurt, I hurt even more for all of the pain I caused. I wanted the pain to stop.
I wanted the pain to stop, but I didn't know how.
I had learned how to protect myself from pain, but I had not learned how to prevent it.
I had not learned how to love without hurting.
But I began to learn how to let go.
I let go of the parade of love and the parade of pain.
One by one, I began to let each one of them step out of the parade and fade into the shadows. The dates came to an end, the phone calls slowed down, and bits of dust and confetti that had been left behind by the floats in the parade were being swept up in my heart and mind.
I finally understood.
I had danced to the music of the piper and the piper had to be paid.
The loneliness cut deep at first, but then began to dull as I dug deeper into myself than I had ever been before.
I had danced a delightful dance.
And, then, I was paying the piper.
Darryl James is an award-winning author of the powerful new anthology "Notes From The Edge." Now, listen to Darryl live on BlogTalkRadio.com/DarrylJames every Monday from 7-9pm, PST. View previous installments of this column at www.bridgecolumn.proboards36.com. Reach James at