Thoughts by Richard Bleil
Moths navigate by the sun. With our distance from the sun, as they fly, the sun doesn’t vary significantly, so to fly straight they just keep the sun on one side. This is a very clever hereditary development, except when the light source is much closer, such as a candle. In order to keep such a near light source on one said, the moth will fly in circles, slowly closing in on the flame until the moth’s inevitable end.
We can laugh at moths for such a folly, but I’m not so convinced that humans are much better. Sarah, my ex-wife, was the light in my life for the time that we were married. I set my path with her as my guiding light, ignorantly circling towards my flaming and painful demise. But I was one of the lucky ones. She asked me for a divorce, and I was at least bright enough to realize that I had been in the marriage alone for too long.
I’ve been in my share of yo-yo relationships that ended one day, and we were back together the next. Each time we broke up, it would hurt, and each time she wanted to get back together I would run. Many years ago, I had come to the decision that I would not let that happen anymore. If a woman wanted to end our relationship instead of working through our problems, then I would not give a second chance. Sarah tried to get back into my life. She made statements like, “I didn’t mean you had to move out immediately”. Well, yes, I did, and each time she made a statement that sounded like an overture to getting back together, I ignored it.
I think the moth would be better off just ignoring the flame. But it’s often easier said than done. That flame is so bright, warm, and inviting, at least until the moth gets too close and ends up getting burned. And, yes, I was tempted. The problem is that when we think back to broken relationships, the joyful memories are amplified, and the painful diminished. We begin thinking that maybe we were too quick, giving up because of things that maybe, if we try again, we could overlook. Maybe this time it’ll be all joy.
But the moth cannot change its ways any more than we can. Had I gone back to Sarah, I’m sure she would have gone back to her old ways, happily giving up when things become difficult and expecting me to put in the work. I’m fortunate for my lessons of the past, and I’m happy that when I decided to move on, I decided to move on permanently.
Of course, the moth is not aware of the impending doom. It’s just living its life as it always has, navigating by a strong light which has always kept it alive. The thing about my marriage is that it was very comfortable to me. She was a narcissist, and emotionally abusive which sounds bad, which it honestly is. But I was raised in a household of narcissists and being emotional abused, so that candle felt much like home to me. I knew the problems with the way I was raised, but it was still comfortable. Even recognizing this unhealthy environment was not enough to keep it from feeling familiar.
That instinct to navigate by keeping the location of the light fixed is very much like our own emotional defenses as well. My personal defenses have kept me alive and safe, but they also kept me alone. Today, those same habits are leading me to my ultimate demise, quite literally as loneliness has been shown to lead to premature passing. And yet, it’s hard to change those habits. The same habits that were my guide for living life are those habits that will lead to my downfall.
It’s worth remembering the lessons of the moth. Our habits will sometimes keep us safe but taken to an extreme can also put us in mortal danger. But we’re supposed to be more intelligent than the humble moth, but sometimes it’s hard for us to see those habits that we need to change. Ironically, many people can see those dangerous habits in others far easier than in themselves. I know that I’m very much like that. And it’s because I recognize that in myself that I will listen to my friends, and sometimes even reach out to them. Sometimes it’s not easy listening to the advice of others, especially if we don’t want to hear it, but my trick is to work to keep my emotions in check and listen as they are speaking. I won’t decide on their words while I’m still upset by what they said, but later, when I’m calm, I’ remember what they said, and then I’ll decide if their advice is good or not. Maybe, just maybe, my ability to do that proves that I’m more than a moth.