Mermaid Tears: You Are What You Tolerate

“Never again will I justify the scars because I love the person holding the knife”

You are what you tolerate. It’s tempting to lick our wounds and feel sorry for ourselves when life deals us a shit hand. We relieve the pressure of accountability the moment we decide it’s someone else’s fault we’re miserable. People will only do what we allow and when we love someone, it’s truly atrocious the kinds of things we will allow them to do to us. We leave ourselves open to a world of avoidable heartache when we don’t fulfill our own sense of purpose, leaving the fate of our happiness in the hands of other flawed and broken people. There’s an old saying that if you put a frog in boiling water it will immediately try to jump out of the pot, but if you put a frog in lukewarm water and slowly turn up the heat, it will cook without even realizing it. And somehow we blame the frog. How convenient.

 I once loved someone completely incapable of loving anyone but himself. Slowly but surely, I allowed him to break me. I allowed small amounts of disrespect at first, trying not to seem too uptight or unable to take a joke. I allowed for less say in our home life as not to seem too prude. I allowed my privacy to be invaded as not to make him angry. I allowed the breaking of my spirit as not to lose him. I didn’t realize how unhappy I was until I was barefoot at 3am in a parking lot far from my apartment, and on the verge of a mental breakdown. My only option was to run. His powder white addiction had brought out his demons again that night and his rage had me cowering against a wall fearing for my safety. I allowed that too, and much more after that. When we don’t set strong boundaries, we  try to swim back and forth in a fish tank and pretend it’s the ocean, all the while convincing ourselves our misery is merely the price of happiness.


I dove into the water for the glitter at the bottom. You promised all the jewels I ever wanted if I was willing to swim for them. You encouraged me to be strong and keep swimming, even as my shoulders burned and my arms nearly became too weak to go on. Instead, I ignored the fear in my belly and stretched my fingertips further towards the sparkling allure of your promises. I nearly cut myself on the glass I found. There were no jewels here. Instead, I found myself in a pit of darkness, having left my light at the surface to prove myself to you. My love would never lie to me, of this I was sure. As I stroked my arms to lead me towards the surface, I found I was too weak to escape. I’d been holding my breath so long I’d forgotten I couldn’t swim. I tapped the glass expecting you to let me out. I would have panicked had it not been for the longing look in your eyes.

 I belonged to you.

Surely, you would never let me die in here. I had to be a good girl and wait, sit very still and wait, watch through the glass and wait, show my loyalty and wait. You were mesmerized by the hardened iridescent scales I spent months piecing to my skin to convince you I was something worth loving. I’d sown my legs together to be the mermaid of your dreams. As my breath pushed against my rib cage, I realized I had but moments before I could no longer breathe. I realized then that this was how you would love me.

I was so sure my love would never let me drown and never considered that you didn’t know I couldn’t breathe. Rather, that you didn’t care that I couldn’t breathe. And I sank towards my new home among the other shards of glass posing as diamonds.

Our love was me drowning with an ear pressed against the tank hoping to hear you say my name. Our love was my hand print on the glass waiting for the warmth of your hand pressing back. Our love was minutes and hours and days and nights of my aching loneliness anchoring me in the cold waters of the bottom. Our love was me believing that you must love me to keep me protected in this paned prison. Our love was my gratitude for loving you at a safe distance behind panels of glass. Our love was your trident of scolding words piercing my lungs when I tried to swim out.

Our love was how I blamed you for leaving me to drown when I gave up my legs to crawl to the bottom.

But it’s amazing how fragile your glass is when I no longer care about the way you love me and only care about how I love myself. How easily it cracks when I refuse to drown for your amusement. How incredibly inconvenient for you that I am a diamond disguised as glass.


Life is but your tolerance.

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