We are perpetually, irrevocably, and to our detriment, ourselves. And while those close to us prod us to color inside the lines, our hands are unsteady and steadfastly childlike. And while it is no small tragedy that we are unable to change ourselves, we rarely consider the effect it has on others. What happens to those who care for the chronically broken?

The malformed cockroach of hope stubbornly refuses to die. My mother never failed to disappoint my father. She continually broke our hearts and topped previously unthinkable levels of maternal and spousal failure. So I gave up. My poor father clung to a tiny, broken ore in the vain hope of finding shore. But the ocean is heartbreakingly vast. His goal noble; his project folly. And our story isn't unique. This indignity stalks us all. It is the inevitable result of care butting up against the immovable wall of character.

We are who we are. Change is a poet's word. Its siren song burrows deep in our heads like a tick. When a bridge is broken, its failure is obvious. It is uncrossable and we search for another way across. This luxury is lost with people. Our cracks are hidden under layers of good intentions. Our smiles dangle the carrot of change.

Consider a bad movie: it is easy to dismiss. We dust the popcorn off our laps and move on. Now a movie that is almost good, that is infuriating. We spend hours in the car arguing with our friends about where it went wrong, how we can fix it. It can be salvaged! We're sure of it. If only we could get our hands on it, we'd be the thing that turns it around.

It can't. And now that you know, it is your fault if you fall for it. They didn't disappoint you; they were being who they are. And it is precisely your fault for expecting anything different. They've repeatedly shown you their stripes and you've chosen to ignore them in favor of an idealistic fantasy. Come down to earth and look upon them in the daylight. They are nothing but themselves.

If you can make peace, accept and love them --not in spite of-- but because of their flaws, then your love has a fighting chance. But if your love is based in the future, on a version of them that doesn't exist anywhere but your mind, your project is doomed. Love what is, not what ought to be. A zebra's stripes go to the bone. If you're not into that, go chase a cheetah.

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