A child stands alone at the foot of a grave, tears streaming down his face. He doesn't fully comprehend the meaning of his loss or of the profound struggle waiting for him. He is frozen in time, eyes fixed, with only one question on his lips:
Although the circumstances of every human may vary wildly, one aspect remains the same: we have all been hurt and we have all hurt others. Many of us hide our scars well, often times even from ourselves. I am by no means attempting to lessen the trauma of some or to elevate the struggles of others. I myself am very fortunate to have never suffered the horrors of war, the ravages of plague, or the bitterness of famine; my heart breaks for those who have. The reality is that even seemingly small events can shape us in very profound ways. Even the most sheltered person cannot escape this fact.
For me one of these events was the death of my father as a child. Though the memory of my father has faded and melted away like wax from a burning candle, I cannot escape the impact this has had on my psyche, or how that event irreparably altered the course of my life. In the blink of an eye, the image of who we are and who we could've been can be shattered and we have no choice but to pick up the pieces and try to carry on.
I struggle with a mental illness. For years this was something I thought was shameful, something I tried to hide from and deny even to myself. It wasn't until the monster inside me grew too large to control that I finally had to come to terms with it. The denial cost me my career, the respect of my family and friends, and nearly my life. If you find yourself struggling in silence, please seek help now, there is no shame in admitting weakness. There are some obstacles which simply cannot be over come on your own.
When I started to come to terms with my own situation, I started reading books on the subject. One such book is Self Esteem Third Edition by Matthew McKay PH.D. and Patrick Fanning. The techniques in the book revolve around the idea of the pathologic critic as described here (p 15, 16):
The critic blames you for the things that go wrong. The critic compares you to others--to their achievements and abilities--and finds you wanting. The critic sets impossible standards of perfection and then beats you up for the smallest mistake. The critic keeps an album of your failures, but never once reminds you of your strengths or accomplishments. [...]
The pathological critic is busy undermining your self-worth every day of your life. Yet this voice is so insidious, so woven into the fabric of your thought that you never notice its devastating effect. The self-attacks always seem reasonable and justified. The carping, judging inner voice seems natural, a familiar part of you. In truth, the critic is a kind of psychological jackal who, with every attack weakens and breaks down any good feelings you have about yourself.
For me, all the guilt and shame I have stored up inside serves as fuel for this critic. In my mind I see the critic as a masked official delivering flagellation. Every crack of the whip is a recollection of another failure, the cords digging deeper and deeper until all that is left is a bloody pulp where my self-worth used to be. At first I tried to hide myself away, withdrawing from people, situations, and my own thoughts. This was only a temporary respite, and only gave the critic more ammunition to use. The beatings continued. Other times I tried to turn and fight, took the instrument of my torture and attempted to lash out in a fit of rage. This too, proved futile. Ultimately the critic was a part of me and this temporary revolt would eventually subside. The beatings would continue.
Nothing, it seemed, could stop the cycle. Time went by and the self flagellation continued. It wasn't until I recalled some words written down long ago that I found another option. We are told that humans have the "fight or flight" response to a threat, but the truth is there is a seldom mentioned third option; one that is so radical it can not only change a person but at times, the very course of history. When the ritual beatings began once more, rather than give in or ready for a fight, I took a different approach. I rose to my faced my attacker, embraced him and whispered in his ear "I forgive you." In that moment the ritual was shattered and the critic was stunned, unable to continue. The mask fell from his face and revealed that of a child. That old familiar child frozen before his father's grave, tears streaming down his face. In all those years it wasn't retribution he was seeking; with every crack of the whip, every gushing wound, he only wanted one thing: forgiveness.
"Sorry for all the hatred."
"Sorry for the lost time."
"Sorry for the mistakes."
"Sorry for not having the answers."
"Sorry that there are things in this world I cannot fix."
"But you don't have to be alone anymore."
"I'm here for you and hand-in-hand we can continue onwards..."
I find myself before my father's grave once more with that familiar child, so scared of what lies before him. Together we stand as we bid farewell to that old tombstone.
"Goodbye father I hardly knew. I'll never forget you, but it's time for us to move on."
The child turns to me for the first time and smiles.
"Where do we go from here" He asks.
"I don't know" I reply, turning to the horizon "but there's gotta be somewhere better than here."
I'd like to briefly apologize to those I have hurt and to those that I have hurt and either forgotten or did so without realizing:
To my brothers and sisters at HA, forgive me for disappearing without an explanation.
To my friends from Chicago and Rochester many of whom have moved on with their lives. Forgive me for shutting you out and pulling away.
To my friends from college who have moved on with their lives. Forgive me for not keeping in touch.
To my friends in Utah, forgive me for pulling away and pursuing a different life in a different place and not keeping in touch.
To my younger brother, forgive me for not being there for you as an older brother and forcing you to face the darkness of this world alone.
To my older brother, forgive me for using you as a template for my own life rather than taking up my own mantle and using you and your wife's kindness as an excuse for laziness.
To my Mother, forgive me for being such a childish disappointment and leaving so many things unsaid.
To my grandmother, forgive me for neglecting you and letting you waste away in despair and never saying a final goodbye.
To my grandfather, forgive me for not being half the man you were in your own life.
To my father, forgive me for the time that was stolen from us. For never getting the chance to learn from you what it means to be a man.
To myself, forgive me for all those wasted years of abuse.
To those who read this. Forgive me for these rambling words. It has been a while since I've written anything and this was probably the hardest thing I've ever put to words.
As I brooded at the pub over a few too many beers, I decided to write down what I could never bring myself to say out loud. Maybe by writing it down I can finally let you go...
“On random notes of parchment, I'm scrawling my existence....”
I can still remember the day too well, still see the dark hanging clouds and feel the moist humid sweat upon the palms of my hands. It was a cold and miserable day, the day I realized I'd lost you.
Will you ever know how much your bright smile shone upon my life and provided me with the strength to carry on. I never told you how much you meant to me, or how your light has helped to carry me through the dark times of my life Even though times passed when you were so close I had but to reach out my hand and touch you, I was too afraid. Afraid that, like a delicate bird, you might be frightened and fly away, never again to grace me with your beautiful presence.
Instead, I watched and waited, content to take in your beauty from a distance, unadulterated by my own glaring shortcomings. Like a fool, I thought you would always be there, that somehow you would not succumb to the same wind which blew me away from that place, that someday I would find my way back to you, and you would still be there when I returned. There were times when I found myself so deep underground I could no longer feel the sun, it was then that your radiance lead me forward and I pressed on. When I found myself swimming among the turbulent waves of the endless ocean though my legs went numb with weariness and the taste of salty water burned in the back of my thought, your image burned brightly before me, my shining star, my guiding light when all the other stars in the heaven had been consumed by darkness.
Still, it wasn't until that cold cloudy day, which found me far away from your presence, that I realized the true nature of things. In all my travels, I sought to find a way to raise myself up to the pedestal on which I'd placed you. Never thinking that you might be on a journey of your own, which would inevitably lead you further from me. Your image began to haunt my dreams, waking me in a cold sweat with memories of an embrace which I had never felt. These dreams began to eat away at my mind, as sleepless night followed sleepless night.
Yet, somehow I found the courage to seek you out and find your number. You were just a phone call away, and as I began to slip coins into the badly abused and weathered phone, I began to wonder. What could I possibly say to reconcile everything you had meant to me? With one coin left to drop, I was hit with the true nature of what I felt for you. It was not real love that I felt, warm and filling, but a fake plastic love, unrealistic and fabricated by years of imaginary hopes and dreams. There was no way I could ever truly love you, not the person I had lifted up to a position unattainable by any mortal in this cursed life.
No, the truth was I had already lost you long ago, and nothing I did now could ever change that. I had waited too long, by now you had moved on to another place. Only when you felt cold and alone at night, it wouldn't be me you think of.
Violently shaking, not from the cold but from your loss, the final coin fell to the ground, the sound echoing across the emptiness of my shattered heart. It was the last piece that I had foolishly hoped would bridge an uncrossable divide. Though I shuddered, no tears would come. I had lost you long ago, I was just too blinded by my own dreams to realize it.
Only as I write these words of warning to those who may be young and more innocent, do the tears finally begin to fall. I lost you the day I had decided to enshrine you behind glass, motionless, untouchable, unreachable, unattainable, forever sealed away.
So, as I continue on my journey dark and brooding, forever continuing onwards without you, I breath your name one last time as I watch your image fade. Farewell and goodbye, my fake plastic love.
“...Am I destined only to die, the same way that I lived; in seclusion?” - The Ataris
It's been a while and I find myself in the midst of fighting my two greatest enemies. The first is that muddling haze which seems to descend upon my mind and keep me from thinking clearly. Seriously, I've found it hard to even get anything done, even at work. I would stare at the computer screen wondering what the hell I was supposed to be doing and begin to contemplate my usefulness as a member of the human race.
The second is an illness all too familiar to those of my generation. At work I recently had to sit through an entire presentation on the differences between “Generation i”, the tech-savvy generation, and the hard working, dirt in nails, “Baby Boomer” generation. After I watched the presentation I felt like I owed it to the first person I saw over 40 to apologize for destroying what's left of the planet after global warming runs its course. But I diverge, that most familiar of maladies is just plain laziness. The problem I have with performing a task, let's dub it Task A, is that I just can't bring myself to actually do “Task A” without a good reason to do Task A. So this leads to me sitting down for a while to ponder why I need to bring myself to do Task A in the first place, all the while becoming more confused and lost within the labyrinth of my own thoughts.
After contemplating why I should do Task A for about thirty minutes, I realize that I'm getting nothing done, by this point I can't even remember why I ever wanted to do Task A in the first place. Despite this, something still nags at me about Task A, reminding me that I'm a complete moron. As a compromise I decide to perform Task B which, while being a lot less productive, is a hell of a lot more entertaining. By the time I'm done with Task B, I've either completely forgotten about Task A or it is too late to do anything about it.
And so life continued for most of the winter and a good chunk of the spring. Yeah I did stuff: threw some kicking parties, met some killer blokes, took some vacation to visit family in Denver and friends in Cedar Rapids, and busted a chill on occasion, but I didn't really realize how much I was letting slide until I took my trip down to Texas last weekend.
Whenever I go back to campus it always seems like time and space warps. In some ways it always seemed like I was gone for too long, but also not long enough. As if I'd thought my last time there was just a dream I had awoken from long ago, but when I step into a dorm room once again reality shifts and I realize that my time away was more of a dream then my time in Texas. I didn't get that feeling when I came down for graduation, sure it was all too familiar yet very different all the same, but it was somewhat vindicating to realize that I had moved on past the struggles that once bound me to that place.
My short visit reminded me that sometimes I can be too hard on myself. It was good to be in good company and be forced to break my spell of loneliness and self-withdrawal for a time. All too often I was faced with the daunting question of “so remember when you said you were going to do _____, how is that coming?” I would then have to awkwardly explain that I hadn't really done much of _____, all the while trying to recall what it was I had done instead. Despite that, I was glad I was able to be there to re-unite with friends who were about to head their various ways across the nation and a few friends who came back from various parts of the world for the same reason.
In some ways it reminded me of who I was, and gave me hope that I might still make something of it in the end. So in a nutshell, I finally broke through the mental fog which kept me from figuring out how to work a keyboard in such a way as to make a post and a couple of beers and encouraging words made me realize that there is more to life than being comfortably lazy.
Tonight I decided to renew my war on sleep. Recently it's been brought to my attention that I have been sleeping way too much. I'm also finding that the more sleep I get, the more sleep I need. That's why I've decided to pick up the cause I let die after I graduated college and stay up to greet the AM with a droopy-eyed yawn. More than ever I find myself giving into laziness and sloth. At times it feels as if there is a heavy black cloud of energy which swirls about my psyche. Perhaps a form of motivational inertia?
Participating in the midterm elections really helped me recharge my batteries a little. It wasn't just the warm fuzzy for feeling like I've done my civic duty, it was also the idea that I am a part of something, even if my part is ever so small. For a while, I felt as if I was spinning my wheels in mud. The harder a tried to get out, the more I regressed and the deeper the problem became I needed traction, something which seemed like progress, even if it wasn't really in pursuit of any broad or heroic end goal.
I've never been a big fan of pragmatism. Breaking life down and sectioning it off via a secularist attitude is alien to an empathetic, aesthetic, spiritualist. Just look at the artist line-up I've been listening too lately: Muse, Crash Test Dummies, and Radiohead. I think the answer for now is in taking things a small step of a time. Restart my original plan to jog in the morning. Dust off the blog and maybe make a few entries. Figure out what's going on with my finances and who I owe or owes me money. But mostly, remember that life is not about milestones and trophies (nice as they may be), it is about living.
The sun sets, leaving a sea of red outside my apartment.
Mid-term elections are approaching. It is that curious time when around one-third of the population (if we're diligent) takes time out of their day to vote. With the prospect of a DFL controlled congress, both sides have been pumping funds into the mid-term election campaigns. In my apartment, the television is on for no more than an hour a day (enough to catch “That 70's Show” and “The Simpsons”) yet I have seen plenty of smear ads come from both camps.
As one of those strange people who believes that voting is not just a right, but a responsibility, I have made an effort to gather information on as many candidates as I can (it gets hard when you get to some of the lesser known local offices). Hence, when I see these smear ads I often laugh at the tactics used by the various candidates. I've seen both sides accuse the other side of “planning to raise taxes” or take some other statement and twist it out of context. I won't get into the messy details, but I'll suffice to say that it provides Coda and I with a good deal of entertainment. Coda is one of those home raised Republican voters. He states that he does vote based on the individual candidates, “but only during the [Republican] primaries.”
My hope is that, if you are voting, you will at least take a quick look at the candidates before you cast your ballot (if you have access to the Internet, which I'll assume is the case, you probably have access to more information than you need).
With that said, here are some entertaining Daily Show links: