Scrooged

Picture 49Back in the day when I still went to church on Christmas Eve, I remember how the priests would always make a point during the offering of the blessings to “those who spend this time of the year alone,” while always being selfishly grateful that I wasn’t one of those people.

Except now I am.

I didn’t do anything to commemorate Christmas this year. No tree or decorations. No gifts. No cards. No get-togethers. No church. No anything.

It’s the first time I’ve ever found myself in this position and whenever I’d get enough energy to tell myself to get up and go do something to try and enjoy the season, I kept running headlong into the same answer.

Why? It doesn’t matter.

If you had told me when I was four, or fourteen or even twenty-four or thirty-four, that I would reach a point where I have no reason at all to do anything at Christmas, I would’ve thought you were even crazier than I am alleged to be.

But I’m here nonetheless.

So far today, I’ve sat around the apartment I’m housesitting, watched about five minutes of basketball on TV, tried to get into a book I brought with me to pass the time, listened to a few podcasts, took a shower and nibbled on a snack or two.

I’ve tried my damnedest to stay off social media so I won’t see pictures and posts from everyone I know who are at home celebrating with family and friends and kids. I thought about going into town for a bit and just getting lost, but everything is shut down today because Christmas is ironically the one day of the year where the great consumerist engine finally comes to a halt.

My grandmother always used to tell me that there was an important lesson to learn during this time of the year. Being as young as I was, I presumed it was nothing more complex than if I was a good boy, then Santa would make sure there were presents for me every December 25.

Now, I can’t help but feeling like there is another lesson I’m being presented with this year.

I know I’m seeing all this through the distorted lenses of being depressed and isolated and lonely and angry and hurting, but as I’ve often been told by those who proclaim themselves to be much smarter than I am, experience is often the best teacher.

Maybe so, but if I’m honest…I’d rather just skip this class if you don’t mind.

Minimum Safe Distance

Abandonment II’m going to preface this with the following acknowledgement.

I’ve been trying to find the right words to articulate this for the better part of a week. I’ve sat down at my computer and started trying to get them out, only to turn right back around and whitewash every single one, because they cut too close to the very raw emotions that are connected to them.

And I’m sure by the time I’m done here, I’m still going to feel like I didn’t find them or this is not going to make much sense, but I guess I’ll try the best I can.

I’ve often wondered what sort of a person I’d be had I been allowed to be a normal kid.

Now depending on your perspective, it could be rationally argued that my life was all too normal by comparison to a lot of other people in this country.

My parents split before I was six and I had to figure out how to get by in that sort of dynamic. As a result, my family is not close.

I haven’t spoken to my mother in nearly three years. I haven’t spoken to my brother in at least four. My dad and I talk on occasion, but we both have come to recognize that we are two totally different people and because of that and a lot of history we share, our relationship is never going to be what it could have been.

Like most people who grow up in a broken home, I spent a lot of time as a kid trying to figure out if I had some impact, either directly or indirectly, on why my parents didn’t stay together. It wasn’t until I was a teenager and I became more aware of what things like addiction and abusive behavior can do to a relationship that I realized that no, it wasn’t my fault.

At least…not entirely.

My mother remarried and divorced again when I was about ten, and during the entire time he was in my life, I was thoroughly convinced that my stepfather absolutely and unquestionably hated me.

To be fair, he never laid a hand on me, though I watched him hit my brother once and by the end, I had seen and heard him abuse my mom a couple of times.

Situations like that force you to act in ways that most kids are not really equipped to handle, I don’t think. You have to find strength you’re not really sure you possess, a measure of bravery despite being scared out of your damn wits half the time, and you learn how to combat anger with an equal and opposing anger.

Anger and hatred, after all, are learned emotions brought out only through the onset of conflict. No one rolls of out bed some morning and is just naturally pissed off at something or someone. There has to be a catalyst to initiate it and then a justification, either rational or otherwise, to fuel it.

Once my stepfather was gone, I hoped I wasn’t going to have to feel that measure of animosity directed at me again. But it did.

Human beings are resilient creatures. We really are. We can take a whole hell of a lot of punishment and not only shake it off, but we pride ourselves and celebrate our capacity to overcome adversity, but even that has limits.

To this day, I have never been able to forget what my mother said to me that night, 26 years-ago, when she came into my bedroom and said she was sending me away.

“I can’t teach you what you need to be a man,” she said, trying her best to justify the decision she was making.

What she never heard as those words reached my ears, was the underlying message I got along with it, which was, I’m done with you. I’m tired of being your mother and I’ll be better off when you’re gone.

And as much as I don’t like to accept it, the reality is she got exactly what she wanted. She remarried and was able to do all the things she’s wanted to do since. In hindsight, all she had to do was take me out of the equation and as she told me many times in the years since, she’s as happy as she’s ever been.

For years, what I took away from that was the passive-aggressive reinforcement that I was the reason she wasn’t happy.

When you’re faced with that potential realization, there is no armor thick enough, no muscle tough enough and no bone strong enough to take that kind of a shot. There just isn’t. It goes right through you and tears you to shreds.

The thing that I didn’t understand then, and I still don’t understand to this day, is the why.

What was it about me that warranted so much disdain? It wasn’t like I was some incorrigible troublemaker who excelled in making life hell for everyone around me. Sure, I did stupid things and I made mistakes and I challenged authority, but show me a child who doesn’t do that to their parents at least once in their lives.

I’m not proud of it. Not one bit. But as far I know and there is a whole of evidence to support this theory, that’s part of both being a kid and a parent. That’s the deal.

Believe me, in hindsight, I would have loved nothing more than to have been able to just go to school, learn about stuff, come home, play with my friends, occasionally do my homework and had an otherwise “typical” milquetoast upbringing.

And please, before you ask why I don’t just get over it, already, stop and ask yourself how much it would honestly affect you if you’d had to go through the exact same thing?

I’m not a betting man, but I’m willing to make a good educated guess it wouldn’t roll off your back any easier than it has mine, thank you very much.

I also know I became a totally different person from then on. I became both fanatically desperate to find some measure of affection and acceptance that could make me feel like I wasn’t someone that nobody cared about, and paradoxically, I tried like hell to keep everyone I cared about at arm’s length or further, even though I knew instinctively that I was eventually going to have to let somebody in.

For a while, I thought I’d had that when I was married. Then the same thing happened all over again…twice, in fact.

Each time, I’ve been left with a single rational and logical conclusion. There is something terribly wrong with me and I have to figure out what it is.

Now I could argue that being diagnosed with Clinical Depression and PTSD could be a big red flag, sure. But I’ve also never been able to accept that it’s just those things alone. There has to be something else. Something I am not seeing either deliberately or because I just can’t, which is the reason why this process keeps repeating itself.

Because if there wasn’t, then I’m left wondering why it is that the lives of everyone around me that I care about seem to become exponentially better once I’m not in close proximity anymore?

Maybe, despite what I’d like to think are my best efforts to prove to the contrary, I am just someone that is never going to have that kind of connection because I’m not supposed to.

After all, as I’ve been told many a time by many a person, life isn’t fair. I’m neither entitled to, nor deserving of anything. If I’m not good enough to have the things I want, then I have no one to blame but myself. You just suck it up and deal, right?

This is a debate I’ve been having with myself since I was 12-years-old, and each year at this time I’m reminded, whether I want to think about it or not, of that night and those words and what, if anything, I could’ve done to keep my mother from saying them to me…

…and I have a feeling that I’m going to keep having that debate until I finally figure it all out.

Until then, I suppose it’s best to keep your distance.

 

Little Victories

good-dayI know this has become a place where I’ve vented about things I’ve struggled with over the past few months and I’m not going to pretend like those struggles weren’t real, nor will they be the only ones I bring to the table.

That said, for all the scars I bear as the result of those bad days, it’s even more important for me to take the time to acknowledge when I get a good day, as well.

And it wasn’t until about I was thirty minutes from going home and I could take a minute and think about everything I managed to get done, that I actually had a pretty crackin’ day, actually.

Despite still not being able to get any decent sleep, I still cranked out two video stories for today and tomorrow, got another two stories written up, did my usual radio stuff and was finally able to make headway on a couple of work-related things that I’d been hitting roadblock after frustrating roadblock on for months.

Sitting at my desk, finishing up the last few bits of things on my itinerary for today, I got hit with what can only be described as, weird as this may sound, a very odd feeling of genuine accomplishment.

I know in the grand scheme of things, doing my job is not some great Herculean task. I get paid to do it and the expectation is I’m to do it at a certain level in order to keep getting paid for it. That’s a no-brainer, really.

I guess where the oddity comes from is in knowing how I feel just about every morning when my alarm goes off, which is I’d love nothing more than to close my eyes, bury my head under my warm covers and not wake up again until at least next Tuesday, because I feel so exhausted.

And that exhaustion is part in parcel with the amount of energy I have to spend just to get myself through the average day without everything that’s going on in my head getting the better of me.

When I had my first work review last week, it was a strange and fairly horrifying thing to admit to both my boss and my HR lady that I’ve been working on trying to get better over the past few months. The last time I dared disclose that information to a higher-up, I lost my job not too long after.

I also feel like I’m bullshitting them and everyone else, in a way, because of the days where I don’t feel any different than what I’m used to, which is about one shade short of miserable. To me, feeling happy or content even for a little while, somehow seems phony, if that makes any logical sense.

The perceived expectation from both myself and other people is that if I’m not feeling down for some reason, I’m not me.

So sitting there this afternoon and feeling that weight lift, even just slightly, was both refreshing and a little scary. In the moment, I honestly found myself catching my breath and having to fend off a small tide of anxiety that took a while to get past.

I didn’t have a reason to be anxious, but I had a couple of valid reasons why I needed to let that feeling of accomplishment and self-praise in and I was allowed to enjoy them, even if it were for a minute or two.

Denis Leary once observed, in the manner a fellow Bostonian can easily relate to, that happiness comes in small doses, be it a cigarette or a chocolate chip cookie or a five-second orgasm.

I got to enjoy a small dose of it today. It was something I needed, something I missed, and something I hope I can get another dose of tomorrow.

Low Yuletide

YuletideI find myself in a position that I don’t think I’ve ever been in before.

I have no idea what to get for Christmas for those people I know and care about, whom I’d like to give a gift to.

And I don’t mean just one or two people. I mean ALL of them.

Since I’ve been on my own, I’ve looked at this time of year as a chance to exercise whatever spontaneity I am capable of generating and send gifts no one expects until they arrive on their doorstep.

I know it’s fairly silly of me, but it also seems quite logical that someone who’s become as introverted as me would find a way to still get some enjoyment out of the season, so what better way than to be a Stealth Santa?

In my defense, I don’t do it for any other reason than it’s Christmas and I don’t have anyone to give presents to other than my son. And while I have no problem finding him something each year, having just one person on a Christmas list is like being handed the keys to a sports car and be told you can only drive it for one mile.

You’re happy for the opportunity, sure…but you know there’s so much more you could do if you had a chance to really enjoy yourself.

Sometimes it’s worked out well and other times…not so much, but it’s always been about giving a little something nice to those people who have allowed me to stay in their lives, even after I’ve given them what seems like a million perfectly rational reasons over the years to walk.

But this year feels different and I’ve been racking my brain for the past few weeks to figure out why. The only conclusion I can come to is everyone I know has pretty much everything they want already. At least, that’s the emotional impression I get when I look at them.

For the most part, they’re happy and have what they need to continue to fuel that happiness. I’m not angry about that. To the contrary, I couldn’t be happier for them.

The trouble is being unable to think there’s anything I could contribute to that, and instead wouldn’t really make a difference.

It really is a case of what do you get for someone who seemingly has everything?

I don’t know.

I wish I did, but at the same time, I wish I was where a lot of them are standing too.

The Grand Experiment

Writing letter to a friend.Had you told me in January that I would still be doing this eleven months later, I probably would’ve questioned both your sanity or your lager intake.

I’ve said from the get-go that I had no real plan when I started the experiment of writing a letter a day, in no small part because I figured I would’ve given up long before now.

But I’ve managed to stick with it, despite my anxieties and apprehensions that I was making a colossal mistake.

Such is the nature of experiments, though. They can either prove successful on any number of levels…or they can blow up square in your face.

When I finished the first batch back in the summer, I decided to throw caution to the wind and send them off to the someone I’d been talking to through them.

I know it was received not long after, but I haven’t had the heart to ask anything else about it for two fairly basic reasons.

A.) I didn’t want to think that I’d said some or many things over the course of those seven-plus months that I would end up regretting, and 2.) I convinced myself along the way that they likely ended up in a recycling bin or incinerator somewhere without ever being opened.

Editorial Note: Yes, I realize I’m being rather fatalistic and obstinate to the idea that it’s not as bad as my mind would like me to believe. I could go further into the why of that, but for the sake of simplicity, let’s just chalk it up to one of the many perks of dealing with Depression and the self-image it loves to constantly rub in my face.

Despite that, I find myself glad I decided to take this experiment on, regardless of the accompanying dread that comes with it, and I know there’s going to be a point once 2016 kicks in where I’m going to be lying in bed knowing I’m not going to be able to sleep until I grab a pen and scribble something down on a page.

Over the course of 335 days, I’ve been able to do what I set out to do, which was just honestly expressing myself. Nothing more. Nothing less.

If I’m not allowed to do that, then really, what’s the point of even trying to communicate with other people?

Thirty days to go and it’s done.