The Road To Life 3.0 – The Question Is Why?

So here we are. Less than a week remains until I get in my car and take the longest drive I will likely ever take in my life.

2,800 miles separating me from the start of Life 3.0.

Since I first came up with this rather insane idea a few months ago, I’ve had friends and acquaintances make similar observations and assessments. They’ve said what I’m doing must be exciting and ambitious, that everything will work out and I’m doing the right thing.

They’ve said I’m brave and adventurous and that I will hopefully find just whatever it is I’m looking for at the end of this.

Some have also asked the question which is easily the most important one to me and one that must be answered as clearly as I can answer it, so there can be little to no confusion about my motivations.

That question, of course, is “Why?”

Why am I doing this? Of all the things I could be doing, of all the decisions I could’ve made, of all the choices I could’ve picked…why this one?

On the one hand, it’s a fair question but on the other, it’s also a loaded question because the decision of whether or not my answer is judged to be right or wrong is based on solely on the reasons I give in the answer.

When I left Portland two years ago and came to the Desert as part of Life 2.0, it was done so out of equal parts necessity and desperation.

I had been out of work for nine months and was within a few days of losing the home I had and being functionally homeless for the third time in my life. I hadn’t spent that downtime idly, either. I’d applied to more than 350 jobs across the country and still had time to finish the first draft of my novel…such as it was.

But I was also within sight of a part of the world that had become so toxic to me over the course of the previous three years that I knew even as far back as 2011 that staying in Portland was never going to be a long-term option.

For all the people who are still there whom I love dearly, the simple reality is there was also too many bad memories. Too much wasted opportunity. Too many reminders of other people and moments that carried very real, very painful feelings of guilt, shame, regret and loss.

So I did the only thing I felt I could do when I got the call telling me I had a job and an opportunity to start rebuilding my life. I took it…because I’m not an idiot.

I know, instinctively, that there were a lot of people who were questioning my reasons at the time, just like I know they probably are now that I’m looking to move on. I know those people, whether they understand it or not, are the sort who are looking for reasons to be judgmental and are seeking whatever justifications they can to say I’m no different than Person X who shunned their obligations in favor of living fast and loose.

I can’t change their minds, nor am I about to try. I have neither the interest or the energy anymore.

In our hypercritical world, it’s very easy to cast ourselves in the role of armchair analyst and dictate the rationale behind why other people do the things they do, especially if it flies in the face of convention. I’m sometimes as guilty of it as the next person, for I am driven by the similar machinations of wanting to understand why some people do what we do in a given situation and why someone else may go in a totally opposite direction.

I know some people are going to say I took a page out of my parents’ own book and chose to abandon my son, rather than do everything I can to make sure I was more active part of his life.

With respect, that’s your prerogative, but unless you’re willing to go understand the full scope of why such an option, as much as I wish it wasn’t the case, is impossible for at least another few years yet, then you honestly don’t know what you’re talking about.

I know some are going to say I’m having the proverbial Mid-Life Crisis and I somehow think that going back home is going to save me and bring me the things that I want.

As I’ve been telling my friends since I made the decision, I have no idea if this going to work. I may get there and have the whole thing blow up in my face and leave me in worse straits than I ever was out here in the Pacific Northwest, and that’s saying something with how bad things got out here once or twice.

 

The question is why, and here is the answer.

 

I’m moving on because I have to and for the first time in my life, I owe it to myself to do something for myself, for the betterment of myself.

Life 2.0 was never going to be a long-term solution. I knew it by the time I had been out here a week.

This part of the world, for all its natural scenic appeal, lacked far too much else to be able to sustain me. While it’s helped me greatly in building back my self-confidence and the reality that I can survive truly on my own without the need for a co-dependent relationship or really any relationships of any kind, a person can only survive so long in a bubble before the lack of air chokes you out.

Considering where I was at emotionally when I got here, having gone through my life imploding, the subsequent divorce and then another brutal episode immediately after that, I will never say that coming to the Desert was an altogether bad idea.

I was close enough to my friends and loved ones in Portland that when I wanted to go see them I could. But it also provided me enough distance to allow me to have space to both live and more importantly, to think about what I wanted to do next.

By late summer, the idea was starting to creep into my head, and by August, it was locked in place. It was time for me to finally go home.

Now one could argue that I’m being selfish about it and I would respond that yes, for one of the few times in my life, I am being entirely selfish and earnestly so.

Virtually all of my life has been spent doing the bidding of other people, catering to the demands and expectations of other people, because I thought it was the only way I would get both the acceptance and unconditional love I craved from many of those people.

And then when I didn’t meet those demands or expectations anymore, those people threw me away without much of either a care or thought and found other people who could fill the void I couldn’t, though not for any genuine lack of effort on my part.

You go through that enough times and you begin to start asking yourself, “Why bother?!

Eventually, you understand that it’s not worth it to keep banging your head against that wall in the hopes it’s going to finally give into you. Then comes the hard part, figuring out what might bring you happiness even if it doesn’t include the things you wanted most?

It’s one of those pesky adulting  decisions that most people never have to consider making, if their fortunate enough to be gifted the sort of idllic lives that becomes the envy of all their friends on social media, nor do they want to because it involves making tough calls that won’t please everyone.

As my younger brother pointed out to me once I, for whatever reason, was the lucky recipient of a life set to the Hard difficulty level while everyone else gets to contend with getting by on the much easier Normal setting.

I never wanted to come to the Pacific Northwest and the decision to do so wasn’t made by me. It was made for me, and ever since I stepped off the plane all those years ago, I told myself that at some point, I was going to get myself back there.

I’m a New Englander. It’s in my blood and I know I don’t sound like it anymore, but it’s who I am and it always will be.

After 28 years of just trying to get by out here, I have to know whether or not I can find a life even remotely close to what I could’ve had, if only I’d gone back when I had the one chance to do so years ago.

If I had, my entire existence would’ve been nothing like it’s been because I made the angry and fearful choice to stay here, and that’s a hard thing for anyone to have to carry.

I’m not going home for a single person. I’m not going home because I think it’s the same place I left.

I’m going home because it’s time and I feel with every fiber of my being that it’s where I need to be and at least for now, it’s where I belong.

I’m going home because there’s truly no place like it and damn if I don’t miss it with a ferocity I can barely describe.

Does that answer your question?

The Road to Life 3.0 – New Day

dragon-slayerIf you had told me a month ago, when I came up with what seemed in my head to be the single craziest idea I may have ever conjured up and that’s saying something, given my track record of truly nutbar machinations, that I’d be where I am now, I probably would’ve been content to think I was no longer the looniest bird in the bin.

Before I left for Portland about two weeks ago, I sent a message out with no idea of what would be coming back my way, if anything. All I was asking for is something I’ve found myself asking for a lot over the years in a whole lot of unpleasant situations.

A chance to talk, to listen and to be listened to.

I’ve had my motives for wanting such things questioned a million ways to Sunday in the course of my life and I’ve never really understood why because, to me, the single most mature and harmless thing a person can do is have a conversation with whoever they’re in conflict with, in the hope that maybe, it can be resolved.

When I got the response a few minutes later, I almost had to pinch myself. Twenty years I’d waited for this opportunity to hopefully set the greatest wrong in my life right…and just like that, here it was.

I don’t know if I can accurately articulate the juxtaposition of simultaneous relief and extreme fear that hit me in that moment. On the one hand, the relief came because I’d crossed what had been the biggest barrier for a long time, in establishing just a basic line of communication and creating the opportunity.

On the other, there was the very palpable terror that came with knowing I was only going to get one shot at this and if I screwed it up, then I could wave goodbye to any hope I had of slaying the demon that has truly haunted me for all these years.

The days leading up to my heading back down to Portland were spent with my subconscious playing and replaying our meeting from every conceivable angle, preparing me for the very real things I expected to be confronted with. I expected anger. I expected to be shamed. I expected to be called every derogatory name in the book and at least a dozen more that I’d likely never heard before and would never forget afterwards.

I expected all those things and I knew I couldn’t say a word in retaliation for them because I knew I deserved every single one of them.

Why would I think that? Because during those twenty years between the time I’d hurt this person until now, that’s what I’d been told was going to happen. Psychiatrists, psychologists, police officers, judges, even priests told me that I should be ready to be crucified in the worst way possible because I had done the worst thing imaginable and there was no coming back from that, regardless of what I’d done to prove otherwise.

I also spent those days bracing myself for the very real possibility that even if this went exactly the way I’d hoped it would, there was no guarantee that the one thing I ultimately hoped to get, was ever going to be granted.

When I left the desert early that Friday morning, I was an underslept, overstressed ball of anxiety and I had five hours and 300 miles to get my head straight because as soon as I got to town, it was Go Time.

We met at a burger joint and how I managed to keep myself from achieving spontaneous combustion within the first ten seconds, I will never really know.

I focused on my game plan. Listen first, talk second. Don’t say anything until she said her peace and then do the only thing I knew I could do.

Tell the truth as sincerely as I know how.

I’d like to tell you that it went precisely that way. It ended up going totally off-script inside of two minutes.

I suppose that when you’re told by people who are quick to judge and condemn you for something they either don’t fully understand or don’t want to fully understand that you will never be forgiven for something over and over again, no matter how hard you try to change their minds, you eventually force yourself to accept that because why wouldn’t you?

It goes back to the Pavlovian precept that behaviors are dictated by repeated exposure to the same positive or negative stimulus. Therefore, if you keep telling someone they’re not human and are forever irredeemable, I don’t see how it can be such a shock that that person eventually accepts that position as the truth of their existence.

It’s been the truth of mine for more than two decades now, so I’d like to think you can imagine my honest surprise when that got blown away by a single sentence.

“Honestly, I forgave you years ago, because of all the people in my life who’ve ever hurt me on one level or another, you are the only one who’s ever stood up and not only admitted to it but then you went about doing everything you could to make it right.”

Jaw…meet Floor.

We ended up talking for a total of three hours that day about a whole lot of other things as well. I talked about the nightmares I’ve had, the times I’ve pushed myself well beyond my breaking point because I thought I needed to. I talked about all the times I punished myself so brutally for making even silly little mistakes that I know it would probably freak out my friends.

I talked about all the relationships that I lost because of the relentless, myopic drive I had to prove I wasn’t irredeemable, and I told her as much as I wanted to be forgiven, the one thing I wanted more than that, the one thing I needed more than that, was to be told I could finally stop now.

I needed to be told I’d punished myself enough and that I didn’t have to keep doing it for however many years I had left.

And without missing a beat, she looked me in the eyes and said, “Devin, I’m telling you. You can stop now.”

In that moment, something clicked inside my head.

I don’t know what it was. I couldn’t tell you where it happened. But all the same, something clicked.

It was over. This whole long nightmare was over. The demon was dead. I was finally free.

I expected to break down and cry right there, I really did. In hindsight, I think I was too numb and emotionally punch-drunk and when I started answering messages from my friends asking me how it went and if I was okay, that was about the only answer I could give them.

I was suddenly in a place that I had never thought I could ever get to and then to find myself there in the span of a few hours. I knew it was going to take a while to sink in. It did as I was standing in the living room of the people who’d become my surrogate family over the time I’ve been on the West Coast.

I broke down and cried and not just a little bit. I bawled my eyes out and it didn’t stop for the entire five-hour drive back to the desert that night and parts of the next two days.

I start Life 3.0 in about three weeks and as scared as I am that this isn’t going to work, what is helping temper that is the reality that I am now in possession of something that I would hope could never be taken away from me again.

The ability to look at myself in a mirror and no longer be ashamed of what is looking back at me.

I’ve earned that. I’ve put myself through a Hell that would’ve destroyed a whole lot better people than me to be able to say that, but I have and I have confirmation of it from the person I withstood all that for.

If I can achieve that, then I’d like to think that what is waiting for me at the end of this journey won’t be quite so daunting.