Insomniacs and Broken Things

So I fully admit that I’ve never expected to break the internet when I claimed this little piece of virtual real estate and resumed a blog I’ve had in one form or another for the past way too damn long.

Let’s not kid ourselves. Between my rantings and ravings about the trials and tribulations of my life and the stuff that the cool people like Wil Wheaton, Lena Dunham or -insert celebrity name here- chucks up in the internet on a given day, even I’m more inclined to go see what they have to say before I ever think that my chicken scratches matter at all in the grand scheme of things.

Because of that and a prolonged struggle to channel what’s been going on in my head for the last two months down in here in some constructive manner, I stepped back and took a break, but that doesn’t mean I’ve sat on my butt and did nothing.

During that span, I’ve settled into the routine of going to the gym in the morning and work in the afternoon. On my weekends, I go exploring parts of New England that I hadn’t been able to visit as a child, getting away from the city and by extension, people.

I don’t mind it so much, really. I’ve had more than six years of practice in anonymity, being just another guy getting a bite to eat in a restaurant or walking down a street or sitting on the subway. It’s also afforded me a chance to brainstorm a new story to write for the first time in close to fifteen years.

It’s the ultimate cliche of being a storyteller that we should write what we know. I’d like to think I’m  fairly educated man, but if there’s two things I have had to learn to the point of expertise, it’s trauma and how to survive it.

Believe me, for all I’ve learned in my life, I would’ve been just fine to have been spared that particular curriculum.

As a culture, we have so many opinions on how a person is supposed to handle trauma, even though there’s as many types of trauma as there are theoretical ways to deal with it.

I’d be remiss to not admit that I have a keen interest in that process, figuring out how people who go through things which leave lasting marks can overcome them, even if doing so means they emerge as a different person than they were before.

So I sat down and started conjuring up a story of a man who deals with his trauma, both minor and major, by not being able to sleep until he gets the answers he needs to understand why supposedly better people seem to relish in inflicting that very trauma upon others. As a writer, I’m not about to suggest that I’m pretentious enough to manufacture my characters out of whole cloth with no connection to the things which drive them to do what they do.

My protagonist, Damon Flynn, is yet another avatar I’ve built to channel my own emotions into, a relatively simple guy trying to carry on with the understanding that the trauma he’s trying to come to terms with also comes with an additional price of having to do so alone. That the things he valued before his life was irrevocably altered, relationships, trust and love, are no longer within his reach.

I heard it said once that a good writer has to be willing to torture their characters when the story dictates that such a decision is both logical and essential to get from the start to the end. So far, I haven’t had much reason to subject Damon to that yet, but I know it’s going to happen eventually in some form or another, because Damon understands the same reality I’ve had to understand for a long time now.

Once you’ve been broken, either at the hands of someone or something, the act of putting yourself back together leaves you uneven and baring jagged edges that can cut anyone who gets close enough. So for their own protection, as much as for your own, you have to keep them at a distance because the last thing you want is to be the reason why someone you care about ends up just as broken as you are.

At the same time, you’re also able to understand the broken people around you a little better. The cracks make sense in a way that pristine people can’t comprehend. Worse yet, you begin to understand just why so many take a certain amount of satisfaction in damaging the pristine ones, even though nothing good ever really comes from doing so.

I guess if I’m supposed to write what I know, then this is the best thing I could do for the time being – tell the stories of a broken man trying to figure out how he can sleep soundly at night even while other broken people do dastardly things.

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