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Through the Chaos, Don’t Forget the Wonder

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My uncle said to me, “We can never let ourselves fall into the trap of self-pity.” He said that yesterday, three days after having a triple bypass. He’s 100 percent correct of course. He is righter than right and I’m glad he reminded me of it. 

I’m not only grateful he said it, I’m particularly grateful that he said it to me. Now, it turns out, in addition to reminding myself to be brave every day, I also have to remind myself not to go down the self-pity trail. These days there is pressure to do that, big-time pressure; a different kind of pressure than I’ve felt in the past – and not. 

Yesterday my sister told me I am too sarcastic. This is quite true of course. I am nothing if not sarcastic. I love sarcasm. I admit it. Sarcasm to me is one of the most beautiful gifts on earth. Sarcasm keeps me sane, both me and others.

I can't imagine giving it up (okay, maybe I could give it a shot during Lent.) Is she kidding? In this world? She wants me to be less sarcastic? Why doesn’t she just ask me to stop breathing in and out? I can’t do it.

Yesterday my sarcasm caused her to burst into tears. I felt horrible, like I did it. It’s a weird thing because of course, I did do it, in a way, and in a way I didn’t. She is an alcoholic and she is very fragile (and I am a moron because for a moment I forgot both of these facts.) I’m pretty certain alcohol had something to do with it.

Then I thought to myself, when the last time I burst into tears because of something someone said to me? It’s been awhile, which either means I'm a tough cookie or that people have gone easy on me lately. 

Even knowing she may have been drinking, her crying still shook me up. It did. Not that she was crying; she cries a lot. What shook me was knowing that somebody could have that kind of strong emotional reaction to something I said in sarcasm.

I knew it wasn’t my fault – not entirely, but that didn’t help much. I think of the delicate mind and heart inside that beautiful person that she is. She is on the freakin’ edge right now. I want to go out there and pull her off the cliff, but I can’t. I’ve tried before and there’s no pulling her off the cliff.

The damage that’s been done to her and the wounds she carries around with her – I can’t even comprehend how deep the wounds go. They are very, very deep and there’s not a goddamn thing I can do about it.

I know I have to focus on my own life because I’m helpless to do anything for her, but it is damn hard. It is hard as hell to let it go, let it go, let it go (my daily mantra). I look back to what was, I see what is, and I’m scared to death of what will be. There are days when I curse the fact of my overpowering love for her. How much easier it would be if she were an asshole.

On the plus side, today my counterpart is doing well after his surgery last week. I call him my “counterpart” because that is the most apt description I can think of. He is my lifeblood, but not exactly what you’d call my “boyfriend.” Pinning a label on him has become impossible after all this time. I figure I’ll just say I love him and be done with it.

In any event, it takes time to heal from surgery. He’s moving too fast and he’s impatient and bullheaded of course, but I think he’ll be okay. I hate that he has to go through the enormous pain that comes with recovery, but once again there is nothing I can do about it.

I’m sensing a theme here. In almost every case I’m utterly helpless to aid these people in any way. "Don't fall into self-pity." Damn, that was some good advice, the best I’ve gotten in a long while. 

The sarcasm thing though — trying to be less sarcastic — I don’t know about that. I don’t want to hurt people, but sarcasm is a huge survival tool for me. I cannot imagine going through an entire day on this planet without being sarcastic. Way too much messed-up crap happens every day to make that an option. I have to give my counterpart credit. He’s never told me I shouldn't be sarcastic (thank god).  

Even beyond the whole issue of sarcasm, whenever anybody says, “You are too this or you are too that,” inherent in the admonition is the whole implication that “You are not okay the way you are." I believe in constructive criticism and a lot of people are most assuredly not okay the way they are, but this still bothers me.

When anybody lists on a voicemail all the things they don’t like about me, I know it’s time to shut my phone off. I deleted my sister’s voicemail about halfway through the list yesterday. It's no wonder self-esteem is such a tough thing to hang onto in this world when you have people you love giving you a laundry list of all the things they don’t like about you – on a voicemail no less.

If you're going to criticize somebody, at least take it one at a time; don't list their flaws. I think I have a pretty tough skin. You can tell me the truth, but take it easy. Don't crush me.

I saw The Wrestler today with Mickey Rourke. Now there’s a depressing movie. I hope nobody went home after seeing it and blew their brains out. There was some sad stuff in that picture. Great performances, though; I gotta give ‘em that.

I thought again and again while watching it how many people there are out there exactly like Randy and Cassidy. Millions out there in the world live like those characters – people with completely fucked-up lives who somehow still manage to get up everyday when that alarm goes off. The odds are completely stacked against them, but they keep fighting the good fight.

I think of all the souls out there who are down and out and hanging on by the skin of their teeth. There are a hell of a lot of people out there like that, one whole hell of a lot. Those people are my heroes.

Then I watched last night’s episode of Supernatural and I saw that fictional relationship deteriorating. The “stronger” brother propping up (and ultimately beating up on) the “weaker” brother, who in truth, is not really “weak”, only damaged and scarred by a boatload of horrible experiences. I can relate.

“Have you ever really, really loved somebody and still wanted to bash their face in?” Truer words were never spoken. Of course, the relationship on the show made me think about my own relationships with my own siblings. (Ah, the joy of television.)

If I were honest with myself, I would have to say that those relationships are deteriorating, too. The problem at the moment is that I might be the only one who knows it or at least is willing to say it out loud. At home. Alone. In my living room. 

The show got it right, though. We feel a positive emotion and then, out of the blue, damned if we don’t feel the exact opposite emotion at the exact same time. Love/hate, hope/fear, wonder/dread. It goes on and on. We love to love, but then we wonder if it is love or something else. If it feels too much like need, then it gets damn scary.

In a lot of my relationships I honestly don't know if what I feel is "love" or "hate" or something in between. I never get an answer so I just keep treading water waiting for the ship to arrive out of the distance and take me on board, take me home. I keep treading and treading and treading, looking for that ship out on the horizon, but it never comes. It never comes, but I keep on treading because surrender is not an option.

It’s good to have a day off. It’s good to write here and it was good to download that monumental song, “Nobody’s Fault But Mine” this morning. Thank the Lord for Zeppelin (and Bad Company). It’s good; it’s bad; it’s good; it’s bad; it’s good again….crazy circles…on and on and on and on I go until I am no more – and it's nobody's fault but mine.

Nonetheless, like I tell my counterpart, there is no use sitting around stewing in our own juices (which, hypocrite that I am, I’m an expert at). Screw it – things are looking up. My counterpart is alive. My uncle is alive. I am alive. I’ll keep going. Somehow, some way I always manage to work my way through the emotional crap. I don’t even know how I do it. I have no idea. Every now and then, I get a heart-pounding rush of feeling that screams to me, “Holy crap, life is wondrous.” I have that feeling right now.

I like it when it happens. Even with all the poop I see every day, I still get excited in the morning at the prospect of another day of living, another weekend, another day to write or go to the movies or listen to Muddy Waters or J.B. Lenoir, or just sit and do nothing. Boy do I love being alive. I’m having one of those moments when the rush and awe of being alive is flooding into this emotional whirlwind that is my brain. It’s a terrific feeling when that happens. 

The phone will ring at some point (once I turn it back on) and something will happen to bring me down, but even with the many downers yet to come, right this second things are okay. Even with all the awful crap I see, within and without, I still have my counterpart. Everybody I love is still breathing, at least for now. I have a roof over my head, food on the table, and a kick-ass job (in the middle of a depression no less), with friends that have no equal. Right this second I feel like the luckiest son-of-a-bitch on the planet. 

I am smiling because I recognize this feeling. It's gratitude. It's easy to forget to be grateful. People ask me how I’m doing, and my first instinct is to respond, “How much time ya got?” How can I possibly answer that question? Half the time I swear I don’t even know how I am. “How are you doing?” Who knew that was going to be the toughest question anyone could ask me? Next time somebody asks me that I'm going to remember to say "grateful."

It’s a good thing my phone is off. (Remind me to thank the genius out there who invented the "end" button.) I hate the thing anyway. Today is a good day, better than yesterday and who knows about tomorrow? All in all, not bad – not bad at all.

Who knew? I started out this morning full of self-absorbed rage (well, as close to rage as I ever allow myself to get) at the worries before me, and then I ended up at 4:08 p.m. on a Friday afternoon actually feeling…what's the word? Ah yes…wonder.

Why am I such an idiot? Why do I forget to feel the wonder? What an incredible thing it is to be born a human being. I like this feeling. I hope it lasts through dinner.

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