I am impatient with myself these days.
My life is, objectively speaking, good. I am loved. My relationship with The Raven is likely the healthiest I’ve ever had, and all my important exes love me. I know what makes me happy — being in the desert — and it’s readily available, just an hour away. I am respected and I can turn that respect into income. Though that income is far from enough lately to keep the debts from mounting, there are glimmers of change on the horizon there. I’m making progress on the book: I can see it finished now, and I know what it will say.
Why then this persistent sadness?
Yes, I’ve lost a lot in the last few years. I had lunch with Becky last week in Los Angeles. It was nice. It was good to see her. She came up to the apartment and petted Thistle for a while. It was good just to relax with her. And so of course, my defenses down in a way they have not been since before the divorce, I started — again — to miss us, to mourn what we’d lost. That’s predictable. I’m not any less persuaded that we made the right decision, but it’s a weight to carry. And digging through the remains of that old life to write chapter after chapter of the book, dredging up happy memories of Zeke whole and the marriage unquestioned as handy metaphors, grafted-on plot in a book about a tree? That’s picking at wounds not completely healed, and it has its effect.
There’s something deeper going on, though. I’ve lately started wondering whether something along the lines of PTSD might be at issue here. It has confused me in the past that I don’t have a specific trauma to point to, just a long grind of endurance of the first twenty years of my life. The topic bores even me. Who cares about a fifty-year-old’s unhappy childhood? I want to get on with it already. But I keep fighting the same demons I fought back then, back when the people who really mattered to me seemed to do everything they could to show that I didn’t matter to them.
In the wake of my blisteringly stupid dive into a rebound relationship after moving out of Pinole, once that assignation had quickly — blessedly — fallen apart, I talked to Larry the Gestalt Guy, the pshrink that had seen me and Becky through our parting. Why was it, I wondered at him, that I fell so hard for someone who seemed to stake her ego on undermining mine? Who responded to upset by finding my nearest hot button and hitting it, hard?
“We have a concept in the gestalt world called ‘unfinished business,’” Larry said. “You have old unresolved issues from your past, with your parents or siblings or whoever, and someone comes along who seems to fit into that same mold, and you think ‘aha! this time I can get it right, make this person see that I’m worth something!’”
Larry had something there, I thought. It’s the sadistic inversion of the aphorism about it never being too late to have a happy childhood. In fact, it was too late for me to have a happy childhood, I realized, and I probably ought to stop trying, start trying to have a happy adulthood instead. All the friendship and love and recognition in the world would never undo that thing about my mom trying to give a serial killer my birth certificate for fake ID, would never rewrite the history of the early 1970s to award me even a parental pat on the back for, I dunno, getting into college at age 14 for instance. For that matter, none of the good things in my life will cause me me to have felt like less of a failure in subsequent decades for my inability to forgive my parents their failings, which after all they committed when they were younger than I am now.
I know full well that I ought to stop pouring those good things, the present-day friendship and love and respect and work, down the rathole of unfinished business. Doesn’t mean I’ve been able to stop. That rathole doesn’t even exist anymore, except in me. It’s mine, I own it, and yet it seems increasingly these days to own me. I’m getting really tired of the feeling of worthlessness, and knowing its untruth only makes that feeling all the more painful. Rebound Relationship Person periodically bemoaned my apparent and constant possession of something to prove, a handy accusation in that the only possible response, other than “see ya,” is to try to prove you have nothing to prove. This is like that: the constant internal dialogue in which I argue that I’m not worthless is an activity engaged in by those who suspect they are, in fact, devoid of worth.
I read someone somewhere recently, and I wish I could remember who and where, comparing depression to the Cordyceps fungi that infect ants and control their brains chemically. Responding to fungal instructions overwritten on their neural circuitry, the ants climb to the tops of plants and die, which gives the fungus’ spores a better chance to spread. Depression does feel that way sometimes, like an external influence, a mental parasite. If only there were an antibiotic for it. I find myself wanting to grab that network of fungal mycelia, gouge it out of my nervous system root and branch.