Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Coming Up For Air

The effort to pull my shit together as a man of purpose and achievement, has grown a lot more expansive than I'd have thought.  I am finding that when it comes to digging myself back out, the hardest part is acknowledging just how far I had (have) fallen.  Imagine narrowly avoiding a horrific car accident on the highway, then playing the images back in your mind in super slow motion.  Each replay seems to illustrate just how close you were to the end of this world.  And while you are still here, the realization that one foot was already in the dirt, is a pretty paralyzing one.

Several weeks ago at home, I arrived at my proverbial fork in the road.  And it wasn't clear to me for several weeks which direction I ought to take.  Late in the night while Colleen slept upstairs, I buckled completely.  My spirit had broken and finally, so had my will to continue.  I don't know when or where it began, but I'd begun romanticizing the thought of letting go of life entirely.  It may have started as simpler notion borne of  more intense desperation than previously understood.  That, if I just checked out entirely, the world would keep on spinning.  I quickly ruled out the first few times my mind took me down that road, deciding my impaired judgement was very situation dependent.  Lots of people have crazy thoughts that never allow a material form.  What scared me the most over time was that I felt more and more comfortable with the thought.  I honestly figured I'd fucked up enough people's lives to the point where pulling the plug would spare them all a great deal of future discomfort.  Grieving comes and goes but so long as my lungs deprived my loved ones of the chance to breathe better air, my place was not in the same world anymore.  I was a fucking disaster.  A parasite to anyone seeking betterment, so long as I existed.  I was like Sid in Toy Story who apparently got his rocks off by breaking everything around him into pieces and haphazardly trying to glue them back together.  Well I'd failed.  The only songs I kept in rotation were ones that comforted me in my belief that it was time to go.  When all of these feelings seemed to finally leap from my chest and surround me in my home, I made a phone call and had Colleen taken out of the house that night.  I was afraid of myself and afraid of her being at dad's, when Dad no longer felt in control of his instinct to survive.  She couldn't be in the house with me anymore, the way I was.  If everyone has their rock bottom moment in life, this was undoubtedly mine.  I don't know if my daughter will ever understand how she saved my life.  In a very real way.  I'd come to terms with saying goodbye to everyone but her.  And it ripped me apart to rationalize something like that.  But really, what does that even mean to a broken person?  At some point there is no longer more damage.  There is just damage.  You can't further break what's already been broken.  I didn't "feel bad" for how I felt.  For a long time, every time she looked at me, I broke into tears.  I tried my best to protect her from exposure to my state of near constant breakdown, but she's so smart.  Smarter than the average, there's no doubt.  She'd sing me songs and hug me, and make me plastic hot dogs from her kitchen.  I knew we could never be apart.  No matter the condition of life here on earth, her and I are meant to exist in the same world.  I could never say goodbye.  It'd be unforgivable, and she needs me as much as I needs her..  In our short time together, she's shown me more beauty in this world than I ever imagined.  If I broke into a thousand pieces, my little girl is the one who held them in a basket for me until I could put them together again.  For the rest of my life I will be grateful for her.  She is my hero for showing me the reasons I want to grow old, when I couldn't find them anywhere else.

I've done a lot of wrong to the ones I love, and whether it was with the best of intentions or not, the damage is done.  I have a hard time letting go of my mistakes, and I'm often afraid that the shortcomings of the last year are going to follow me indefinitely.  And honestly, I think I am my own worst enemy with this kind of failure.  For years and years, my sole means of conflict resolution was to shoulder blame, valid or not.  I always gained some measure of closure when someone was hurt, to believe the failure was mine and mine alone.  I was OK with being the reason for the problem, whatever it was.  So what did I end up with?  A decayed sense of self worth, brought on by years of knee-jerk apologies and hanging my head in shame as a default means of problem solving.  I don't know how to review a literal anthology of alleged failures, and filter out the mislabeled ones.  Take the meat, spit the bone.  Our yesterdays overflow with lessons learned.  The past inevitably shapes the future.  At the same time, I'm tired of dragging around misplaced regret.  I feel like no matter how bright the sky ahead of me, I'm tethered to the same dark cloud.  It wouldn't follow me if I didn't pull it along.  It feels like now more than ever that it's time to break the chains.  Alas, saying is one thing and doing is another.  I've built myself up on similar words many times before, until returning from my stream of consciousness in the same hole with no ladder.

My go-to advice for anyone in a tough spot is to first and foremost, separate what can and cannot be controlled.  If your emotional resources are quickly depleting, don't burn any more fuel on matters out of reach.  Just buckle down on what's right in front of you.  I'm not sure how to apply my own cliche words to my own situation.  I think it means that I can't control how anyone else feels about me, after all that's gone right and wrong.  I can only manage what's inside m own chest.  And who would want to enjoy the company of a man wallowing in regret and self-hatred for all his waking hours?  To be surrounded with people who lift you up and become stronger than the sum of your parts, would mean excluding me from the circle.  That's who I've allowed myself to become.  I can't change anyone's mind about me.  It's beyond my reach.  My task needs to be simply letting go of it all.

Every two-cent self help article I've read on the internet (hundreds by now) seems to begin with reference to forgiving oneself.  Very little progress can precede my own peace of mind, and so that has to be the first step.  It shouldn't be a mystery to me why I sometimes feel like I'll never climb out.  I'm supposed to take the first step or it's all for nothing.

This post is more of a months-long collection of paragraphs than an actual organized, singular thought.  I've written and deleted, and re-written.  Pretty much the polar opposite of my normal expression, which is to furiously pound the keyboard and hit "publish" sans proofread.  My objective is to extract raw thought and expose it to atmosphere without filter.  I am not a polished product and I generally don't attempt to present myself as one.  I just, am.  For better or worse.  Been better as of late, but I don't think it's getting worse anymore.  It's just time to keep climbing.


  1. Hi Jake. 36 year old Mom, wife, and nurse from Texas here. Regardless of the fact that you and I couldn't be more different, I find that your words resonate with me. I don't remember how I came across your posts...somehow on Facebook about a year ago, I guess. I just wanted you to know that your passion and zest and drive help to motivate me. Though this particular post has a much different tone, I think many people, including me, can still relate to it. Life isn't picky about who it kicks the shit out of. And I know you know, but I'd still like to say that one day you'll look back on this time as your greatest time of growth.

    Thank you for being so raw and open. I hope your words are half as cathartic for you as they are for me. I don't know many details about what's happening to you. But I do know that this big, tough, scary looking Yank wrote some beautiful words and showed me that even strong people have problems just like me. I wanted to say thanks. You make a difference to me.

  2. It takes a big man to put his most vulnerable moments out there. Know that you've got friends and family that care about you, no matter what life dishes out. - Dave

  3. Life has a lot very high highs along with some very low lows....your a good man don't you ever forget that... strap on those boots and head for the highs...Hammah down my son.
    Love you Dad

  4. https://www.amazon.com/Obstacle-Way-Timeless-Turning-Triumph/dp/1591846358