Letting go of everything and cutting off everyone leads to me to a refreshingly odd sense of balance.
I’m a bastard.
A cold-hearted son of a bitch.
Heartless, cold, detached – removed from everyone and everything.
If you ask some people what they think about me, that’s what they would probably respond.
Asshole, I believe, would be another fitting epitaph that belongs in that Top Ten.
Because I’ve let a lot of people whom I’ve met recently go.
I’ve cut them off from my life.
Pointless relationships that have added more stress, more drama, more baggage into my life – a life that has already been overloaded by stress, drama and baggage.
How have I come to this decision?
What led me to this?
Feeling nothing has lead me to this decision.
What do I mean by that?
Ever since last summer, it’s been a constant ritual of mine to go out to my backyard, listen to music, have a drink, smoke, and think. Recently, however, I’ve noticed something. The ritual hasn’t really changed, but the motivation behind it has.
I don’t feel anything anymore.
And I mean that in a good way – in the best way possible. The pain is gone. The sadness is gone.
I’ve realized that I’m no longer grieving. My father, my breakup, my cheating.
The grief has gone.
I’m at peace.
And that is such a damn good feeling to have.
Fine, but strange.
I’m not used to this.
I’m not used to feeling even.
The rituals I have created to help me process and manage the pain are have now become the rituals I perform to simply unwind. It is now a ritual of relaxation, a ritual to enjoy simple pleasures.
I still think.
I still ruminate.
I still take mental and spiritual inventory. I practice being in the now, being self aware.
I’ve started smoking pipe tobacco.
I love it.
It suits my contemplative lifestyle, my fetish for collecting objects with I can physically interact with. But it is also a way for me to stay connected to my past – my dad used to smoke pipes. So it’s a ritual with a spiritual aspect, and I need those practices in my life.
It was during this time, when I was taking mental inventory and feeling at peace that I was able to pinpoint other, much smaller, but no less significant areas of stress and anxiety in my life. It was in that state that I was able to itemize the personal relationships in my life.
I’ve been striving to achieve peace. Now I have it. And it’s allowed me emotional distance and clarity of thought.
My life has been a constant struggle to balance a life of solitude with a life filled with having relationships with people whom I always feel I need to validate my life to, with whom I seek constant stimulation from.
I’m tired of that.
I’m tired of trying to impress people.
I’m tired of trying to actively have people in my life who don’t really want to be there.
I’m tired of trying to show people all the good about me that they don’t even have the eyes to see.
I’m tired of having people in my life who feel the need to remind how they don’t have to be here, how they could be doing other things – that their spending time with me is a sacrifice their making.
Who the hell says that to another human being?
Because I never have.
I’ve given my time up freely. I’ve accepted people into my life as is: broken, whole, mental illnesses or physical illnesses. I’ve accepted them because I’ve enjoyed their company.
And I don’t feel that any friendship should come with an asterisk, or with micromanagement. I don’t tell people to stop telling me about Zodiac signs, because I don’t believe in that. I don’t tell people to act this way when they themselves act that way.
I don’t tell my friends how to live their lives – I make suggestions. I’ll bring up the subject – but that’s only if they constantly vent about something in their lives. I tell people how to live their lives as a general statement more on a social media post than I ever have in a one on one personal relationship. And I do that to provoke thought.
And after the life I’ve lived, the mistakes I’ve made, the damage I’ve done, I know that I am no one to tell someone how to live. I can offer advice, that’s all.
I’m tired of trying to make friends I don’t really want and I’m tired of trying to impress or get the attention of women I don’t really care about.
So they’re out.
I’ve deleted, unfollowed, disconnected everyone who isn’t important to me, who hasn’t made my life better.
Is that cold, heartless? I don’t think so.
I’m not a fool, nor am I delusional.
I know that anyone that I’ve cut out will be as glad to be rid of me as I am of them. I know that anyone I’ve cut out already has too much going in their lives where they will barely notice my passing. Or if they do, they’ll get over it soon. I know no one I’ve met depends on me.
I know that no one I’ve met would be devastated by my absence. Because most of the people I’ve met and have formed any sort of bond of friendship with since my father passed away have been in their mid-twenties. Any twenty year old is not going to be all broken up by what at best would be considered casual friendships.
Even one whom I considered my best friend for a time, but with her unchecked depression, I would invariably be the one she would dump on. She would tell me not to send her memes on my being a Gemini – I mean flat out text me back, “I don’t believe in that. Stop sending me that.” She would always feel the need to remind how busy she was, and that she didn’t have to be here in my life.
I’m sorry, but who the hell is anyone to tell anyone that they can’t do the little things they do because it’s part of who they are?
Don’t check me like that. I don’t correct your spelling. I don’t tell you not to parrot your college professors – or at least not on the daily. You are as you are and I accept you as you are. Isn’t that real friendship?
I definitely do not need people like that in my life.
I’m sorry, but I feel only two should have the right to correct me – and that’s my mother and my mate – and she was neither, so I forced her out of my life.
I felt nothing when I cut her off, no grief, no sadness, no regret. Actually, I felt good, I felt light. I felt free. Now what does that tell you?
There are some people who I’ve remained on good terms with. People who I would like to have friendships with in the future, if possible. But these are relationships that have been maintained at a constant temperature, with people who are more even-tempered.
But right now, all I feel is the need to put myself first.
I’m still working on being me.
I’m still working on solidifying the relationships I’ve already had with the people who have been in my life. I have my relationship with my oldest brother and his partner. I have my relationship with my mother. I have my relationship with my best friend all the way back since our elementary school days who just had a child. I haven’t visited yet, and he expects me too. I need to prepare myself to be more of a presence in his and his son’s life – which he also expects.
Then there’s the relationship with my ex-girlfriend.
I reconnected with her. Things between us aren’t a hundred percent, but it’s the best they’ve been since we fell apart. The space and distance and boundaries I’ve set have helped. We’ve talked. We both know that we may never have the same relationship before. We may never be able to get back together as a couple at all. There’s still so much to work out before that, and our lives are still so different. But I do want her in my life.
I love her.
I always will.
Having her and her daughters as some part of my life is important to me. And after all that has happened, I’ll take whatever I can get.
I’ll be in their lives in whatever way she’s comfortable with – even if that means she doesn’t. It’s her call. After everything, she’s earned that right.
It’s worth it to me. It’s my decision, and it’s a decision that I choose to make, and it’s a decision that I make on a daily basis. And I’ll change it if it’s not beneficial to me, if it hurts me more than helps me.
Who I keep in my life, who I cut off – it’s my choice.
And if I no longer see any value or benefit for me, then I’ll cut you off.
I can do that, because it’s my life.
I can do that, because I’ve wasted too much of my time on people who just used me.
I can do that, because I know that I’ve either given, done, or tried something to make that person’s life better.
I have given them something of worth, of value. I’ve given, not taken.
And at least I announce it.
I’m not a coward, some indifferent person who simply ghosts you – that’s simply inhuman.
Every relationship begins with an introduction, so if that relationship must end, then there must be a farewell.
It’s the geometry of life – circles and lines.
I believe in closure.
The equations of relationships, the balance of my life.
Everything must be equalized, calibrated, on the scale of my life.
It’s what allows me to sleep at night, free of guilt, remorse, or what ifs.
I’ve put good karma out in the world. Now, some might say that karma will leave me alone in the end, that karma will have people I care about leave me on a dime, without a word, for the actions that I’m doing in the present.
That’s fine. It’s been done to me – plenty of times. But if they leave me, then they weren’t really good for me in the first place, were they?
If I’m left alone, good, I prefer solitude – especially now that I know who I am and that I’ve learned how to enjoy it.
Life’s all math, isn’t it?
It’s all odds and percentages and additions and subtractions.
Risky behaviors done repeatedly increase your chances of an early and ugly end.
Positive behaviors and habits increase your chances of a longer life.
Then there are those random one thousand-to-one occurrences – like car crashes, terrorist attacks, mass shootings – that come out of nowhere and in a few second’s time rip your world to shreds.
Funny how numbers rule and determine our outcomes.
Time, told in seconds, minutes, hours, with it’s ironclad multiples of sixty.
Days, months, and years – dictated by the Gregorian calendar, with its multiples of 12.
Your geographic location – longitude and latitude.
Some numbers we can’t escape.
Others we can proactively do something about, to change our predicted outcomes.
So, yeah, in a way, I am being calculating.
And if you consider that cold-hearted, then I’ll own it.
I play the long game. I follow my in-the-moment, short term-gut intuitions to increase my chances of the best long term life I can have.
Because in the end, that’s all we really do have, isn’t it – ourselves?
To be a tree …
I drove into that neighborhood last night.
It wasn’t with the old intentions.
I put myself into a position where I had no choice.
There was no right so I had to turn left. I had to turn left to cool off after an aggressive driver began making me lose my cool.
Taking that left was instinctual, out of necessity. But it wasn’t from that old, feverish, infected instinct.
It wasn’t under the pretense of going on a cruise and then just happening to pass by her house. It wasn’t after another long weekend night ending with me and you getting into another drunken fight, me giving up, getting into my car and driving off, running away back to my parents’ house, wanting to escape what was becoming an increasingly tangled mess, driving myself into that neighborhood, driving past her house, in the ridiculous and desperately vain hope that somehow, she’d be up and outside at four in the morning, and we’d somehow end up talking, and that I could find comfort in her lying words, in a world inside my mind, where our relationship was eighty percent in my mind and twenty percent her using me to escape her own, fucked up world.
Driving through that neighborhood last night literally made me sick to my stomach. I was filled with such an utter and raw revulsion – the strength of it took me off guard, especially since I was on my medication.
It was the memories.
I have told you before that all that time was like living in a fever dream, like remembering a really bad, drunk night, where you made all the wrong decisions, and you’re left with fifty percent of the memory of what happened, but you’re filled with one hundred percent of the sickly cold vomitsweat feeling of guilt that no shower will ever completely wash away.
Do you believe me?
I really wonder if you believe me.
But it’s true.
It was the first time I had been in that neighborhood since … the end.
But I guess I should have known better.
Every stupid, reactive, hurtful thing I had said and done when my depression was at it’s worst had scorched the physical earth with psychic scars, creating emotional ghosts leaving many places haunted by the sticky and sickly sweet memory of my self-destructive cycle of hate-filled action followed by the inevitable reaction of sorrowful feelings – regret, guilt, disgust and self hate.
The after-feelings never went away.
Every time after I drove past a particular part of town, every time I entered a particular room, stood in a specific geographic location, the memory wave of what I had done along with all the accompanying feelings hit me and filled me, leaving me forced to experience the feelings of that emotional event all over again with cruel, startling clarity.
It was like an emotional crime scene.
It happened with you.
It happened with my ex-wife, too.
Laredo, McAllen, Edinburg, Alamo, South Padre Island, San Antonio, Austin.
South Texas was littered with haunted landscapes.
And the worst part was even with all of that, all of those constantly running, self-perpetuating crime scenes that ran viscerally in my head, in my emotional memory, those constant reminders, those “Ghosts of Bad Decisions Past” everywhere around me, serving as cautionary reminders that left me devastated and swearing and promising – to myself, and to you – that it would never happen again, I would still find myself repeating that cycle.
I would never learn.
I could never control myself.
I always found a reason to self-destruct and sabotage myself and my relationships, scarring my loved ones indelibly. Scarring you.
I promised you that I would never hurt you.
I assured you that I wasn’t like all those other guys.
And for a while, for a wonderfully beautiful long time – three years – I wasn’t.
Until I was.
Until all the pressures mounted, all the have tos.
Until my father getting sick.
Until knowing my father was never going to get better again, he was only going to get worse.
Until being a father to your girls.
Until having to care for you, with all your own mental illnesses, your needs.
Until there was nothing left of me because I gave everything I had to everyone I loved.
Until I realized how foolishly unprepared I was for the many responsibilities I took on.
Until all the things I loved began to turn into all the things I hated, leaving me bitter.
Until I started to feel misunderstood.
Until I started to feel trapped.
Until I found myself unable to talk to you anymore.
Until all I could do was shout, so I kept my mouth shut instead.
Until the constant beehive buzzing in my head and the blurred vision I had every time I saw you.
Until I got frightened and told you I couldn’t see or feel our love.
Until I started talking to her, who was all-too-willing to talk to me.
Until the end.
Until you found out.
Until I realized what you had already knew – that no matter how much your mind could understand, your heart could never forgive me.
And that was it.
Until in a vain hope to find out why I had done the things I had done, why I was the way I was, I found a therapist, and that lead to my finding a psychiatrist, who diagnosed me with Major Depressive Disorder and ADHD with mild OCD that I self-generated instinctively, to give my consciousness some sense of control.
I was happy then. I was relieved then. At last I had an explanation for all the whys of my life. The whys that made me repeat the same self-destructive cycles. The whys that made me hate myself, that filled me with self-loathing.
And I was prescribed medication to treat my illnesses. The medication was right for me. It worked. I changed my diet, drank less, exercised more. I was finally able to sleep, to finally sleep early and long enough to feel rested, balanced. And with the pain of my father passing, along with the slow-building clarity and self-control that came with managing my mental illnesses with consistently taking my medication, I got better.
But my heart was broken, because even though I got better, even though we both tried for awhile, our relationship was ruined. I had killed it. And my betrayal opened up all the old wounds and traumas you had tried to keep packed away. And I finally came to realize that even love can’t heal all – that some scars just run too deep. And finally I realized that you weren’t going to change, and that even though we still had love in our hearts, the illnesses in our heads would never allow us to be together again.
I realized that I had to let go.
I realized that the only hope I had left of us ever having even the slimmest chance of a possible reconciliation somewhere out in a vague future, was to cut myself off from you.
I realized what all the literature was saying was true: that we can only save ourselves.
I realized that now we are both on separate journeys.
Now, all I truly hope for is that you find your way, that you can use all your strengths to heal yourself.
So with time, medication, reflection, meditation, talking, writing, and thinking I achieved clarity. I saw clearly what my depression had done to me, what depression had taken away from me, how it tricked me and beguiled me and tortured and tormented me.
I had tried to be a good man. I tried to lead a good life. I tried to be a good boyfriend and friend to you. I tried to be a good father to your daughters. I tried to live the life of a gentleman.
My depression grabbed up all of that in one sweep of it’s oppressive, diseased, hallucinogenic hand and laughed blackly, looking wild-eyed at me like Frodo looking at Sam in the red heat of the Sammath Naur and told me, “Oh, you think you’re a gentleman, a good man? I’ll show you what you really are, motherfucker!” And with one squeeze my depression showed me.
It’s a dark moment when you truly see yourself for what you are, for all the things you’ve done, all the hurts you’ve caused yourself and those you love.
They say you are not your illness.
They say it does not define you, that it’s just a part of you.
It’s true, but it takes a lot of time to come to terms with all the things that I regret. I don’t feel the darkness in my mind anymore, though I’ve learned to accept it’s presence and respect the power it has. All of those haunted places, and the amassed baggage of negative emotions they contained, they’ve all faded away thanks to the medication.
And, if I do the math right, it’ll be three years come this September that I’ve been medicated.
Two months ago my psychiatrist told me that he was no longer worried about me. Last month, despite some tragic news of the death of someone who was dear to me, my psychiatrist told me that he was shocked. When I asked why he responded because despite the obvious pain I was in, not once during our follow up appointment did I once talk about me or what I was going through. I was talking only about others.
So it was a shock that by making that left turn into that neighborhood that I relived those feelings again.
But in reality I shouldn’t be surprised.
That place was ground zero for the worst part of my life.
It shook me.
So once I found myself in it, I drove as fast as I could. I tried to face forward, to not see too much in case every detail I’d glimpse would fill my mind with more memories, more emotions.
I made it out.
I made it home.
The feelings lingered there for a while.
I had just seen Annihilation earlier that day. It imprinted on me all of it’s surreal hallucinogenic and phantasmagoric beauty and terror, it’s sense of mental, emotional, and physical dislocation. It lingered with me long after I left the theater.
A line stuck with me, from a scene in the film where Natalie Portman and Jennifer Jason Leigh are talking, and Jennifer Jason Leigh, who portrays a psychiatrist says, “Almost none of us commit suicide. And almost all of us self-destruct …”
I found it a curious thing that the line from the film and my near-disastrous detour coincided with one another.
The mind, the heart, the body, the soul – all need to be tended to carefully, and with love, lest our illnesses give power to our desire to self-destruct. The only way to avoid that is through self-care, nurturing, and growth gained by self-examination.
Next time, I’m driving straight.
And so I’m shedding another skin.
This one was dark but warm sleepy blue like grandfather’s cardigan, and it kept me from the cold.
It kept me sleeping.
I was in a fallow state along with trees in this strangest of South Texas winters.
There was actual snowfall here in Laredo.
A strange side effect of my ADHD medication is the intense state of hyper-focus it puts me in, and as an educator, I still mark the time the way children do – by the seasons, by the state-mandated school year calendar. It was through this that I saw my rebirth as a focused teacher; every school year was a different fixation, a specific and laser-like focus on one area of teaching. This year was all about my classroom.
I had a vision for my classroom, and the way I wanted to tailor every last bit of towards learner-centered, small group instruction, instead of the shackles of the front and center lecturing teacher.
It began my second week back. I began pulling twelve-hour days, going in at 6 AM and signing out by 6:45 – 6:50 PM. It left me drained, exhausted, and not wanting to go out for anything or anyone – except, on occasion, when my best friend would coax me out. Even then, half of my mind still yearned for home.
My focus was such that I’m just now coming out of it. I actually have the mental energy to write again.
Waking up is always a strange instinctual, mechanical business, though, isn’t it?
That strange segue from the dream state to waking life. Knowing that your mind was somewhere else for some amount of time – that past a gray-misted haze of a memory – as the present comes into slow and clear focus.
I’ve never been more acutely aware of my evolution as a human being since my depression and ADHD diagnosis and being on consistent and effective (for me) medication.
I’ve always loved learning – about myself, about the world – and now I’m getting a crash course in the education of myself as person in more control of his life than he’s ever been, as well as the world of mental illness.
I’ve learned that I’ll never stop learning.
I know that I will continue evolving.
What a strange adventure this is, being human.