I have been working on a project, a retrospective of the Lolligaggers, the band I was once in. And I have found that revisiting the past through memories and discussions with old friends has dredged up some old stuff, stuff that I am not really interested in having dredged up, and it is sometimes uncomfortable for me. I have an idea for this thing that could be great, a book, maybe, and a podcast, and an exploration of the creative drive, letting the band serve as a stand in for every band, every creative venture that doesn’t serve as a source of income that has to stand as art on its own merit. It could be so cool. But uncorking all this stuff means that I might be made uncomfortable, that maybe this might reveal some truths that I don’t want to face.
I keep asking why. Why do this?
I have been thinking of the divergence of our paths, where I split off. I left my hometown, and thus the band, because I couldn’t take it anymore, the town was too small, the pain was too acute. I had fucked up and been fucked over too many times for that place to be anything other than a daily exercise in mutilation. If I had stayed, I would have died, probably, or maybe just have descended into madness, or lost myself in addiction in a pathetic attempt to hide. I left as an act of self preservation. I left because I had to. I left, and I went to California where I tried to die, but instead found myself healing in spite of my best efforts. I made some friends, learned to skateboard, and eventually felt a little patched up, a little taped together, but whole again, more or less, and I bounced around on the beaches of north San Diego County, and I was alone. Not because I wanted to be, because I remember a terrible loneliness, a desperation to be touched by someone who cared, I was alone because I was a fucking mess, and even the most generous of hearts could see that I was lost in myself, that I couldn’t be anything for anyone other than for myself. I was a drunk and worse, and on one occasion thought seriously about suicide, and I found eventually that I didn’t want to die after all. I left to cocoon up, build a chrysalis around myself so I could become who I am now. And I am not completely fixed, I have been blessed beyond all measure with a beautiful brilliant and kind wife, and two beautiful and brilliant sons, I have a house in a nice safe suburban neighborhood, a minivan with leather seats and a heated steering wheel. I have a stable and reliable job, and health insurance and a respectable credit score. I have crawled out of a pit of fucked up despair and have built and have been gifted with a life, a good real life.
And still, I am filled with restlessness and depression, I am filled with this amorphous melancholy, this cross of anger and regret. I love who I have become, who I was shaped into, I love my family and my hard earned peace. I love it, and I will protect it jealously, covetously. And I am afraid I will fuck it all up somehow, that I won’t be able to stop myself, that I will burn it all down without even understanding my own actions. Because I do not trust it. I do not trust myself, and I do not trust this stable happiness to stay. I love my life, and I hate that I am ungrateful, that I am not filled with gratitude and love at all times. I hate that I can’t even allow myself to enjoy the goodness that I have been blessed with.
I am happy most days, or something close to happy, a reasonable facsimile of happiness, I am grateful for everything if I think about it in a realistic way, even for the pain for the mistakes for the stupid destructive dangerous decisions. I am no longer disinterested in self-preservation, I am no longer interested in hurting myself. I am glad for even those things because here I am, an adult, or a reasonable approximation of an adult, with a family and a house and a dog, I am talented and ambitious and not too old to make something interesting happen in my life. I’m happy, in an intellectual kind of way, if I think realistically I am happy.
I wonder sometimes about those lost and desperate years, if I did something to myself that I will never be able to fix, if the poisons that I dumped in my system have killed me, but just not yet, if somewhere inside I have a thin wall in my heart, if I have a growing tumor in my lung, if my liver is dead or dying, and it is just there, hidden inside, waiting, waiting for the moment where I start to believe that I am good, that I am worth something real, that I somehow deserve all this goodness, and then it will arrive, I will collapse at my desk, or straining to lift a piece of furniture, and that thin wall in my heart bursts, or I go outside to throw a football with my son, and I can’t breathe, and then there is that moment in the oncologist’s office where my wife asks what treatment options are, but I don’t say anything, because I know already that there are no treatments that will make a difference. It will all have to catch up to me right? The bill always comes due, in the end.
The problem, I have found, is that when you have been blessed so much, have been gifted with the world, that you have so much to lose. It is fine to self-destruct when no one cares if you live or die. It is fine to squander every opportunity, piss on every helping hand. I have been given the world, I have worked hard for this life, I have done serious self-reflection and I have had to decide who I wanted to be. And now I am shackled by the gifts, I am afraid to make decisions that might shake it, I am afraid to take risks that might result in sacrifice. At rock bottom, there is nowhere to go but up; any movement is for the good. It is easy to be a mess. I am finding that it is much more difficult to have people counting on me; having so much to lose has frozen me into inaction. Fear of loss has made me a coward.
I want to be brave.
And I will, because as Andy Dufresne said, “Get busy living, or get busy dying,” and until my bill comes due, I want to live.
If you want to reach out, I’m on Twitter, @RDPullins, and on Facebook. Comment here, or you can even send me an email if you wanna: dissent.within at gmail.com To all of those that are hurting and can’t see a way out, I couldn’t either, and yet here I am. Hang on; there is a light there, even if you are blinded to it. Peace.