Precipice of Loneliness

Man standing on edge of cliff.

I finished season 1 of Thirteen Reasons Why and it’s the first screen adaptation that hit me harder than the novel. I binged the series because I couldn’t stop watching. I’d cut it off after a few episodes and inevitably give into the thoughts and cut it back on. I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

Credit to everyone involved with the show. I felt everything that was depicted, even the teenage angst. As vivid as my imagination can be when reading, rarely do I take on the characters’ emotions to the point I feel them in my chest or deep in the pit of my stomach.

I’ve never been suicidal, but I’ve lived through most of the emotions shown throughout the series (not just Hannah’s). I remember sitting on the floor thinking How did I get here? Why do I feel so empty? What is the word for pain so deep that sadness or anger won’t suffice? I said and thought dark things, but I never honestly considered taking my own life. Thirteen Reasons Why showed me how lonely it’s possible to be, even in this world where it’s hard to disconnect from anyone. ‘Lonely’ doesn’t do it justice.

A Letter Unsaid

Brother and nephew sorting tickets.

This is a letter of unsaid words. Words I’ve thought and words I know someone needs to hear. Words for someone I love dearly. Words I need to say for myself.

Happy birthday.

You are my hero. When mom told me you wanted to play basketball so you could accomplish what I didn’t give myself the opportunity to do, that meant the world to me. Watching you power through the end of a cross country race motivated me to get in shape.

I admire the way you are always yourself. Never compromising yourself for anyone. I wish I had the confidence to present myself to the world the way you do.

You are a better father than I ever imagined you being. Not because I didn’t think you had it in you, it was just weird.

The turnaround of your life you are still completing comes with a chance for holistic wellness. I obviously can’t diagnose you, but I see the denial and it hurts me. So many of the issues you’ve casually described in the past I recognize. I have the same feelings. The same apoplectic fits. The same spur of the moment feeling that to destroy is to fill a deep wound. You’ve seen instances of it in me. Remember the leaves? They may seem like isolated incidents without the complete picture.

When you broke your leg and busted your face, you called me from the ambulance to let me know our basketball game was off. It was hilarious how matter-of-fact you were. The mental issues we struggle with aren’t as apparent. It’s scary. Medication scared me. Therapy scared me. I can’t be vulnerable around people I’ve loved my entire life, how can I tell everything to a stranger. But when I was forced to confront my issues, I realized these things weren’t as scary as not knowing how I’d gotten to where I was. Depressed and hopeless. Angry and irrational. Fearful and defiant.

Coming to terms with mental illness is hard. Getting well is hard. But you’ve done hard things before. And I want you to realize that before you reach the point I did. There is nothing wrong with us, it’s just part of us. Without it we wouldn’t be us. A world without your humor, your aggressiveness and your irrational certainty that you knew the Cavs would overcome a 3-1 deficit (IT WAS ONE SHOT!) isn’t a world I want to live in.

If you read this before I summon the courage to tell you, I love you.

Nightmare Before Children

Girl walking down dark stairs.

Not what I had planned for today. Right as I headed out the door for my morning run, my niece wakes up and wants cereal. I fix her cereal. I get back from my run and she has pissed in the bathroom floor. For the second time in 24 hours. And she hasn’t told anyone. And she’s walking naked through the house. On the carpet.

Laura gets her in the bathtub and buys some carpet cleaner. I spray the floors with vinegar and water. Ask Laura how much I’d have to drink to kill me. Find out it won’t do the job. Wait 15 minutes. Pat the floors dry. Cover them with carpet cleaner. Wait 15 minutes. Vacuum the floors until the filter needs cleaning. Wait indefinitely.

My mornings follow a routine. As I write this I have yet to: post-run stretch, shower, eat a banana, drink iced coffee while reading.

We’ve talked about having children in the near future. Oh, the changes one day can bring.

Child in the Mirror

Cat looking in a mirror, seeing a lion.

Married for years

Paying the bills

On the inside I feel like a child

 

Six-foot two

Beard not new

In the mirror I look like a child

 

Working all day

Working to play

On the inside I feel like a child

 

Reading the news

Seeing what’s new

In the mirror I look like a child

 

Conversing with friends

Problems on end

On the inside I feel like a child

 

Wake up each day

Do the same thing

Look at the world like a child

Running Out of Time

Black and white photograph of an hourglass.

Think back to an amazing time in your life. The best day you’ve ever had. Your favorite vacation. How long ago was it? Crazy, right? Whether your memory was last week, last month, last year or five years ago, it probably seems like it happened more recently.

The memory I think about most is the first vacation I took with Laura. Universal Orlando in 2011, the best two weeks of my life. I can remember every detail. The miniature train chugging around the gingerbread town in the hotel lobby. Harry Potter & the Sorcerer’s Stone playing poolside. Our conversation in line to ride the Hulk coaster. Laura’s face as we were swept away on Forbidden Journey. “Friends in Low Places” every time we walked past Margaritaville. The sights, sounds and smells are so vivid, the memories make me lightheaded.

Every Tuesday I take the trash out and think Wow, I just did this. Same for mowing on Wednesday in the summer. The library on Saturday. I can retrace every step I took walking out a side door on my last day of high school. Even the bad times bring nostalgia. I wish I was able to remind myself in those moments that I’ll look back on at least some parts with fondness. I remember cuddling with Laura on the days we didn’t have heat. Staying in a motel because the power was out was sort of exciting. I hated my last job, but I miss the extra hours in the car with Laura.

I can’t wait until my niece is living with her mother. For them, but selfishly for me. Yet I look at her sometimes and smile, and in those moments I allow myself to get lost in the present. Thankful we can make a positive impact on her life. I wish when she cries endlessly I was able to remind myself she hasn’t seen her dad in weeks and the only way she can see her mom is through a tiny screen. Remind myself the frustration I feel is nothing compared to what she’s going through. She can’t even rationalize what’s happening in her life.

I wish I allowed myself to hold Laura and watch her like I did this morning. Sometimes things (usually running) get in the way, but when space is the only thing separating us, I can make time.

Time is the one thing we’re all running out of, and we don’t know how much is left. What’s scary is it’s taking everything and everyone we love with it. You can’t bottle it in a mason jar and check the level. You can’t save it.

Savor it.