Sometimes it passes more quickly, and sometimes it slows to a painful crawl. Wait for the train and every minute is an hour. Telling yourself you're going to start dinner soon makes the next two hours fly by before you realize you haven't eaten yet.
Unless you are really hungry.
Hunger is a strange thing, especially when it has nothing to do with food.
Psychology pioneer Erich Neumann wrote extensively about the struggle between the old and new ethics, and this is the battle being waged out there right now. It is reaching a boiling point. The old ethic, which he refers to as the Judaeo-Christian ethic, functions in black and white. This is good and that is evil kind of thing. Living by this ethic causes people to suppress their inner selves in order to conform to a standard norm. Suppression often leads to depression, anger and resentment. In the most simple terms, consider a person who is attracted to the same sex as opposed to the opposite sex. The old ethic pushes the person to conform to the standard.
Neumann was a pioneer in depth psychology, and in 1969 his work predicted the growing conflict between practitioners of the old ethic and of the new ethic. Those who believe that conforming to certain standards in order to be considered a righteous person stand on one side. Those who believe that self-exploration and that the journey of life is about seeking to become your true self stand on the other. Understand this and current events make more sense.
This has a lot to do with regret, and the wistful thinking that leads a person to look back at their life and wonder what would happen if they took the road not taken. "If I had only..."
The connection often comes from the contributing factors to the decision that was made. We base our decisions on multiple criteria, and one of those is how it will look in the eyes of others. Sometimes decisions are impulsive, but subconsiously we are still processing, just at a faster and less coherent rate.
Last year I had to stop working. I am now on full disability. The nature of my SLE Lupus is complicated and I become beyond physically exhausted when performing any activity for an extended period of time. In the last few months of my employment, I was physically killing myself, forcing myself through eight hour shifts, keeping a brave face, remaining strong, giving little hint of my struggle to my patients, and performing my job to the best of my ability. By the time I got home, I'd basically collapse on the floor in a mountain of ceaseless pain, get up the next day and do it again. My flares were becoming weekly occurrences, and on my days off all I did was sleep or lie in bed staring at the ceiling, getting more and more annoyed with my situation.
When you are faced with a major change in life, one that leaves you feeling helpless, vulnerable, and, in my case useless, you start looking back. Memory is a monster, and it can eat you up with "What ifs?" when you face the dark night of the soul.
When I got sick and spent twelve days in the hospital baffling doctors with my inability to move my joints effectively while being unable to eat, it came after four years of never calling out at work and almost 20 years of never getting sick at all, not even with a cold. I was invicible, but it was probably related to my super-powered immune system which started trying to kill me, basically because it ran out of other things to do. This made the moment more profound. And when you lie in a hospital bed for twelve days, unable to get up to go to the bathroom without assistance, unable to eat without throwing it all back up, unable to read or watch TV because your headache is too severe, your mind starts messing with you.
I seem to have been put on a five-year cycle since my suicide in 1994. Every five years my life goes through a major change, almost like someone cleared all the pieces off the board and said, "Start again." Each time, I would face an avalanche of decisions.
We make a lot of decisions based on how we think they will look to others, whether we think those decisions will be embraced by family and friends, and even how they will look to people in general. We often relegate our true needs and desires to a secondary status in these decisions. We suppress who we are, and sometimes those needs and desires are quite strong. They gnaw at us, and we feel like we're standing around, needing to urinate badly, but holding it in. The unconscious mind takes over when we suppress our true selves or our desire to reach towards becoming our true selves.
Before my suicide, most of my decisions were based on how they would look to others. I tried to conform to norms, and it led to me being miserable. I convinced myself that if I got married, had kids, locked myself into some kind of career, bought a house, and jumped through all those pre-fabricated hoops that this would make me happy. I'd never really been happy. I was always terrified that people would judge me no matter what I did, so I suppressed my inner voices and tried conformity.
I was in a committed relationship from 1986 through almost the end of 1989, and for probably the last two years it was really not much more than a convenience and a habit. The really messy end of that relationship, with my finding her in a sexual romp with a guy she worked with in our living room the night before my 24th birthday, was not the beginning of my spiralling depression that climaxed with my suicide. The real beginning was sometime earlier, when I began to feel that I was going through the motions in life and didn't know who I was any longer. In my youth I was convinced that everything would be wonderful if I only had a girlfriend, a strange fixation many have, even in their later years. It is part of a system we have where we think, "If I just do this or get that everything will be fine."
There is no modular system that leads to happiness. For many, snapping together the pieces in a modular system, collecting marriage, children, steady job, financial stability, a weekly vacation at the beach, and going to church on Sunday is what you do when you are a "good person."
Failing to build your modular, some assembly required life, leads to judgment. "What do you do for a living?" "Are you married?" "Do you have kids?" People like to ask these things, usually in casual conversation.
Go against the standards and you meet with resistance. Ask anyone who has come out as gay or transgender how easy it was to find a consensus of acceptance. Why does it matter so much to some people? They cling to the old ethic of right and wrong. They've been taught these things fall in the "wrong" category, even if they have no personal issue with it.
The suppression of the self leads to many things. Along with depression, there is also a connection to substance abuse, addiction, and acting out with aggression towards others. Repression, or external factors that cause you to suppress thoughts, feelings and needs acts in concert with this. We have to meet societal expectations because we crave acceptance and love, but when that acceptance and love is based on a lie you keep trying to tell yourself...
The dark night of the soul leads to profound changes. It shows us that we cannot continue on the path we are forcing ourselves to take for the sake of pleasing others. It also reminds us that when we are in a situation that makes us miserable, we have to get out of it by any means possible. I faced financial collapse in 1999 thanks to a combination of factors involving filing for bankruptcy, my car being sabotaged by my mechanic, losing my job, and my gambling addiction. To avoid becoming homeless, I had to reach out to my father, with whom I had a strained relationship and had stopped talking to because of his disappointment in my life path. The humbling of myself in asking him for help was very difficult, but our primary drive in life is survival. In the end, it helped us rebuild our relationship.
The history of this website and of its people, going back to the days before this became a ghost town inhabited only be the die-hard residents who refuse to leave so it cannot be paved over and turned into a parking garage, we followed the intimate stories of people we knew as well as those we didn't. Tragedy, and the grief that followed, led us on new paths, much like the crises of my life led me on new paths.
Being diagnosed with a chronic illness, being on a regime of medications, having to always pace myself and remember to rest has been, in many ways, more challenging than any personal crisis that I faced before. That includes overcoming death, escaping from a sociopath bent on destroying me, and facing a breakdown as a result of untreated PTSD. Those things were temporary, or at least it was possible to take control of them and go on living my version of normal. This is for the rest of my life.
When I had to stop working last year, I faced a different kind of crisis. Since 2005, my life has centered around working with people in crisis, people going through the worst days of their lives. I became devoted to what I always taught those I would train, "Helping people help themselves." People in crisis become acutely aware of threats to their survival. They also become acutely aware when it comes to reading other people. When you talk to them as a professional, they study your eyes, and they can tell when you are regurgitating stuff from a book or a training or whether you really get it. "Have you ever been in recovery from addiction?" "Yes, but not drugs or alcohol." "Do you have any idea what it is like to just want to end your life?" "What do you think?"
When you stop being able to function on the level you have been accustomed to functioning at, the desire to look back at the roads not taken becomes strong. You do this because now your options are very limited, and most people have the habit of saying, "I'll do it eventually." Sometimes you put it off too long.
In 2010 I moved to North Carolina because I needed family support in the form of my mother and grandmother in my recovery from PTSD. I learned to face my triggers and become master of them, while having to sacrifice driving in large part because it caused me painful flashbacks that took my eyes and brain off the road. I made that sacrifice for my safety and sanity, but at the same time it played a large part in my putting off moving back to Orlando for five years. When I got sick, I soon after determined that I had to do everything I could to get back to Orlando. It is my spiritual center, my connection to a time where miracles changed my life, and where I learned the nature of my purpose in coming back from facing death. It is here that I feel like I am truly home.
That was not easy, being sick, not being able to drive, and having limited resources, but I made it happen. It went against conventional wisdom, but it is my personal truth. I have left Orlando twice and come back twice. I will not leave again. This is my Jerusalem. In my personal mythology, I am what is called a Jack. I live in service to the Queen. It is my job to be a catalyst in the lives of others. After twelve years working with at-risk teenagers, in an adolescent psychiatric facility, with adults with developmental disabilities, and then with recoving addicts, it was incredibly difficult for me to adjust to not being able to do it any longer. To have made this adjustment while living in a place that I did not feel at home would have been too much to overcome.
Our lives have many turning points, most of which we barely notice. Some of them are overwhelming. The loss of a beloved spouse or partner can destroy a person and leave them feeling there is no reason to go on. Grief is powerful. Last year I spent several months in therapy, where my therapist helped me see that I was grieving, and that grieving over major life changes was the same as grieving for a lost loved one. I was grieving the loss of myself, or a major part of who I was, and I now felt an overwhelming lack of purpose that led me to being frustrated and angry. At my work I was said to have superhuman patience with the people I worked with. That came from my ability to empathize with those who are suffering and struggling because I know what it is like. That level of patience is something I've now lost. When you only have short bursts of energy before you need to rest, the feeling of not having the time to fool around and wanting to get to the damned point already becomes quite strong. In some this causes depression, but I seem to be immune to it since my suicide, so it manifests as frustration and anger. My desire to tear the heads off of idiots with idiotic opinions has become rather high.
Looking back at the history of our lives, those wistful feelings of wanting to "go back and do it differently" are strong. We forget, in the process, that our choices have educated us unless we are too thick for the lesson to penetrate. We face a similar situation and hopefully we take a different path. Much like someone who drank too much, woke up with a hangover, and then vowed never to do that again, we usually do it again anyway. It is my belief that the purpose of our individual lives is to break the patterns that have led us down the wrong paths, make peace with our demons, and give everything we can to everyone we know.
When I look back at mistakes I have made, almost all of which involve ways in which I responded to or treated people, I think about wanting to go back and change what happened. At the same time, I have made peace with the past and have only one remaining regret, one I expect to follow me to the next life as a situation I still need to resolve. The desire to go back and change what happened, and how I treated a person who was there for me on the night in 1999 where I hit rock bottom, is always strong, but that lasting regret has informed my responses to people in my life since that time. The realization that my fixation on resolving my own questions about the meaning of my life led me to treat my greatest supporter and admirer, the one who originally called me "The Dead Guy," with a generally dismissive attitude, like she was unimportant and irrelevant, led me to become more aware of others in my orbit and what they needed from me.
The choices we perceive as mistakes can inform the future. We can't go back, and we can't change the past, but we can allow that to change the future.
The unresolved pattern repeats itself until we resolve it in one way or another. And that is what our life is really about, and why I believe that birth and death are doorways to the next round. There is no conclusion. There isn't anyone on this planet who could handle conclusion. It is all about the journey and it never ends.
I move forward. For me, the tests only get harder, and I am at peace with that.