Today’s post marks the first in a series of posts centering around a fictional character in a contrived scenario while he tries to cope with the harsh reality of life’s disappointments. The following post & eventual future posts are in no way autobiographical & the scenarios discussed simply create a backdrop for reflection on general topics like processing grief & remaining motivated through adversity.
Her name was Lorraine (pronounced Lore Rain). But it should have been Eden; because when I first laid eyes on her, I swear to you I caught a glimpse of paradise. Laugh if you must. Write me off as trite. But you have no idea what it meant to me; meeting her. I had been through a rough stretch in life. I have had a rough time holding down a job of late although I had a decent education and a solid work history before it all started. The depression, that is–I had a solid work history before the depression started. My jobs required a lot of direct client interactions. I was sales & customer service–& somehow responsible for all the world’s ills, seemingly. Everything that went wrong was my fault. Any change in contract, drop in price, stipulation to a promotion–everything from my customer’s point of view was my attempt to squeeze another dollar out of them & I had the power to flip a switch & make everything right again if they just yelled enough. I’m sure someone was trying to squeeze another dollar out of them, but it wasn’t me! It was The Company. I’m a nobody to them. I can’t affect changes; I just sit at my desk & do as I’m told. But customers–they were convinced I was lining my own personal pockets with every ticky tack fee or every promotion that they almost qualified for. Holy Hell! It was like being stuck in a state of constant war. And I was getting it from both sides–stuck in “no man’s land” in a trench warfare style never-ending gunfight. These circumstances would sap the light out of even the kindest soul & replace it with darkness. And that’s what it did. In came the depression–or as I would later refer to it–the darkness.
I got to the point where I would call out sick & lay in bed all day, listening to the sounds of the world going on without me outside. At first, I thought “Ha, ha. I escaped & you guys out there don’t even realize you’re enslaved!” But this didn’t last. With the passage of each hour, then each day . . . it seemed odd. I knew I was somewhere I shouldn’t be. I either had to get up & join the rat race with everyone else, or I hide to really disappear. I couldn’t be part way in this world, part way out. The bed was no place to spend my day; not unless I was old & infirm. But I wasn’t; I was just . . . tired. Tired of fighting. Tired of conflict; tired of being caught in the middle of everyone’s self-serving manipulation. I felt like a ghost for hiding out & dodging life. Here I was in my bed taking up space, using electricity, racking up bills–but I wasn’t actively participating in the world around me.
It was a horrible feeling. Once I even considered jumping off the balcony onto the concrete parking lot below. I had called out sick from work so frequently that I was at the end of my accrued sick time as well as The Company’s patience. I tried to pep talk myself into getting up to “face the bully.” I told myself, “I’m throwing my life away by not getting up for work. I’m on the verge of termination. What do I tell my parents? What will I do for money? If I don’t get up, I’m as good as dead. I should just jump off the balcony before I call out sick again!” And for a moment, I considered what it would feel like to jump off the balcony, because I dreaded the thought of calling out sick that much! I imagined the wind in my face. I imagined serenity. Then I envisioned a graceful, slow-motion leap off the banister like you see in the movies . . . but then, I thought of gravity & the acceleration of the human body on a vertical drop. Somewhere along the line I learned about an equation that calculated this exact scenario–terminal velocity or something like that. Then I remembered that I don’t even like roller coasters because of the free fall! Then I envisioned that hard concrete getting closer & closer until–SPLAT! I got up. I wasn’t calling out sick on that day; I wasn’t going to break my parent’s heart by asking if I could move in with them again. But I wasn’t jumping off that balcony either. I went to work–that day, at least
I ending up leaving that work environment. Big surprise. And I had spent the last couple of years of my life just putting myself back together. I had gone back to teach myself the basics; as if I had to go through my entire upbringing all over again but in a period of months instead of years this time. I finally found a job with my regional health care provider. It wasn’t anything special, but it was something to do; & it was stable. And, after what I had been through during The Darkness, stability was the best I had hoped for. I hadn’t dared to ponder on any of life’s deeper questions, like love. But when I saw her . . . life suddenly meant more than simply getting out of bed & holding down a job. Life was more than just a checklist of responsibilities. Life’s purpose was more than just avoiding disappointment, which had been my state of mind during the recovery. I didn’t motivate myself but telling myself how great life could be again. I motivated myself by telling myself I could get to a place where it didn’t hurt as much anymore; and where I wouldn’t hurt the people who cared, like my parents. I wanted them to spare them sight of watching me flounder my life away yet again.
When I saw Lorraine–in an instant, I regained a lifetime of dreams that had eroded little by little over the years. Maybe now, you do understand what it meant to me; meeting her.
We were almost friends. Yeah, I know. This isn’t your typical love story–or even your typical heart break story. To have a bonafide heart break story you’d expect to see a demonstration of love. And while I think I loved her, I know she never loved me. No. She was more a metaphor for what life could be. She was the reason I got out of bed to make it to work on time on those cold winter early mornings when I hated to do so. She was, well, we’ll get to that later. She was symbolic to me. And then she disappointed me.
I speak of her in the past tense not because she’s gone; she’s still alive & well, & even young & strong. I wish her well. I speak of her in the past tense because she’s gone to me. Because I no longer have any contact with her or knowledge of her whereabouts. I speak of her in the past tense because, from my point of view, she’s part of my past. I’ll never see her again; never occupy the same space as she does, or even the same Time Zone! Call me a loser if you must, but I’ll confess that she’s never ceased being a part of my present. Because even now, I think of her constantly. And I declare that she will be part of my future, because I know that I’ll never meet someone like her again. That, “There’s someone out there for everyone! There a million fish in the sea” bullshit is a young man’s coping mantra. I’ve been alive long enough to realize that, at least for me, my time & opportunities are limited. Given my parameters, I will never meet someone like her again.
There are people who will say I got what I deserved. They’ll say it was unfair of me to place this heavy burden on her; this standard to uphold so that I could maintain faith in the world. They’re right; it was unfair. I should have never made her the force that pulled me away from the balcony ledge, should I ever sink to such despondency again. It was unfair for me to expect so much from her; but I don’t care. She still failed me. And I’m still angry with her for it. Spare me the, “This is more about you than it is about her.” I know all that shit; but know this–it still hearts like hell.
I still like to stand on balconies. I don’t plan to jump off any of them, I just like to feel the breeze. I like to watch the world for this secluded, unseen perch. When you’re at ground level, you only see what’s directly around you, & that’s it. But up here, you can see so much more. It’s like having a glimpse of past, present, & future all at once. Yeah; I like it up here. But what I like most of all about this balcony is watching the rain come in. I can see the clouds form in the distance. Up here, I even seem to catch a faint hint of thunder before everyone around me does. And then when those water pellets of rain start clashing with roof, with rock, with concrete & ground–I feel serene inside. It makes me want to reflect, which is good. I have a lot to reflect on. Maybe I can filter out this anger I have towards Lorraine for having let me down so miserably. Or maybe I’ll find a way to forgive her & move on. after all, even Eden didn’t last forever.
This is where my mind was as I stood on the balcony struggling to make sense of it all; and then the rain came down.