There would be dark moments, and each one seemed logical. As far as he knew, everyone had moments like these. Everyone. So what if others managed those moments better than he did? It just meant he had to try a little harder, that’s all.
Like the time he stood at the entrance of a shopping mall, frowning. He watched the shoppers all scurrying to get their shopping done. They seemed frantic, out of control. There was little joy in their hungry demand for merchandise – or at least, that’s what he saw, perceived. He felt a rage bubbling up deep inside. He wanted to bellow at them in anger. Tell them to stop and remember the reason for Christmas. He was beyond frustrated. Shaking his head, he turned around and left the mall. He would do his shopping another day. And from that point onward, for a period of five years, he decided he would not celebrate Christmas. He wouldn’t put up lights or a tree. He no longer believed in it. His mind told him this was reasonable. He couldn’t reconcile his distaste for commercialism with the celebration. Not at all. He believed fully in his own cynicism.
The depths of darkness weren’t always as radical. Sometimes, he sensed a slow slide into them, grateful that there seemed a limit. Always, his mind found logical reasons for them. He was bored with his job, so it seemed only right that he should interpret some of the darkness as depression over the job.
At other times – rare occasions – he couldn’t quite see a safe boundary. Like the time he was driving home and felt a strong impulse to drive the car off of the road and into a tree. He managed to curb the thought, but it scared him so much that he wisely sought out counselling. This time, he was entirely convinced this destructive impulse stemmed from his faltering marriage. They stayed together because of religion. The bonds of dogma – specifically the stricture against divorce – felt more like emotional slavery. So of course it was logical that he should feel such despair. The thing that bothered him about it was that he hadn’t told anyone about it before having the impulse. He knew, from everything he read, that this was dangerous. People who talk about this sort of thing rarely do it – they talk because they want help. He knew he wasn’t crying out for assistance.
So he sought out therapy, and in so doing, discovered much about himself that he never knew before.
Like the fact that, though he was so agreeable to people in general, and so pleasant to be around, in fact he was masking a great deal. Hiding in plain sight. He genuinely thought he enjoyed being around people, even though he knew there was a limit and he had on occasion just needed to be away from them.
This included his wife. There were many days when he worked late into the night when he didn’t need to. Long enough to miss the last train back to his home in the next town. So many nights he called his wife and told her he needed to stay in a hotel in town.
“But why you? Why can’t some of your employees take on some of the work? Why do you have to work so late all the time?”
“I just do”, he said. “It’s my job, and no one else can do it.”
He was lying through his teeth, and he didn’t care. The idea of going home to her was so abhorrent that he felt physically repulsed by the thought. He didn’t hate her; he just couldn’t be around her. The constant questions ate him like slow burning acid. “Do you love me? Why don’t we do things together? Why? Why? Why?”
It was so weird. There were times when he felt like he was on top of the world, and everything would be fine. He was right with his God so what could hold him back?
And there were other times when he was adamant that it was all shit. There was nothing that could be salvaged.
It was in those dark times when he knew he had to get away. So he would take impromptu vacations. He would book a cottage on a lake during the summer, and he would take off. He determined to go there, rent a boat, and go row out in the lake to somewhere where he could have solitude, away from the maddening horde. He did all that, and then was surprised when he got there, and realized he still wasn’t at peace. He was almost shocked by that realization. And disappointed. He had brought the darkness with him.
It never occurred to him that the “maddening horde” might be his own thoughts.
One of those amazing light times happened when his marriage was finally over and he moved out. He got the call from his new landlord, who said “your credit check passed. You can move in on Monday.”
The day he got the keys and moved in, he looked around at his new oasis and wept in joy. He knew finally he had done the right thing with his marriage. All of his life he had been the chameleon, changing emotional colour to make everyone, including his bride-to-be, happy. He listened for clues to their desires, and then did his level best to match them.
It never occurred to him that he was damaging himself in the process. He truly thought he had no real desires of his own. Occasionally a slightly selfish thought would occur, which he discounted as un-Christian. So he would mostly ignore them, and secretly chastised himself for having them.
One such thought happened six months before his marriage, when he suggested to his fiancé that they postpone the wedding for a little bit.
She, an eighteen-year-old girl, immediately (and correctly) interpreted this as rejection. She burst into tears, and all of her insecurities rose to the surface. She accused him: “you don’t love me; you don’t want to get married. No one loves me”.
He felt like the lowest rat. Even though she was right about his feelings, the religious-shaped chameleon exerted itself. He changed colour and assured her he did love her and wanted to get married.
So, despite some deep warning feelings in his gut, he bit the Christian bullet and got married.
It took him many years before he discovered the value and necessity of being true to one’s self.
He blamed almost all of his dark moments on this one rather major bad decision. This farce of a marriage. And those moments were exacerbated by his continual attempts to love her as she deserved to be loved. A piece of his heart held back though. It took him a long time to acknowledge it. To be fair, she too had a lot of issues to deal with; reasons she latched onto him. He was her emotional life raft.
But this story isn’t about her. It’s about him.
It was only a few years after they had exited the marriage that he realized those intermittent dark occasions had nothing to do with her, or with his bad decision. It had nothing to do with commercialism at Christmas.
Sometimes the darkness crowded him at almost predictable times. So many times when he was flying high, he remembered saying to himself “I wonder when the dark time will come again”. Because he knew it would. That this high wasn’t sustainable.
There are times when he enjoys being around people and he becomes the life of the party. He can joke and make people laugh, and they shine and open up to him. He has learned not to be the chameleon anymore, and this is something that has liberated him; allowed him to be the person he truly is. He has dropped the chains of religious dogma as well. This helps, too.
There are other times though, dark times, when he can’t wait to get away from people. Times when he feels ugly, when he truly wonders how anyone can stand to be around him.
He knows there’s hope though. He’s counting on it, and is seeking it out.
And he knows there are others rowing their boats in the same waters as he is.
Which is why he’s talking about it, I suppose.