I Never Told Anyone

Today, at psychotherapy, I finally said something I’ve never said. And it’s something I need to get into the open. So, I’m going to put it here. My doctor said this is one of those things that older far beyond my years, and certainly was beyond my years when I said it the first time.

I can’t remember if I was in 6th or 7th grade. Yeah. That long ago. Dad had just finished a big project at his work, and I got to see the finished document he’d written. It was a stack of paper, notebook sized, a good inch and a half thick, maybe two. He was proud of it, and I knew to write something that size took a lot of time and effort.

But I heard my thoughts back then. It was years before I finished burying them. Back then, I’d just started burying things. And that day, I heard my terrified thoughts. The work he’d shared didn’t terrify me. Neither did his pride in having completed that work. No. What terrified me was what I saw in him, and the people he worked with.

They were all practically dead. In lives that didn’t change. On career paths. However you wish to define it. Every aspect of their lives matched a plan each of them had made years, perhaps decades, earlier. Many of them were in their 30s. As I watched them, I knew they would never really change. Never really do anything other than what they were already doing.

They’d stopped growing. Stopped changing. Stopped learning. Stopped exploring. They’d grown up, and there was no room in their lives for such childish pursuits. They had responsibilities.

If someone was a Marine, he’d stay a Marine. If Navy, they’d stay Navy. If civilian contractor, or civil servant, they’d always be that. If someone was an administrative assistant, they’d always be assisting someone.

It was the first time I understood how life in our social system worked. That’s what terrified me. And I heard my mind, screaming, “I’m not going to be dead at 30! I’m not going to be like them!”

Of course, I can say this all I want. I can share it. I can talk about it. But sharing it is useless, because, as I’ve said before, no one will understand. Oh, there will be some that understand. There always are, always have been, always will be. But many people will never understand what I saw that day, or how I felt about it.

My doctor and I talked about many things today, centered around that thought.

I told him if you ever want to see the true nature of someone, murder their smart phone. Break it, and watch what happens to them. Watch as they go crazy. “Do you know, there are guys out there, if their phone shuts off, and they can’t turn it on, I wouldn’t be surprised if they throw that sucker through the drywall.” Yeah. I said that.

“Same with their computers. Or their video games. Or NetFlix. Or the Internet.”

I reminded him of the study I’d talked about a couple of weeks ago. The one about 67% of men in the study electing to endure a painful electric shock to get out of sitting still, in a room, by themselves, for 15 minutes, with no electronic devices. Yeah. That’s right. Put a guy in a room with nothing but a chair, and a button that administers an electric shock to himself, and tell him he can leave after 15 minutes, or he can shock the shit out of himself, and he’ll shock the shit out of himself.

And that’s when the lightbulb turned on over my head, and I said, “Holy crap!”

My doctor knows exactly what I mean when I say, “Holy crap!” I’d just had an epiphany. I’d just realized something. Or, as I like to express it, another piece of the puzzle of life finally fit into the puzzle.

“They’re escaping, aren’t they.” It wasn’t a question. It was a statement. I was reciting a fact. “They’re escaping from their lives. That’s why they go crazy when their phones die. Why they spend hours glued to NetFlix, watching streaming media. Why they bury themselves in video games. They’re escaping the misery they live in. And when they can’t escape, and have to sit silently for a while, they can’t. They’ll shock themselves to escape. So they don’t have to deal with who they are. What their lives have become. The truth that they’re all walking dead.”

My doctor and I spent a lot of time talking about that today. About how people try to escape.

I know. I hear the voices screaming, “It takes one to know one!” and “Talk about the pot calling the kettle black!” Yeah. Most people will never understand, I know. I’m flawed. I’m guilty. I’m not perfect.

On my drive home, I listened to my music, playing through the car stereo. I turn it to 24 on the power meter when I’m in the car alone. I can feel the door panels shake in time with the music. I can see the rear view mirror vibrate as the sound waves move it around just a touch. I can feel the music through every cubic inch of me.

It’s my escape. From the misery. My own personal misery. Of dealing with a world I don’t understand, and never made.

But, what happens when that music goes away. In May, 2012, it did. I got dunked in some rapids leading to a waterfall. The camera I owned at the time drowned. It never worked again. The MP3 music player I owned also drowned, and never played another note from any music. It never turned on again. My cell phone took days (at least 3) to dry out. I was without any of those devices for days.

This happened on day two of a five-day camping trip. We had no TV. No Internet. No electricity. And pretty much no cell phone service. It would have wrecked many of the people I know, and have known in life.

I did OK. I was happy to get a new player, a few days after we got home. I was happy when my phone started working, also a day or two after we got home. I was happy when we replaced my dead camera in July of 2012.

I survived without them. And I can survive without them now.

I know people who would shrivel up like grapes turning into raisins if they had to endure such an ordeal. I know people who can’t live without being on their cell phone, on Facebook, or Twitter, or being able to watch another movie on their phone, to kill the time.

Time they can’t face on their own.

Because, if they had to face it, they’d have to face their lives. They’d have to face themselves. They’d have to deal with who they are.

And I see people like them every day. People who will do anything to escape themselves.

“I don’t want to be dead at 30! I won’t be like them!”

I never told anyone.

Until today.

Here’s a link to the study I mentioned.

Study: People Would Rather Suffer Electric Shock Than Sit Silently

Wishes : To Be Understood

[Originally Written on Saturday, 05 March 2011

NOTE : I’ve decided to re-post this one. Given what happened today. Given the truth that’s hidden in it. A truth too many people will never understand. A truth too many people simply can’t accept.]

There is a wish I have.
A wish I’ve always had.
A wish I’ve never spoken of.
A wish I’ve had to hide.

I have always wondered why.
Why don’t I understand
What I’ve done
When I’ve done something wrong.
What I’ve done
That scares someone.
Or upsets someone.
Or makes someone wish
I’d just go away.

I have always wondered why.
Why I always hide along the wall,
Or someplace out-of-the-way,
At a birthday party,
Or a wedding,
Or a lunch at work
When someone’s going to leave.
Or a social gathering,
Of any other kind.
Why I never speak
To anyone at all,
Unless they speak to me.
And even then
Why it’s so very hard
For me to say
Anything at all.

And always,
Why it seems
That everyone’s relieved
When I finish talking.
When I go silent
Once again.

I have always wondered why
No one believes
Anything I say.
Like this past Thursday.
When I told my boss,
“I’m a 51-year-old.
In a 51-year-old body.
With a 51-year-old intellect.
But I’m just a teenager
Emotionally.
And I don’t know
That I’ll ever get much further
Than that.”

And my boss,
He said to me,
“You will.”

And I told him
What I’d told my doctor,
And the Fit for Duty Examiner.
That I had no idea
When this whole thing started
What it was I’d done
That got me banned
From work.
That I didn’t understand at all.

And my boss,
He said to me,
“Yes. You did.
You just had never had to face
The consequences
Of the actions that you took.”

I told these things
To my doctor
The very next day.
And when I told him
I was just a teenager
Emotionally.
My doctor said to me,
“And you may never get
Beyond that stage.”

And when I told my doctor
That I didn’t know
In October,
What it was that I had done
That got me banned
From the land of work,
My doctor said to me,
“I know.
And after all this time,
With us having reviewed
What happened in those days.
Now you know
What got you banned.
And you know
What you won’t do again.”

Damn straight.
If you put your hand
On the burner
On the range,
While the burner’s glowing red,
It’s frakkin’ gonna’ hurt.

And I’ve learned
That if I do the things
That got me banned from work,
It’s frakkin’ gonna’ hurt.

No one ever told me
They were wrong.
No one ever explained.
And I had to learn things
The hard way
Once again.

So there is this wish I have.
That I’ve always had.
A simple wish, really.

All I wish for is to be
Understood.
Not punished.
Not abused.
Not bruised.
Not penalized.
Not ostracized.
Not locked away.
Not barred from life.

I just wish to be understood.
And I’ll know I am
When someone finally explains to me
All the things
That I don’t know.
All the things
That every one of them
Takes for granted.
And assumes
That everybody knows.

Because I don’t.
And I never have.

And no one save my family,
My lady
And my children.
And my doctors.
Have ever really understood
That I am this way.

And that I really
Just don’t know
All those secret things
That everyone assumes
That everybody knows.

Saturday, 05 March 2011

Wishes: To Be Understood

There is a wish I have.

A wish I’ve always had.

A wish I’ve never spoken of.

A wish I’ve had to hide.

I have always wondered why.

Why don’t I understand

What I’ve done

When I’ve done something wrong.

What I’ve done

That scares someone.

Or upsets someone.

Or makes someone wish

I’d just go away.

I have always wondered why.

Why I always hide along the wall,

Or someplace out of the way,

At a birthday party,

Or a wedding,

Or a lunch at work

When someone’s going to leave.

Or a social gathering,

Of any other kind.

Why I never speak

To anyone at all,

Unless they speak to me.

And even then

Why it’s so very hard

For me to say

Anything at all.

And always,

Why it seems

That everyone’s relieved

When I finish talking.

When I go silent

Once again.

I have always wondered why

No one believes

Anything I say.

Like this past Thursday.

When I told my boss,

“I’m a 51 year old.

In a 51 year old body.

With a 51 year old intellect.

But I’m just a teenager

Emotionally.

And I don’t know

That I’ll ever get much further

Than that.”

And my boss,

He said to me,

“You will.”

And I told him

What I’d told my doctor,

And the Fit for Duty Examiner.

That I had no idea

When this whole thing started

What it was I’d done

That got me banned

From work.

That I didn’t understand at all.

And my boss,

He said to me,

“Yes. You did.

You just had never had to face

The consequences

Of the actions that you took.”

I told these things

To my doctor

The very next day.

And when I told him

I was just a teenager

Emotionally.

My doctor said to me,

“And you may never get

Beyond that stage.”

And when I told my doctor

That I didn’t know

In October,

What it was that I had done

That got me banned

From the land of work,

My doctor said to me,

“I know.

And after all this time,

With us having reviewed

What happened in those days.

Now you know

What got you banned.

And you know

What you won’t do again.”

Damn straight.

If you put your hand

On the burner

On the range,

While the burner’s glowing red,

It’s frakkin’ gonna’ hurt.

And I’ve learned

That if I do the things

That got me banned from work,

It’s frakkin’ gonna’ hurt.

No one ever told me

They were wrong.

No one ever explained.

And I had to learn things

The hard way

Once again.

So there is this wish I have.

That I’ve always had.

A simple wish, really.

All I wish for is to be

Understood.

Not punished.

Not abused.

Not bruised.

Not penalized.

Not ostracized.

Not locked away.

Not barred from life.

I just wish to be understood.

And I’ll know I am

When someone finally explains to me

All the things

That I don’t know.

All the things

That everyone of them

Takes for granted.

And assumes

That everybody knows.

Because I don’t.

And I never have.

And no one save my family,

My lady

And my children.

And my doctors.

Have ever really understood

That I am this way.

And that I really

Just don’t know

All those secret things

That everyone assumes

That everybody knows.

#MenageMonday 40, Uncut Version

There is a 200 word limit to the #MenageMonday flash fiction challenge. So, yesterday, I had to strip my little story down from over 600 words, to under 200. As you can imagine, a lot of detail was lost in the reworking of the piece. So, I’m putting the full 600+ words up, here.

Feel free to go visit Cara Michael’s blog, and read all 38 of the #MenageMonday entries. This was the 40th week. And there were a lot of great entries.

———-

I was asleep on my sofa. Didn’t have to work that day. I was on vacation. And I was having a perfect nap. I liked to take naps when I was tired. I liked them in the middle of the afternoon. I liked naps. They were fun.

I woke up when  an alarm went off. Swatted the top of the clock radio at the end of the sofa. The alarm kept going off. And it was all wrong sounding for the clock radio anyway. It wasn’t music. It was this beeping sound. “Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep!” I sat up, and looked around. But there was nothing in the room. The TV was on. I’d fallen asleep while a movie was playing. The movie had ended. And the player had gone into screen saver mode, playing the discs menu over, and over again.

“Hon? What’s that beeping?” I looked toward the kitchen. She wasn’t there. The kitchen wasn’t there either. I closed my eyes. Shook my head. And opened them again. The sofa was gone. The clock too. I was on a bed. In a stark, white room. Damn, but it hurt to open my eyes, and look around. I mumbled, “Turn off those friggin’ lights,” and tried to put my hand over my eyes. It wouldn’t move. Hell. Nothing moved.

I heard a voice. “He’s awake, doctor!” I tried to look around again. There was a door to the room I was in. It opened. “Ah, Mr. Taylor. You finally woke up,” this guy in a white medical robe said. He seemed genuinely relieved.

“Who are you?” I tried to mumble. It came out sounding more like, “moohareww.”

The voice answered, “Let me call your wife. She will be so excited to see you.” A few minutes later, this tall, middle-aged blond woman came in. She saw me, practically leaped across the room, landing beside me, and draping herself across me, kissing my cheek, hugging me. “Thank God, you’re alive!”

The first voice spoke again, “Do you remember anything that happened? Do you remember the fires? And the explosions?”

“Hunh?”

The woman hugged me some more. “You’re alive. That’s all that matters.”

Over the next two days, I faded in and out a lot. Mostly sleeping. Sometimes waking up screaming. The Doctor kept telling the woman (I learned she was my wife) that I would be OK with time. That I was remembering things in my dreams as I slept.

That third night I woke up. And I saw, painted on the wall of the room, the plant. The power plant. It was big. It was night. And the plant had these stupid purple, red, and blue lights that lite them up from the outside. So they would look imposing, and impressive, I suppose. “I worked there, didn’t I?”

I realized she was awake. “Hmm?” she’d looked at me, questioningly.

“At the power plant. I worked there.”

“Yes, dear. You did.”

“I went to work.” I remembered walking into the first of the two power generator buildings. I remembered going to my locker in the break room, and putting my lunch away. I remembered getting my helmet out, putting it on. I remembered walking out the door of the room. The door shut. And two parallel streaks of sparks flew from the door, down the hallway, in opposite directions. I remember thinking, “Oh, shit.” And then I watched the world explode with color.

“You remember, don’t you.” The woman’s name was Elaina. She was my wife. We’d been married for 25 years.

“Yes.” She was holding me. “I remember,” I whispered. I kissed her. Softly. “And I remember what you said the first night I was here, in the hospital.”

Elaina smiled. She started crying. Happy tears. “I remember you said we could survive this. I could survive this. I had to survive this. You needed me.”

She kissed me then. Softly.

I whispered once again, “I had to survive. I need you too.”