Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Price Paid for Being Perfect



It’s difficult to counsel one you love. You have to wonder if you have any objectivity at all, if your vision is blindered by mutual history, if everything you say isn’t just bs masquerading as logic or importance or even… hope.

With my mother it was easy; I was too young to recognize I knew pretty much nothing, and too believing in my charisma. When I sort of became my gang shrink by mistakenly spitting out a few too many profundities to someone in trouble, I grew accustomed to my lot. I didn’t have to be educated to listen, I didn’t need a degree to guess and though these were friends of a sort, they truly were strangers in the end; I didn’t live with them, if they imploded whether on the basis of my advice or in spite of it, I would suffer no true consequence that I didn’t make for myself in the form of self-hatred. I had permission, in fact was encouraged to practice mental medicine without a license.

Years went by that found me devoid of relationships deeper than a drop of dew on a piece of concrete. I fell far out of practice and when again and again pressed to “be there” for someone, I doubted myself, exponentially now, and I tended to do my requested patting on the head by actually patting people on the head; and they seemed to drop like flies in an insecticide test kitchen.

Then the big one happened. My father went nuts. Where mom was all nature, dad was all nurture; his was as dysfunctional a childhood as anyone’s and that was the foundation of his angst but he’d been mostly ok until circumstances drove him over the edge.

I’d never seen him “weak”. I’d never known him to tremble, to stare into nothingness. It had taken 18 years of my life before I’d seen him shed a single tear, and now he was weeping, uncontrollably, day after day.

He was staying at my house, on a visit, for a few days. He’d been at my sister’s and was going to my brother’s soon, but was here three days. It was a surprise visit; I’d not been able to prepare. If I’d had notice I might have been able to shuck some work onto either side of his time but as it was I had deadlines and creative work takes time, no matter how incredibly gifted and vastly superior one is as compared to the rest of humanity. But I kept it to business hours and spent as much time as I could with him, even though he spent every moment of those waking hours and sleeping hours as well, unloading, pleading for my help, begging me to fix him or at least agree with him that taking his own life was an appropriate end to what had turned into a quite miserable life.

And at the end of each of these longer than any ever before days I honestly believed I’d had the bull by the tail; I’d bought my own press, and his little white lies that all would be well for another 8 hours or so, so I could once again create crapola for cash during daylight.

And each night I would walk into my dining room and see this broken human being at my table, slouched over, shaking from some horrible self-loathing fever; and we would start again, pleading and weeping and reliving every slice of the pendulum blade. Only this night, the second of three… he touched me; grabbed my hand and held it, as if I were the blade of grass that would keep him from falling off the anti-gravitational earth and to his infinite death defying existence in outer space hell.

I can’t be sure why I was so freaked out by the touch, though I have my ideas. I don’t believe he’d touched me since I was a child and he’d need to pick me up or put a boot up my ass. We were just not a touchy peoples. I didn’t hug my mother ‘till I was in my 30’s and she kinda forced me on a birthday and I’d have looked like a total idiot if I….  One of the reasons my 2nd wife used for divorcing me was that I didn’t hug enough, cuz, like, I spose, there just wasn’t a boatload of other stuff she might have used instead.

He grabbed my hand and he looked at me with tears in his eyes and in my freaking out head I heard the word “daddy?” and suddenly I was on the wrong freaking end of this freaking relationship and I was immediately sucked dry of anything resembling a soul. I was stupefied. I was mortified. I was finding it damned hard to make this ok because it was not the time to act like anything but a fucking granite obelisk that he might set his bolts into and clip on his carabiners and tie his ropes and hang on for dear life; and yet for the first time since he’d come I was afraid. I’d. fail. him.

We got through it. Another night, another session, off to my brother’s where he did try to pull the metaphorical trigger.

I did not make it about me, it was all about him, and my poor sister in law that had to deal with finding him. But later, once he’d been released by the health system and had found his way back to what he wanted to believe was his paradise, I made a note to myself; I’d given it everything I had. I’d once again pretended I had some gift, that I could make chicken salad out of chicken waste, that the difference between myself and any old 300 dollar an hour shrink was a piece of paper in a dime store frame on a modestly appointed office wall. The moment I knew he was in trouble I should have…. almost anything except what I did; and I knew he was in trouble from the first moment I saw his eyes peering up at me.

It’s been years since then. In the meantime I’ve had one saved and one lost. It’s not pleasant when you need to take solace in the fact that while you had some small part in someone’s self-created finale, you also had a small part in someone’s continuing onward in spite of their best wishes. My record isn’t really all that good, those that have had the misfortune of turning to me for help have a 60/40 chance of surviving yet another year, and that’s a whole lot of overdose and suicide packed into my baggage.

Now I’m playing doctor again, not because I want to, but because, as always I was specially selected as boy wonder. I don’t need to worry about a trigger this time, but I do, perhaps pointlessly, yet I do, worry about an implosion, a nuclear option, an implosion that will take an act of some minor deity to recover from if indeed it can be done at all.

I am told I’m a lifesaver, that I’m brilliant, that every one of my ideas have helped, that I am needed, needed…. needed.

I could walk away from a stranger or even a friend if the connections aren’t rock solid; though I'd always risk the end of the story having a bullet buried in it as has happened. But how the hell would I walk away from the person I share my life with? Beyond compassion, beyond love, it affects every future minute of my life too; not that my life is worth much at this point except for my burgeoning career as an amateur psychiatrist.

Every day I hear about how incredibly helpful I am, in a world where nothing changes. Every day I find myself a bulletin board, filled with tiny holes that mark the days people have pinned their hopes on me. Where once I could just cut the rarefied air around me, spread it on a piece of angsty bread and eat it all up like the good little boy I’ve come to be, I am filled to the brim with flour and water and have trouble choking down yet one more bite. So I write it down instead, and put it where if anyone would see it, it wouldn’t be more than a dozen or so human beings; because I have to pretend at least… that I’ve said it aloud.

Because if I go crazy, who’s gonna be there to drive this bus. I am the eggman, coo coo cachoo.

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