All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players,
They have their exits and entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
The day after Christmas.
There was, as usual, a good deal of reflection on the past this Christmas. There was a time in the not too distant past when remembering the past holidays with family and friends would make me genuinely weepy and sorrowful. These breakdowns were akin to having a close member of the family die, but they were worse – I was morning and entire family and world I knew that had died many years ago. But the Ghosts of Christmas Pasts would come back to haunt me every year.
Except this year. It’s not that I didn’t think about the memories and people of the past; it’s just I can raise no emotion over it at all. I’m just numb. Nothing made me weepy and God knows, I tried. But even Greg Lake’s ‘Father Christmas, which was always a good bet to get the waterworks flowing, registered just a shrug.
I’m not sure whether this is good or bad. The holidays have become so dull and ordinary that the time I take off work becomes just another series of days to drink and smoke and watch football. Perhaps this numbness is not so ‘bad’ as it is bothersome to me. It’s completely antithetical to decades of previous experience. I’m left with the notion that something is off in my head – significant but perhaps not serious.
Are the medications? I don’t know. Is it the latest series of social disappointments? I don’t know. Is it the result of running out of the energy that is a byproduct of anxiety? Don’t know. Has it simply been enough time passing that the memories are fading, and the future is so bleak that it’s not worth the effort to expend the emotional energy to mourn? Perhaps.
There is only my wife and myself. I ran up Christmas Eve to take my sons to lunch and exchange gifts which took about six hours of the day and that was the extent of ‘family’ Christmas activities. I spent a good deal of the drive monitoring the Stock Market. How ‘Joyeaux Noel’ is that?
I’m writing in the basement where I now spend a good deal of my time. It is a place where I feel safe and unexposed (from people ringing the doorbell and snipers lining me up through the living room window). Also, the cat rarely comes down here and when I’m upstairs, she’s usually crawling all over me. It’s fine for 10-15 minutes but after an hour of her constant demanding attention, I start losing my patience. This is also why I can never have a dog.
The basement contains everything I could want – a big screen TV, a restroom, a fully stocked bar, a library (whose books I’m too bored and attention-deficit to read) and a museum made up of bits and pieces of my life and American history. Some of my collections are down here too should I ever want to look at coins and matchbooks. Old framed newspapers hang on the walls, some are my stories, some are from history. The furniture is comfy and there’s always the exit through the garage should I need some air.
I wonder what this room really means to me? Is it the adult version of the bedroom I hid myself away in while growing up? I spent most of my formative years in my bedroom because I was afraid of my father and wanted to be left alone by my sister. I had no friends I could play with after awhile and I spent most of my time reading, doodling, listening to the radio and watching TV.
As in the beginning so at the end? Possibly. If my life is to end down here it will be largely because I’ve run out of other places to be where I feel comfortable. Also, if this is my own private tomb, I have done a good job furnishing it Egyptian-style with all the toys and memories I’d like to take to the afterlife.
But it is sad to be alone down here, even as much as I need to be alone.
I mentioned earlier my books. I have around 300-400 of them down here and I never read them. I buy books and books are bought for me and then carefully shelved and never read. I simply don’t have the patience or attention span anymore to get involved in a book. That IS very sad to me and I try to force myself to read some of them. But I just can’t work up any enthusiasm. Where I sleep has traditionally been a repository for a stack of bedside books. Now I just have my smart phone and watch You Tube before bed.
In a similar vein, I don’t watch much TV except for news and sports. I pay for a subscription to Netflix that I rarely use (similar to my subscription to Planet Fitness which I will mention in a bit). I have tried watching some shows like ‘Broken Mirror,’ ‘Boardwalk Empire’ and ‘This is Us’ but the problem I have is that it’s hard for me to put eyes on for a whole hour AND, even more importantly, I find myself getting too emotionally involved in the drama which rubs off on my mood. I’ve given up completely on ‘Broken Mirror’ despite the fact I think it’s masterful storytelling. Some of the episodes have put the hook in me to such a degree it has taken an entire day to decompress from the emotional impact.
I don’t want to get involved in fictional drama. This was never a problem before, but in the last few years it has become one. So, what do I watch other then news and sports? True crime. Figure that. But even some of those are getting to me as well, so I switch over to ghost stories which I generally feel are exaggerated dramatizations containing small kernels of truth. Most of the time my eyes are on this screen, going through news source after news source until I’ve read everything and then I watch car crash videos on You Tube or some such agreeable time wasters.
As for the Planet Fitness subscription, I find no desire in me to get fit. For what purpose? To live longer? In this world? Who would I be impressing by getting fit? What would I do with all the ‘energy’ and ‘confidence’ that being in shape would bring? Spend more time working harder at a job I hate? I no longer care about such things. I have tried many, many times in my life to get and stay in shape and I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not just in me. I have given up, yes. Again, what would be the point? I should go down and cancel my membership but the whole this is embarrassing to me. I wish these things could be done by email.
This is not how I had ever envisioned my late middle ages. I was supposed to be featured on television news panels, giving my take on current events or discussing the contents of my column in The Washington Post. Instead, I can always look at my clippings from The Peoria Journal-Star or Cedar Rapids Gazette, and wonder what might have been if I had been able to master my mental demons.
My wife makes efforts to pull me out of the tomb. I’m careful to note how many times I say ‘no’, so I can throw in an occasional ‘yes’ out of a sense of obligation to a shared marriage. My wife goes out alone often. I hope she understands.
I have two trips upcoming to see Broadway shows in New York. For reasons I can’t explain, I want to do that. But I do not want to go to the local zoo or anywhere else around here. I have nothing against Pittsburgh, it’s a perfectly fine place. But too many negative things have already happened here, and I have no desire to either experience anything or get involved with anything local. The last straw was the breakup with the local mental health organization I had become so involved with. It has been almost three months since that happened and I now feel resolute in my conviction that I am done socially – with anything.
After cycling through depression, PTSD, GAD and BPD, at this age I have finally realized that I am bad company for the most part, and that interpersonal conflicts will result and be crushing to me and that, at 56, hardly anyone gives a shit what I think.
So here I am in the basement tomb, pretending I’m writing to thousands of people like I used to do at the Gazette and Journal-Star (while refraining from podcast pretending that I’m a radio host again – that would be TOO painful for me).
Which takes me back to a memory when I was around 8 or 9 and spun 45 records on a small kids turntable, pretending I was a top 40 DJ. There I was, keying up BJ Thomas or Tommy James and the Shondells and talking out loud to no one in particular save for the audience in my head.
Occasionally I would play this Statler Brothers’ 45:
It’s good to see you, I must go, I know I look a fright
Anyway my eyes are not accustomed to this light
And my shoes are not accustomed to this hard concrete
So I must go back to my room and make my day complete
Countin’ flowers on the wall
That don’t bother me at all
Playin’ solitaire till dawn with a deck of fifty-one
Smokin’ cigarettes and watchin’ Captain Kangaroo
Now don’t tell me I’ve nothin’ to do