It’s been difficult to adjust.
I didn’t anticipate the nervousness, the fear, the anxiety. I guess it was from the loss of the familiar, or that I took the familiar for granted.
It was supposed to be an adventure, this move to Virginia for four months. A chance to see how another VA public affairs shop operates, to see another part of the country and to break out of a hermit state I had fallen into.
Apparently, I was more hermetically sealed than I knew.
Don’t get me wrong – the people at this office have been overwhelmingly nice. I’m doing work I wanted to do. The surroundings are great.
So, what’s my problem? It’s the same problem. It’s one that may have no solution other than muddling through. I hate muddling through. I’ve been muddling through since 2011. A life ended and another one started and it was an internal life that died and what replaced it was someone I didn’t want to be but was afraid to not to be.
It’s not Pittsburgh. But then, once, it wasn’t Cleveland. Or Cedar Rapids. Or Bloomington, Illinois. Or it wasn’t this newspaper or this radio station or it wasn’t a bookstore in Chardon, Ohio.
When I used to be braver to the point of recklessness. When I lived on the edge and didn’t know it. When I moved on impulse, rationality be damned.
I left a lot of wreckage. I ran into a buzz saw. I fought for three years to keep my job and my sanity. I got PTSD. I got new drugs. I got paranoid to the point where I cannot stand people being decent to me.
No therapy, no drug, has worked. The drugs may be hurting me in ways I don’t know. But which ones? I don’t know.
What do I want? I don’t know. I’m alone in this room in Richmond, Virginia and I still don’t know who I am or what will make me happy. I lost my energy and zest for living and I don’t know how to get it back.
And the thing I really hate is that to an objective observer, I have nothing to complain about. Nobody sees or feels the loneliness in a crowd, the maddening anxiety, the crushing depression. I don’t really want anyone to see it anyway. I try to practice gratefulness. It just doesn’t come. I try to reconcile what happened in my childhood. It never leaves me – I still dream about all of it and I can’t stop it. I can’t stop my mind enough to meditate. I can’t forgive myself for what I’ve done. I feel ugly on the inside and outside.
What does a person like me do? I don’t expect anyone to understand the totality of it all.
But deep down inside I know I have so much to offer. But like the person who got burned too many times on a hot stove I’m afraid to try again. People scare me in a weird way.
I have the day off. I went to Planet Fitness here. There’s a guy in a beat-up little car with a wild red beard and he’s out of place. He’s looking around in a strange way. I think he’s looking for cars to rob. I tell myself this is irrational. But aren’t we supposed to trust that little voice inside us to protect us?
I leave to get gas and fiddle with my dash cam and return to the parking lot but if he’s still there I’m not going in.
His car is still there. I don’t see him.
I park a few rows away. I move closer row by row. He’s not there. So, I pull up next to his car and then I see it: all the clothes and stuff in the car. He lives in the car. He’s at Planet Fitness to take care of personal cleanliness. I should go in and work out. I don’t. And I hate myself. Classist. Yes. Fearful of the other. Yes. Does it matter if I’ve been burned before? Or is it just an excuse to be a shitty person? The fear is genuine. Hell, I’m weird and broken enough. I go back to the hotel.
The woman at the desk is joined by another woman. When I left, I asked for a light in my room to be changed and for maid service. I also explained about my 30-day vouchers I had to file for the government and wondered if I could keep the room, etc.
Now they just want to know which government agency I work for. Friendly like. Just curious.
So, I tell them, nervously making small talk. Later I wonder if I would have created tension if I had offered to retrieve my government ID?
Am I overthinking everything? Yes, always. Can I help it? Apparently not. The world which was once so wondrous and open for discovery is now so threatening.
Outside’s the rain, the driving snow
I can hear the wild wind blowing
Turn out the light, bolt the door
I ain’t going out there no more
This whole world is out there just trying to score
I’ve seen enough I don’t wanna see any more
Cover me, come on in and cover me . . .
- Bruce Springsteen, Cover Me