Being an excercise in self-pity
I’ve been aware of this weight as long as I can remember. Even before things got bad and I found myself, at the worst, parenting my own parents, it was the burden of understanding. You can’t be a totally carefree child when you understand too much. Even my “pretending” had to conform to the laws of physics and morality, as I understood them. You can’t laugh at the things adults say when they make too much sense.
And the years went by and there were the days when my dad stayed in bed all day and we wouldn’t have eaten if I hadn’t cooked, and the days I reassured mom over and over again that she wasn’t a terrible person. And there were the friends, some older and some younger, for whom I was the young sage, dispensing wisdom as best I could. And there was the church which could never meet my emotional or spiritual needs, and so naturally put me in the only position I fit: leadership. And there were the hurt and lonely girls that saw in me a false messiah, a pedestal I tried and inevitably failed to live up to.
And I grew older, and how could I be anything but the uber-responsible, mature-beyond-his-years, precocious young man everyone had been assuring me I was for my entire life? I knew the only way I would find peace and safety from the chaos of my father’s house was to make a place of my own. So when the opportunity came to work full time I jumped at it, and I moved into an apartment of my own and bought a car. And I worked, and I paid my bills on time, and I took care of the car, and I furnished my apartment and kept it clean, and I didn’t party or drink much or do anything irresponsible. These were my 18th and 19th years.
And all the time, along with the aching loneliness, my awareness of the weight grew. I was a boy in an adult world, with no safety net now. I was a proffessional, and had to act the part. It was up to me to make sure I got up and arrived at work on time. I felt a constant pressure to “hold up my end”, to stay totally together and on top of things. Perhaps I had always been an adult in my mind, but now there was no one in the pilot’s seat ready to take the controls should I lose it.
But I felt that all my labors would be rewarded. I felt that I was creating a space where someday, in the distant future, I would be safe to fall apart. I was building a stable life for myself, the first I had ever known, so that somehow the child I had suppressed for so long might one day be safely allowed out.
I don’t quite know why, but I equated that day with marriage. I saw marriage as the goal toward which my efforts led. I would bypass all of the games and uncertainty of the dating scene, I would marry my best friend, and I would create the cohesive family that I never really had. And then, I felt, I would finally be able to let go a little. I’d be able to fall apart – knowing that there would be someone there to help put me back together. If I lost my job, there’d be someone to make ends meet until I found another. I’d be able to face the world knowing someone had my back. I could party without the misery of going home alone. I could make female friends without any romantic tension. I could make a fool of myself and know that there was someone who still believed in me.
My life is characterized by restraint and control. I have been holding myself, and often those around me, together as long as I can remember. I have been waiting my whole life to let go, to fall apart, to be a child.
I’m still waiting.