Ch. 04. The Poet’s Path: A Life of Pain

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The Poet’s Path: A Life of Pain

Never does a day pass by that I don’t think about the things that happened leading up to today. During those moments in time they didn’t seem to be all that important, but now looking back they seem to mean a whole lot more; now that they are gone.

Thumbing through my photos of yesterdays, I am reminded of the opportunities I had to change my ways, to say the things that should have been said, to do the things that should have been done. Why does everything become so clear after the fact?

Time is such a wretch. It goes by so fast when we don’t want it to and when we wish that it would pick up the pace it slows to a viscus state.

There are some people who have parted ways with my life that I wish I could meet at least one last time. To get a second chance to say that I’m sorry, to get a chance to redeem myself. And the thing is, there are people in my life now who won’t be someday and when that happens I’ll feel the same way and wish for the same thing.

Parting with people for me is like feeling they have died, especially if they move beyond communication. They become ghosts in my dreams, figments of something that never really was; just a made-up world of characters. More often than not, when I find out that they are leaving, I turn them into enemies to make it easier for me to let them go. It’s so much easier to wave off enemies than allies.

It never takes long after goodbye that I find myself making contact with regret. I start hating myself a little more, start feeling a little more stupid. Sometimes I am just too stubborn to move outside of my comfort zone and if there isn’t a reason for me to stay in it, I’ll create one.

I’ve been trying for a long time to be better than who I am. I wish that I could talk more, be more involved in what’s around me. It’s just so damn hard; maybe it’s because of where I come from, maybe it’s because of what happened to me or maybe it’s because subconsciously I don’t want to change.

No one has a clue how much I’d love to be like everybody else, be more social, more active in volunteer stuff, spend my nights with friends, go back to college, travel beyond the walls that bind me. There seems to be a chain on my ankle, a piece of lead in my stomach weighing me down, and an anti-social demon in my head called depression.

I’ve been through counseling, I’ve been on medications, I’ve read the best books, tried to change my faith, even tried to change my scenery for a short time. I abandoned friends, cut the ties of relatives, allowed myself to hate some people – just to give me a reason to leave.

Thinking of the life of a poet, the best example that comes to my mind, the one that my mind relates to the most is Edgar Allen Poe. But I prefer to write with philosophical overtones like Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Some say that merely wanting to change can be enough to give you the opportunity to do so. I’ve thought about that and have truly tried to act differently, but it never lasts. My mood changes too often for me to maintain a certain kind of mindset.

I remember times back then when I wanted to change so bad, there probably wasn’t much I wasn’t willing to do. I kept myself aware of opportunities to mark the day I’d set myself on a different path. But those days my mind was distorted, my eyes cloudy, my perception easily altered and my thoughts easily persuaded.

There were points in my life that I felt as though I’d never be any different than I was at that moment. Those thoughts usually led to deeper and darker things, an ever-increasing feeling of desperation. At that point only one thing seems to assure a state of change and that was death.

Once during my second heavy battle with depression, 2004-2005, on my way to work one morning I thought about pushing the gas peddle all the way down and driving my vehicle off the road on purpose in order to crash and hopefully kill myself.

Those were very dark days, but darker still was the day I actually came to peace with the fact that I was ready to die.

I feel as though these things, as tragic as this sounds, are really what makes me a good writer. To me, the best poets and authors are the ones who have lived through terrible things and were able to write about them. Such an example is Victor Frankl, who survived concentration camps during the Holocaust and wrote one of the greatest short books I have ever read, “Man’s Search For Meaning”.

To me, people never really get over things like that, like this. Sure we become ’stronger” because of them, our hearts scar over and become a little tougher, we become a little more numb to the pains of life, but the memory of what we felt never really goes away.

In “Premonitions/Restitutions” I wrote, “I don’t write for anyone’s attention.” That’s not really true. I do write to get people’s attention. Writing is my best form of communication, without it I don’t know what would have come of me.

In current times I worry about all those soldiers and marines coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan. I’m sure that many have found ways to deal with the things they have seen and done, but for those who have not or cannot – for them I worry.

I know what it is like to live with thoughts in your head, the kind that plague you, the ones that haunt you. The memories that live in your dreams, that can awaken at any moment during the day. The kind you can’t forget no matter how hard you try, no matter how busy you try to make yourself, no matter what you become addicted to. Those things you’ve seen and heard will flash and echo in your head ’til death.

Living with them is so difficult that all too often it seems easier and somehow inviting to just let go, to just give up. No where else seems to give you rest, no comfort, no refuge. In the calm silence of night, sleep frightens you because you know that even in your dreams you cannot escape as you awaken in a panic attack having relived what you wish so hard to forget.

There were days I didn’t want to be near guns because the only thing that came into my mind was putting the barrel to my head. It’s so hard to explain this to people who haven’t lived it. I never had to force myself to think of doing it, my mind would automatically be filled with the action of raising the barrel… the scenario would play over and over.

The things I have endured have somehow humbled me, somehow given me insight into things that others, I pray, never know for themselves.

One thing that still terrifies me, is that there are people out there who endure even worse things, who witness much darker things, who suffer greater losses and they live with it alone, outside of the acknowledgement of their fellow human beings, intentionally or not. It concerns me, as it should everyone, what comes of these people, what comes of the troops, or anyone else who is burdened by the effects of trauma. I literally feel pain, like a punch to the stomach or a crushing in my chest when I hear or read about those whom find their only relief at the end of a barrel, at the end of a rope, at the sharp end of a razor.

Can I ever blame them or even hate them for ever making that choice? No, I cannot because I know their series of thought. I can only blame the rest of us for not saving them, for not showing them the light at the end of their dark tunnel, I can only hate myself for not finding the courage to step forward, to rise up from the crowd and speak out about this on a grand scale. I can only feel ashamed of myself for being a survivor and knowing that I could do more.

Recommended Reading:

Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness

The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression


Listen to the author read this writing and others on SoundCloud: