Tales of Despair: Oh, For the Dark World

The Days of Light

Once, there was a world filled with light, and love.

There was a home, whole and fine, even if it changed into different homes over the years. The home was warm in the winter and had a fire, and was cool in the summer with open windows. There were woods to explore, bikes to ride and paths to follow. There were bright toys, shades of color and paper to take them, and a pen to write down the adventures of the mind.

There were walks in the forest, great trees towering monumentally overhead, cascades pouring down through the green glens. There were great treks of many days across the mountains, soaring peaks and biting rock and shivering snow, a tent pitched by a crystal alpine lake, and the wonder of a map as it led down twisting and winding roads.

There were friends who would come to birthdays, who would bike to school and who would go rock climbing on Fridays. There were beloved teachers and caring parents, if a little overbearing. They encouraged and fostered, gave love and grew confidence. There was music, and there was writing, and there was the soar of the imagination. There was a full life, and there was joy.

 

The Days of Dark

And then, one day, the light and love disappeared.

The home became a prison, one that changed into other prisons over the years. The windows remained shut, and the shades were drawn. The fire became candles, lit only in the depths of the night, in a room all alone, the door locked. The woods were forgotten, the bikes gathering cobwebs. All the colors turned to black, and the toys…they turned to razors.

The trees appeared gnarled and twisted, even in the midst of summer; their towering heights now oppressed, threatening to crush and choke from above. The mountains became evil, and a jailer, a torment that prevented the comfort of a bed in a corner in the dark. The world was dim, and the sun failed to pierce both eyelid and heart.

The old friends left; new friends came, and shared the blackness of the world. They would drive to school with doom on the radio, and would go drinking on Fridays. The teachers and parents looked with sadness and despair, and all their encouragement fell on deaf ears, their love on a broken soul. There was no confidence, no hope, and the imagination saw only the ending of all life. There was an empty life, and there was misery.

 

The Days of Gray

And so life went on, for many years. There was no going back, no return to the days of light. The nature of the darkness changed as the homes once did, but always against a background of blackest black. There were days when life was bearable, and days when rising from bed was more effort than there was to spare.

But there was one, a single person who refused to give up. One who would not accept the lethargy, who refused to allow the darkness to thrive. She fought, and for her efforts received anger, and abuse. But in the face of this was an indomitable will, a knowledge that, free of the pits of despair, there was a soul worth saving.

And there was a child. A precious, tiny child who did’t — who couldn’t — understand the darkness. A child who did not deserve to be subjected to its despair. And that broken soul, it saw the child, and for the first time in forgotten years, knew that here was a thing to live for. The survival of this infant life was, if nothing else, the sole reason to begin to fight the darkness.

The battle is far from won. There have been great triumphs, and even greater falls. Wonderful joy when the child shows thoughtfulness and caring, and the deepest guilt and shame when it displays the same rage and obstinacy of its father. And what makes it all the harder is that, in the face of inarguable proof that the darkness must be abandoned, that broken, stained soul still longs for it with a great, empty ache. The darkness lived for too long, and is now an inseparable part of life, no easier parted with than one’s own finger.

But the struggle will continue, and it will continue because of that one, single person, and the child she gave him.

 

I love you, sweetie.

Satis 2012

Thought of the Week: Them’s Fightin’ Words

I sort of need to make it abundantly clear from the outset tonight that I love my wife very much. Just so you know, sweetie.

My wife and I have known each other for almost ten years. It’s the longest either of us have been in a relationship, which is either very encouraging, or incredibly depressing (depending on how you look at it). There’s a lot we’ve learned together, not the least of which was how to raise a child. I’ll boast a little here and say I’ve probably done most of the learning: I’ve learned to cook (badly), I’ve learned to clean (badly), I’ve learned not to leave the toilet seat up (mostly), and I’ve learned it’s not okay to steal the covers back in the middle of the night, even in February.

My wife has learned that I can be a real jerk (too often).

I’ve learned that my wife should matter more than myself (she already knew that). I’ve also learned that shoulds aren’t necessarily dos, and that there’s a lot more learning to go. I should wipe the stove; I should turn the lights out when I leave the room; I should massage her feet every night.

I should.

And hey – there are times I do these things. Usually I don’t do them very well (except for the light thing, that’s kind of black and white (ha!)), but I do try to do them. Now trying, of course, just isn’t good enough, as my wife knows, so I’ll keep trying harder. Some day I may actually succeed!

Yet…I feel there is one thing I have not learned, and – sorry for this, sweetie – I don’t think she’s learned either, which is this: to not take each other’s frustrations personally. We fight, we do. We fight a lot. I kind of don’t have much of a reference for this, but I hear that most people don’t quite fight so much. And I start wondering why.

I am usually exceptionally good at understanding other people, establishing empathy and predicting their behavior. I am, by my trade, an excellent listener and verbal communicator. I can express concepts simply and clearly, and I can make people feel good about bad situations.

So why do my words fail me with my wife? Why do I end up screaming at the top of my lungs at the person I should love above all others, about…freakin’ blinds?

(Why, for that matter, do my powers of self-analysis equally fail me when I try to figure these things out?)

All I can think is this: when my wife says something critical of me, I feel hurt; I feel devastated. When someone at work says the same thing, I am able to take it at face value, respond in kind, and learn from the experience. With my wife…I either imitate a hedgehog or the Incredible Hulk.

The irony is that I believe she gets frustrated just as equally, but at something entirely different: my lack of ability to listen to, and act upon, her critiques. Can anyone see the cycle here yet? It is a personal affront to her – an insult, even – for me to forget to take out the garbage when I told you to last night! If you see what I mean.

So where to go? What to do? I love her; she (should) know that. She loves me, and I (should) know that, also. But when I piss her off, her response pisses me off, and that response pisses her off, and before you know it we’re in a free-for-all piss-fight and I explode out of my shirt and leap through the roof (in actuality, I can be quite scary).

I suppose ultimately, I just want to feel listened to. Uh…I guess she probably feels the same.

So when can we talk?

Happy Birthday to my Wife

Happy birthday, you.

We’ve been through a lot, you and I. Ten years, four homes, two countries and one son (I’m still not entirely clear on what happened there…) later, and, to my astonishment, you’re still here. Um…how come?

Not that I’m complaining. See, you make life a lot easier for me. To start with, you earn more than I do, so I never really have to worry about feeling superior, financially speaking. You’re also much smarter than I am, so I don’t have to worry about feeling superior there, either. Personally, I also think you’re a lot better looking than me too, though I am rather dashing.

You also cook. And that’s nice, because I can’t. Yes, I make the pancakes on the weekend and the odd stir-fry with way too much soy sauce, but you know what your fudge does to me…

And you clean. Which is also nice, because I don’t.

In short, you make things happen. You’re an incessant doer, and while I know it stresses you out – me too – I want you to know that I notice. There are a hundred little things you do that, whether I say it or not, I notice. And there are a million other little things you do that, of course, I don’t. And you know what? You don’t really berate me all that much for it. Not really…

Oh, and your ability to make me feel wrong about everything is a blessing, because I’m right way too much of the time.

So what does all this mean? Perhaps on my birthday, you can tell me what I mean to you, but right now, at the risk of making this all about myself (I know you’ll forgive me – I never do that), I want you to know what you mean to me. This isn’t something I say enough.

The simplest way I can put it is this: you saved me. Think of it as tough love, but I would not be who I am today without you. I probably wouldn’t even be, today. How did you do that?

By being an incessant nag, and not ever accepting it when I didn’t want to go to therapy, or take the pills, or admit to my anger problems. By repeating yourself until you’re blue in the face, until finally something you said makes it into my thick skull. By making it impossible for me to harm myself, because you wouldn’t ignore it. By raging at me when I spent an entire day moping at home and not getting anything done. By raging at me whenever I don’t get something done, period. By making me realize that being numb and depressed just isn’t the way to live with other people.

In a nutshell, you’ve stood by me long after any other sane person would have walked away in disgust. You never gave up on me.

And you gave me a son (I suppose I gave you one as well – a kind of mutual birthday present). It wasn’t what I expected, but that’s okay, because I’ve come to quite like the little guy. Every time I’ve thought it was all pointless, that I couldn’t carry on, that life wasn’t worth living, I’ve seen his beautiful face, and realized that there was something I simply couldn’t leave behind; something I couldn’t live without.

You have given me something most people don’t get in a lifetime, and you’ve given it to me twice: unconditional love. I have it from our son, and I have it from you. You might disagree (I hope not), but I don’t have any other explanation for why you’re still here after ten years, four homes, two countries and a son. I haven’t exactly made it worth your while.

So I’m going to give you the best day I can tomorrow. You’re in control, even if we don’t go to see the movie at the only theater in town that’s showing it that I already bought the tickets for. Because that doesn’t matter, if it makes you happy, and helps you to forget your stress for just one day. And one day is probably all it’ll be, because I’m sure I’ll be pissing you off again right away.

So happy birthday, sweetie. I love you more than you know, and I can’t wait to get really, really old, and know that you’ll be there with me.

Yours forever,

 

Your husband