No More Pity

Stir-crazy. That term describes me lately. Even though I get out of the house fairly often, I’m going stir-crazy. I feel the need to break out of the constricting limits of whatever has me in its grip. I don’t know whether that grip is marked by the boundaries of Hot Springs Village or the limits of Arkansas or the contours of the southern part of the country or the borders of the United States. I have the sense I would feel this sense of suffocation regardless of geography. So maybe it’s me. Maybe I need to get out of myself for a while, free from the constraints of my mind and body, and explore the universe. That’s a tall order. One doesn’t vacate one’s mind and body easily; I suspect it takes meticulous planning and copious amounts of confidence, magic, and risk tolerance.

I am experiencing my circumstances only from my jaundiced point of view. I wonder what others would say about me, watching me thrash about like a man drowning in warm wax? First, I doubt people are watching; they have their own lives to live and their own challenges to face. Second, one never knows what’s going on in another’s head; I doubt I’m displaying any overt symptoms of asphyxiation. And I probably don’t see any such signs in others. But I am sure there are those in my circle of acquaintances who feel they are about to go under for the third and final time, clogging their lungs with the denseness of the empty air around them.

Maybe we all live in our private little worlds, holding everything close as if revealing chinks in our corroded armor would assure its instant and utter destruction. So, we see barely-visible evidence of one another’s blemishes, hidden under expertly-applied superficial cosmetics. If even the slightest fissure were to appear in the paint covering those scars, the skin would peel back in sheets, revealing wounds impossible to heal.

More drama. Drama. Just effing drama. It’s not that bad. It just feels that bad sometimes. Yesterday, I went to a gathering organized by a couple to thank friends and acquaintances for their expected support during the couple’s upcoming medical crises. The husband has a difficult form of myeloma and is about to enter treatment that will involve harvesting stem cells, undergoing chemotherapy, and otherwise exposing his body to attack in the hope of saving his life. That’s a serious matter worthy of a dramatic response. My stir-craziness is a joke in comparison. I feel embarrassed to be even remotely distressed by it. But, still, it claws at me. I should feel embarrassed. Self-centered prick.

How can one adjust one’s responses to the world in which he lives so that he doesn’t gauge the quality of the world by the way he responds to it? That’s a hard concept to grasp, especially when framed that way. I understand it, though. What can I do to change the way I deal with both internal and external stimuli? That’s an easier question. And probably one for a battle-worn therapist to answer. I can imagine a psychological therapist responding to a client’s strident cries for help and understanding: “You’re behaving as if you were in a battle for your soul. In reality, your situation is more akin to being forced to choose between Cheerios and Bran Flakes.” It’s all relative.

Ultimately, I suppose, one has to decide whether his sense of sanity is sufficiently at risk to warrant just abandoning everyone and everything for a time so he can get it back. The feeling of letting people down by bailing out on promises made is a powerful negative force. But sometimes, I think, it’s the only reasonable one. Because it is possible to suffocate on Bran Flakes.

I am making sausage and cheese balls to deliver to church this morning; a commitment I made to provide “treats” today. Yesterday, my wife made something sweet to serve as her contribution. I had planned on making cookies, but she suggested I abandon that idea because she feels I’m not competent to do “baking.” I’m still angry about that suggestion, even if she might be right. One of the many horrible menaces threatening me. I should just grow up, but at sixty-six, I think it’s a little late.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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