Every once in a while, you have one of those moments that’s a real eye opener. Tonight was one of those moments. I was watching the World Series and it was the seventh inning. I was rooting for the Indians and they were losing. Of course this brought a flood of negative memories to the surface.
I had moved to Cleveland in 1997 when I first got married. I had run from people and places as much as I was running to someone. I had been marginalized, or I felt that way, anyway. I also felt abandoned, left out and completely alone. Those I cared for had mostly gone their separate ways, were dealing with new relationships or jobs, and I felt like the last man on the battlefield. It was as though life was passing me by, and I was squandering opportunity after opportunity. It felt like the universe was completely against me, and it just rather I go away.
More important, I was deeply, deeply lonely. I’ll spare the details of that final year in person at my college, but suffice it to say my marriage was the result of a broken heart (from many factors, not just one or two) and a severe loneliness combined with an “I don’t care” attitude. Tonight, with every strikeout the Indians took, with every run the Cubs scored, those feelings of failure and isolation flooded me more. It felt like I was reliving that awful time in my life, full of heartbreak and emotional devastation, all over again. By the seventh inning it was 6-3, Cubs winning.
The feelings between 1997, when the Indians last made the series and lost, and now span everything from depression and defeat to anger and rage. I made a great many mistakes in those intervening years, and hurt too many people to list. Honestly, I would just as soon forget much of the last twenty years ever happened, aside from a few brief times, which maybe total to about five years in all. It hasn’t been rosy, peachy or sugary sweet. But then again, marriage is never that way – it’s real, gritty, down dirty and often fucking painful as hell.
Along the way, I did a lot of things I’m not proud of. I won’t go into detail but let’s just put it this way: if I could do it all over again, i either would have left my marriage six months in and spared us the trauma, or my time on this earth would have ended around December 1997. As it stands, suicide had been considered several times over the years, but I always backed away. The pain was great, but my fear of what may – or may not – lay beyond gave me pause. Still, I honestly felt like I had missed out on so much. I spent much of my twenties just surviving, my thirties attempting to make up for my foolishness in my twenties only to repeat the cycle years later. I never had a truly “wild” or “finding myself” phase. It was like I never learned from my mistakes. I was afraid of being alone and more afraid of what my family and friends would think.
As I saw the Indians losing and felt all those awful memories hitting me, I was wondering if it was related to the people and places of that time, and then I realized, after I started writing, it was actually how I felt about myself. I felt like I was a total failure in so many ways, but I really wasn’t. It was a feeling of being incomplete because of my college education and my debt load and never truly finding a career fit, along with living in the past trying to relieve past glories and correct old defeats. I was letting other rather irrelevant things symbolize an entire narrative, and it was tearing me apart.
I started to realize that this world had a plan for me, and that this world was beautiful, when my cat Annabelle came up to me with a shoelace and wanted to play. I asked myself how such a beautiful, gentle creature could love someone like me. But she meowed and wanted daddy to play with her. That’s when I realized it: she loves me for me, the real me. Once that hit me, I began to feel better and cheered up a little bit. The world seemed a bit less cruel. The mean spiritedness, coated in the euphemisms of “getting real” and “no sugar coating,” seemed to just not matter. Even the Indians losing didn’t matter; what I cared about was this sweet cat playing with her daddy, a deeply flawed and failed man she somehow found the ability to see the best in. At that very moment, the World Series didn’t matter anymore. Those feelings of loss, humiliation, and ostracism in my final days in college, and like I was a total failure my two years in Cleveland, evaporated as I pulled the shoelace Annabelle held in her teeth. The World Series, at that moment, And truly was just a game. My cat, at that moment, was my world, and a beautiful, colorful one at that. Then something else began to overcome me, a realization of sorts.
The gears of my life which were stuck in place for so very very long we finally, at long last, beginning to turn again. I was feeling myself, after 20 years of feeling stuck in the past and dining on losses of all sorts, moving forward!
It’s very easy for us all to get caught up in our own shit and not care about anyone else. It’s extremely easy to give up on certain family and friends because they don’t fit in a nice, neat little box that is our life narrative. It’s easier still to give up on everything and just not care about people and become bitter and angry. It’s a defense mechanism we have and for some of us, it’s the only thing we can hold onto because life has dealt us one cruel blow after another. Even if a person right now doesn’t seem to have too many issues, we have no idea how childhood problems or abuse or family issues or even genetics contributed to their current state of mind. Tonight I recognized a feeling, accepted it for what it was and, by writing this blog, healed just a little. Still, it was incredibly empowering to do so, and I have a sweet little calico cat to thank for helping me do it.
And, by the way, the Indians lost to the Cubs in 10 innings, after a rain delay, and that’s okay. They got further than 15 other teams in the American League, and I’m further ahead now that I identified a trigger and effectively accepted it. I’d call that a “win-win.”