I’ve decided to share my latest book (The All-Important, Well-Fed, Giant White Man) with my followers here, free of charge, one chapter at a time. So… Where were we on this read-along… Oh, yes…
Chapter 39 (CONCLUSION): *Finally* Waking Up
As I scan through the admittedly dusty annals I call my memory, I can very specifically remember scores of different nights in which I lay awake late into the wee hours of the morning, thinking.
I would repeatedly kick the covers off in frustration and later pull them back on again. I would shuffle from my front to my back, and from side to side. I would groan every time I looked over at the clock and see the hours advancing. Some of those nights I couldn’t sleep because of excitement. Others because of anxiety or fear. Others because of guilt, sadness, or tormenting myself about the unknown. Sometimes, it was simply the anticipation of something to come.
As I think back and try to list the mornings in which I lay in bed full of emotion, only five come to mind.
On three of those mornings, I was angry and quite literally murderous. I would reach up and thrash at the air every so often. I would yell out harshly. I would cover my face with a pillow and pray for Death to somehow arrive and take my most recent tormentor with him. I would usually curse aloud, repeatedly. I was not my usual self those three mornings, and how could I be when some damned housefly was continually landing on my face, making it impossible to sleep? You know what I’m talking about. And you know you become just as angry and murderous as I always do.
But in all seriousness, there were two mornings on which I awoke and could not make myself get out of bed for what seemed like the entire day. Both mornings I simply lay flat on my back, motionless, staring up at the ceiling above. Thinking.
The first morning was the day after my second wife unexpectedly, but expectedly, loaded-up and took off.
I felt as if a hundred-pound sack of steel marbles was planted squarely in the middle of my chest. Every failure of my life, and there were so many, haunted me in that moment. I was thirty, and I would be divorced twice. I didn’t know how that had happened. That had never been in my life plan.
As I lay there, I thought through every major aspect of my existence. I thought of whom I was to others, whom I actually was, and of whom I wished that I could openly be. And then a funny thing happened.
The sum of it all made me realize just how much I had been struggling to live a life that wasn’t actually my life at all. I realized in that moment that I would continue to fail repeatedly, and forever, so long as I kept attempting to be exactly the man whom others expected me to be; so long as I kept doing exactly what others expected me to do. It was an equation that wasn’t working, had never worked, and that would never work.
My life wasn’t failing because of some lack of effort or skill. It was failing because it wasn’t my life at all. It belonged to my parents, my friends, my neighbors, my colleagues, my siblings. This was all a momentous realization for me. And it was a consuming one, as well.
This enlightenment didn’t charge me up, or excite me, or motivate me to change things. If anything it depressed the hell out of me for some time. With a realization like that, there are really only two things I could do next, and neither of them left me feeling hopeful.
I could accept that my life wasn’t my life, and continue living that inauthentic life. While I would never be happy, this would definitely be the easier route to take. I would never lose many of my family and friends if I took that path. I could somehow still find a way to maintain the respect and admiration of others, throughout each and every failure that would come my way. It would be miserable, but it would be livable.
Or I could do an impossibly harder thing, and I could jam a flag into the cold powdery hilltop of my own existence, and declare that it now belongs to me. To do so would alienate me for sure. It would scare others. It would push many away. If this wasn’t true, everyone would live an authentic life, free from the judgments and voices of others.
In the days and weeks after my wife split, anyone who came across me could feel the sadness oozing from me. I let them just believe that I was sad over the demise of my marriage. I honestly didn’t care all too much about that, but I was thankful for the timing because it let me be sad and pensive about my own life in a time when I really needed it. I think sometimes because we want to appear as nothing but happy and positive and strong to others, we don’t properly give ourselves those moments of penetrating reflection…