There is a fine line between us and the edge.
Sometimes we feel as if we are teetering over it . . . the edge, I mean.
I know this because I have visited this edge several times myself.
I recall standing at the driver’s side door of my car while parked in front of a momentary place I called home. I remember the stillness of my town during a quiet Sunday morning. I could hear the sound of Church bells nearby and felt an overwhelming sense of awareness as I awoke in the aftermath of my behavior.
I stood between myself and change. I was at a crossroad and there was no one else around but me. There was no warmth for my hand—there was nothing but the ending results of my choices and my last few possessions.
In a struggle to find myself, I was lost in my own misdirection. There was no one for me to turn and ask for help. The fire’s light from the bridges I burned had all faded and I was lost in my own self-created darkness.
To give a visual effect as an analogy or symbolic description:
I felt as if I were in a colorless world where everything was nothing more than muted shades of gray. Imagine a barren intersection with roads going north, south, east, and west.
Picture a lifeless desert, sand colored, with faded blacktop roads and scattered white dividing lines which head in either of four, unknown directions.
Imagine a dead tree with gnarled and black limbs, broken and haunted, to stand like a skeleton near the intersection and act as a symbol of despair. Suppose heat from the broken pavement is whirring upwards in blurry lines of mirage-like waves, and visualize a place so desolate that not even vultures turn in the sky. Imagine this picture.
I call it “Depression.”
My love life was empty with nothing else but spurts of physical moments to gratify my needs and act like a temporary fix or drug. My friendships had all dwindled and my family was distant. My mother moved south to live in the gray-haired palm tree life of retirement. My father was gone and my Aunt, who was also like a second mother to me had passed as well. My bills and rent were due but the amount of my debt outweighed the total in my bank account.
I felt the unmistakable chill of loneliness. I heard the vacant echoes of an empty room and came to an understanding that I was the key ingredient to my outcome.
This is when I wanted to run most. It has been said by many and written by some, “I’ve wanted to run away more as an adult than ever before as a child.” Perhaps this is said because there is truth to these words. At least, there is in my case.
I’ve thought of it. . .
I thought of box cars and long empty freight trains, which slowly creep over tracks in an endless line, heading west, with old hobos sipping from a bottle and seeking warmth while hiding from trainmen, or conductors whose job is to weed out the undesirable cargo, or leech-like, parasite homeless, who look for a free ride across this great country with dreams of being better someplace else.
There was something poetic to this idea. There was something poetic about the loneliness of a last, self-rolled cigarette, and the way its smoke twirled upwards while dangling between a man’s fingers. There was even beauty to the tragedy of an empty bottle of some cheap-rotgut brand of say, Boone’s Farm wine, Thunderbird, or Mad Dog 20-20.
Or if not on a train, there was a freedom or revolution to the deep rumble of a poor-sounding muffler shaken at the rear-end of some large, boat-like car, whose mileage and age survived the time, but its beauty was lost after years of battle. I could put the key in the ignition, turn it, and go.
No clothes, no luggage, no direction; just a tank of gas paid for by the final collection of nickels and dimes, and in some short hours—I could be anywhere else in the world or hopefully far enough away from the whereabouts of my poor choices.
I wanted to run, but I was wired to a life with too many connections that held me back. I had responsibilities, and though emotionally, I wanted to shed my skin and be someone else in someplace different; intellectually, I knew that running away was not possible..
There was nowhere to run, and in truth, running never works. Though they may appear to be slow-moving, the legs that run beneath our consequences will never tire. They will never stop. They will continue—relentlessly onward—and they will always tail behind us.
I felt as if there was no way for me to escape. There was no way to breathe easy. There was no moment of reprieve and no break long enough to catch my breath and stay one step ahead of my casualties.
I have had conversations with those who sought long-term comfort in places like mental-institutions or prison. True, there was no freedom; however, freedom means different things to different people. There were no large, opened fields with fresh air and picture-perfect skies. But here were also no bills. There were no worries about health insurance or medication. There was no grocery needs, or worries about food or drink.
True, their life became a regiment in either hospital corridors, or they were kept behind concrete walls, bulletproof glass, or barred doors, and windows with wire mesh embedded inside to separate the view between an inmate and outside’s freedom.
But there were also no risks or fear of the unreturned. There was no need to dare or aim for anything higher than a physical need to survive. I mention the physical need to survive because though physical might is powerful in many cases—emotional weakness is often overpowering and far more damaging than a blow to the chin.
The inmates I spoke to understood this. They understood the basic rules of combat. And rather than fear it; they depended upon its brutality because although it may seem barbaric to some; it is honest and dependable to them. There are no gray areas. There is only black or white, life or death, and survival of the fittest.
To the inmates I spoke with, there is nothing more than the basic rules of engagement. But in trade, the inmate relinquished their rights to love or become properly loved by their family and others. They had given up children, wives, girlfriends and more. They had given away their physical space, and whether admittedly or not, they voluntarily removed themselves from our large society and enclosed their world into a smaller, more manageable cage.
They scaled life down to the least common denominator; whereas the fear of physical damage remained, it by far outweighed the unthinkable scars of emotional heartbreak or rejection.
And while outwardly hating their surroundings, outwardly hating the closed-in rooms, the walls, the guards, wardens, doctors, and all that encapsulated them—in some way, the inmates I spoke with depended upon it to save them from themselves. . .
Standing at the crossroad, there were four directions I could choose from. Rather than calling these directions north, south, east or west; I choose to call three of the paths by different names. I call them jails, institutions, and death. Only one road leads towards life—and this is the road I chose.
I was taught an acronym in the youth of my sobriety. The acronym is, “F.E.A.R.” which allows me the choice to do either one of two things.
I can either “Fuck Everything and Run,” or I can “Face Everything and Recover.”
I chose to recover. I felt an awareness or what I considered to be a spiritual uprising. And I brought myself to my version of the Lord, or to the atheist, I spoke out to ask and plea for forgiveness with hopes to exchange my sins for a sense of peace.
While at my worst in either physical addictions or emotional downfalls, I landed at a bottom, which at the time seemed bottomless. The language I understood and the thoughts I knew to be normal were suddenly strange and foreign. I grew tired of the same process and continuously proving my insanity with the same results.
I stood at the crossroad and felt the overwhelming peace of a decision I once considered to be weak. I chose to surrender.
I chose to give in and give way. I chose to relinquish my demons as well as my outrage. I chose the better road and rather than Fuck Everything and Run, I chose to Face Everything and Recover..
True, the legs that ran beneath my consequences had finally caught me. But there was a benefit to this which meant I no longer needed to run. At last, I was able to sit still without feeling as if someone or something was breathing its hot heavy breath against my neck. At last, I chose a different road and the weight of my depression began to shed. Rather than feeling as if I were stuck at a barren intersection, I chose the healthiest of all four directions. Eventually, the desert-like road and lifelessly gray surrounding I used as a description—slowly changed into color.
Or better, and in bolder terms—I was no longer lifeless and gray
I am not saying this was easy
But if I can do it
. . . so can you!