Letters From the Eastside – Letter Seven

Dear Cousin Contagious,

I think that you would understand this letter more than anyone else which is why I am sending this to you instead of Mother Directional or Father Correctional. First, I want to let you know that regardless of our location or positions in life, I think that you and I can relate on a few things.
I suppose Sister Serenity might understand and perhaps Brother Exceptional would too but there is something different about us.
I am of the belief that there is something different about a person who comes with lived experience. There’s something beneficial about sharing our thoughts or feelings with someone who understands the smell of the Earth or the vomit that occurs after a bad day’s night. 

It is amazing to me how we separate ourselves between better and worse. I say this because there is no better and there is no worse. There’s only different levels of thinking and different degrees of personality disorders, which if you ask me – I think it’s safe to assume that everyone has a disorder of some kind.
We all have a few skeletons in the closet and I’m sure that you’ll agree when I say that everyone has secrets. Maybe the saying is true that some are sicker than others (and maybe I’m one of the “some” and you are too).
But this is not just limited to us or to people who’ve had a so-called questionable past or who’ve lived with questionable decisions. We all have our own secrets which, of course, I think this is why people say “you’re only as sick as your secrets.”

I remember you telling me once about your feelings when being around certain people. Whether this was a powerhouse in business or if this was the overly successful or the so-called achiever, or if this was the case of another educational snob or someone who topped the mountain with multiple diplomas and PHD’s on the wall; either way, the list could go on and I’m sure there’s always a reason to be uncomfortable around somebody. But the fact is, if you wipe their assets away and remove their masks or disguises and you take away their titles, who are these people anyway?

Better yet, why do we even care who anyone is? Why do we find ourselves wrapped up in what other people think or say? Is it that we need their approval so badly? Or is this a case that we are so unsure of ourselves that someone else needs to validate who we are? As if we don’t even know who we are unless someone else tells us so. . .
Why do we get involved with games like this?

Job titles to the side and regardless of someone’s bank accounts or the size of their homes or their nameplates on the doors to their office at work, no one is above life’s experiences. No one goes through life without a scratch and no one is beyond crazy thoughts.
People might not be honest or open about their truths and they may smile or pretend to be on the level, but the truth is everyone has something beneath their surface.

I’ve always wanted to be a part of something.
Do you know what I mean?
I’ve always wanted to find a place where I belong. And there would be no questions. No doubts. There’d be no consideration or worries that I might lose my relevance or that somehow, someone new, brighter, sparkly, or more interesting would come along and take my spot.
I’ve always wanted to find a place in my heart where I could call home and there’d be no need to look to the left or wonder if the grass is greener on my right.
No, because I would have a presence of self and an understanding of my worth. I would know my place. I would be fine with what people said because I’d be able to stop the spiral from the question machine. I’d be fine to be me and walk away from the ideas that fill the mind with doubt.

By the way, there’s a reason why I tell you this:
I can say that I have met miserable people of all kinds. I’ve met people who sit in the corner office inside big office suites whose names are on the door and whose executive assistants are positioned right outside and with all they have, their insecurity is still alive and wreaking havoc in their minds. I’ve seen them lie, cheat and steal. Meanwhile, the world is theirs and they have everything they need. They can have anything they want – and still, they steal whatever they can and take from those who need the most.

I have seen people who would appear to have it all yet inside themselves is a dense blackness or a form of vapidness. It’s like an emptiness which otherwise consumes them and blurs the idea of right or wrong because to them, there is no right or wrong. There’s only the need to fill an empty spot or stoke the ego or scratch an itch in an otherwise unreachable place – so to a person like this, all they know is the desire to claim more.

I mean this in a sense where money and power are like grains of sand in the size of an ocean-like current. Nothing is enough. Success falls short. The attention and approval they require is unquenchable; therefore, they can never be happy and they’ll never be satisfied. Nothing fills the bottomless pit – it’s more like a vacuum of the soul. You can placate it for a while. You can solve or fix a temporary moment in time but, in the end, the neediness becomes ongoing.

I’ve seen people on hospital gurneys whose life would otherwise be picture perfect. I’ve spoken to those whose homes are more than just extravagant; a two-car garage and a detached three-car garage across from home in their huge driveway. This is where they store their collectibles cars – and some of the cars might be on lifts so this way, they can store their flashy little convertibles, or their Aston Martin, their Porsche, or their 61’ Ferrari GT California to keep them safe from the rain.
They have all of this. They have all the money they need. They have food in their fridge and art on their walls. They have a family and they have friends (or at least they have so-called friends) and they have every comfort imaginable. But even with all they have; nothing fills their emptiness so as much as they have, they really don’t have anything. 

I’ve seen people like this during my tours inside of emergency rooms. They are people who nearly died and who nearly ended their lives by their own hand – either that, or it was a drug that almost swept them away and the needle marks in their arms were tracks to their destruction.
I have met with people who had everything yet they had nothing. All they had was a desire to feel something unreachable. All they had was a shared sense of being misplaced or out of sorts. There was nothing substantial to them or for them. There was only a need to breathe and feel comfortable or to “not” have to prove themselves or be “on” all the time – and, of course, this is life though.
We live in the real world and the talk in our heads is always going. They’re always speaking and if we’re honest, the ideas in our head can speak louder than anyone else.
So, there’s no rest for the weary. There’s no place to hide for those who bleed outwardly. There’s nowhere to hide for people who cannot seem to get away from themselves. All there is are the thoughts that betray us and keep us crazy.

I tell you this because this has nothing to do with wealth. This has nothing to do with poverty. This has nothing to do with our levels of education nor does this have anything to do with our job titles or the positions we hold down at the factory. No, this is all part of our personal chemistry. 

I have always wondered how some people can endure and others seem to fold or give in. At the same time, I wonder why there are people who buckle when they go without attention or feeling the soothing goodness of compliments and there are others who will oppositely succeed whether people notice them or not. 

I wonder why we seek attention and validation as if this were the same need as food to eat or air to breathe. I wonder about this because it is true. I wonder about this because to me, it appears this is the difference between success and the appearance of being successful. One is real and the other is just a masquerade.

Success is a feeling. Success is a mindset. And I know that we both understand this. Perhaps we understand this all too well because we understand what it seems like to believe we are unsuccessful. Therefore, we play the part.
We feel empty or as if something about us is missing. We find ourselves starved for attention and starved for validation – goddammit man, we just want to be noticed and “be alright!” Whether this comes or not, when you’re feeling empty, there comes a time when the applause or the accolades are quiet.
The crowd you’ve played to has all gone home and the toys and the trophies are simply material bullshit. 

If there’s nothing in the tank, then there’s nothing in the tank – or, what I mean is if there is nothing inside of us, except for the empty hole, then there’s nothing else but the swirls like a bottomless pit. Then nothing can help us. Not the accolades. Not the big contract from your literary agent. Not the new car in the driveway – or even the fact that we have a driveway and we’re not living out of a shelter or in a dumpster somewhere.
Nothing can fill the infinite emptiness. Not the warmth or a smooth touch of a beautiful hand. Not the love of our closest loved ones. No job title can cure this. No pill can correct us. No worthy item would have enough value to merit our lives. No, not in this case. Here’s what’s crazy: I think more people feel this way than not!

I can see how this blinds us from reality. I can see where we go wrong or how we stray from the path. I can see this because when you see yourself empty, nothing fills the depths of the soul – and that’s sad for us. But this is also sad for those who love us.
This is sad for the people who love you or me because this leads them to wonder why their love isn’t enough. But this is enough. In fact, the wealth of their love is not the case and without it we would truly be broke – but still, this is the fact that our love for us is lacking and that to us, we could never be enough nor would we ever be enough – so, we want more and we take more but nothing ever satisfies the heart.

We lose to the blurring fascinations and we give in to the idea of external remedies, which are really just another line of bullshit. We buy and we spend and we play the role – even if we can’t afford this or even if we can’t be “it,” we can still try to play the part – or we fake it until we make it, so-to-speak. 

I will share this with you because I believe in our confidence together. I am not so brave and at times, I am afraid that I am too weak. I am afraid that my beliefs of inadequacy might overrun my surface-level approach to act “as if.”
I’m afraid that all of my actions from things I’ve done out of insecurity will come back to find me – and then I will face the shame and deal with the degradation – or worse, I’ll be alone because this is what I deserve.
I write this to you now because I know you are in a humble position. I wanted you to know this because there might be a mismatch in our belief system. This is why I thought it would be best if I sent this to you.

I am no different from the sick or the crazy. I might be able to afford an outfit or two and be sure that my insurance is paid up. I can certainly buy a meal for myself but still, I have a long list of doubts. I have more insecurities than the average person.
I have my questions of self, which are ideas that suggest that I am flawed and ugly, that no one will ever convince me I am beautiful, worthy, deserving, or that I am valuable to this world.
I am writing this to you with an honest intention to remove judgment. I want to humanize this and normalize the conversation so that you know my words are true.
Therefore, I am coming to you as a real person in this world. I am not coming to you as someone better or above or as someone who knows more or needs to prove myself.
No. Not at all.

My special cousin, I’m coming to you as a person in this world who loves you and who knows the smell of the Earth. I know the feeling of scraped knees and a broken heart. I am a person who has experienced the feelings of being uncomfortable or out of place. 

Perhaps if we talk this way and are honest with each other, maybe we can normalize the conversations that we have with one another. This way we can be honest without the threat of judgment.
We can talk and say what we need to say instead of pretending to be “okay” all of the time.
Dammit all, no one is okay all the time.
No one!

I know this is long. But to me, this is worth every sentence. To me, this is worth every paragraph because when I was humbled and in trouble, I honestly believed that no one would care about me. I believed that everything I had done was something that made me unworthy. My past was the result of me as a person. I never believed anyone would care if they knew “the real” me. I certainly never believed that any God (if there is one) or any person or program would help me. 

So, for what it’s worth – I wanted to tell you that there were times when I was alone in my life. I wanted to send you this because there were times when I believed that no one cared. Nor would they care.
And sure, people will say that they care. They’ll tell you anything you want to hear. But regardless of what people say, I know there were times when I believed so little about myself that no one would be able to reach me.
So, I’m reaching out to you with all my ability to show who I am, honestly and openly, and to show that I am no better or worse. I’m just me. Or better yet, I’m just a person who cares about you. Rather than judge who is better or worse, maybe we can come up with a plan together – so we can live a happy life (if there is such a thing). 

I love you, my truest friend and most special Cousin.


My son, I am adding this letter which came for you the other day from cousin’s correctional facility. This was his response ~ Love always, Mother Directional:

Dear Brother Bewildered, 

Thanks for this. It means a lot to know that you are there for me. And with all of my heart, I want you to know you are worth far more than you think. Then again, I could tell you this all day long. I can say that you don’t need the accolades. You don’t need the applause. You don’t need the constant validation or the attention because to me, you are every bit as successful as the biggest man on the planet. I say this but yet, I get it.
I get what it’s like to believe you’re not enough. Just like you said, it doesn’t matter what you have, you can have everything and still have absolutely nothing. No love. No warmth from the hand. No affection or attention or anything of the sort can solve the equation.

Maybe there should be more people like us to teach about depression. Maybe we could shed some light on the darkness or the dejection we feel around others. Maybe if people like us talked more about what we think or feel, maybe the so-called professionals would understand more about the deep withdrawal that can lead people to the feeling of being alone in a crowd of billions. 

Stay safe out there my cousin. I promise to write to you soon.

Love in return,

Cousin Contagious

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