Before Coffee: A Weary Life
September 2, 2016 § Leave a comment
Adding this up front: I’m blissfully happy right now. Don’t let this post make you believe otherwise. I struggled with the decision to share this and almost didn’t, but decided to because I hope it helps someone. If you’re miserable or weary of life, keep going, because wonderful surprises are waiting. Which is probably what I should have said and called it quits, instead of scaring the horses with my babbling. Sorry.
I want to tell you a secret.
It’s a hard secret, something I’ve never told anyone. Something I’ve tried to keep buried deep within myself, hoping it would someday just go away.
It’s broken the surface a few times, exposing its coils to the odd passerby, then submerging so quickly that they blink and wonder, “No, it couldn’t be. Just my imagination playing tricks.”
It wasn’t your imagination, friends.
Shakespeare wrote a lot about death, but the only soliloquy I’ve ever memorized in full was Hamlet’s famous one. It’s slipped away now; I can’t recite it word for word, but I know the gist. Especially this bit:
Who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscovered country from whose bourn
No traveler returns, puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
A weary life.
A day-after-day constant slog, perpetually treading water to keep from sinking and always wondering why the fuck I’m bothering.
I’m not suicidal; let me say that up front. There are too many people I’d hurt if I took myself off this mortal coil. Hell, it would very probably, very literally kill my parents. They’ve already lost one son; I know they couldn’t handle losing another.
But I am weary. So weary that I’ve sometimes thought if a bus hit me and snapped out the light, I’d be fine with it. And I’ve had that feeling, off and on, for about 15 years. Maybe longer.
That’s my secret. That’s my shame.
I’m an atheist. I don’t dread the something after death. There’s no heaven for me to hope for, no hell for me to fear. Some days, the long silence of the endless nap sounds a fuck of a lot more appealing to me than the constant cacophony of doubt and fear and self-loathing.
But only some days.
Most days, I love my life. It’s a glass house, built on a foundation of toothpicks, but it’s enough. Every good night is another toothpick. Every new friend. Every small success.
A great many of those toothpicks come from my wife. When she met me almost ten years ago, I was more broken than I realized. It’s only looking back now that I can see how utterly shattered I was. Not many people could or would deal with such a mess, but she didn’t run away screaming. There have no doubt been times when she wished she had; I was a truly awful dick in the early years. Sometimes, I still am. But I am always grateful for her love and patience and kindness in helping me sift through the shards and slowly, painfully build this shelter. She constantly surprises me, constantly adds toothpicks to the foundation.
Hundreds more toothpicks come from my friends. Most of the friends who were around ten years ago don’t know how much I love them for being there when I was at my worst, and for being here now. Not all of them stuck around. I don’t begrudge those who took off running; sometimes, you’ve got so much of your own shit to deal with, you can’t handle someone else’s. I’m shocked all my friends didn’t flee, to be honest. Part of me still wonders if they just haven’t found the exit yet. I hope someday I can figure out how to thank them properly.
So yeah, my life is good—but it’s still a glass house resting on toothpicks. And what scares me to tears—actual, blinding tears—is that it would only take one well-thrown rock to bring the whole goddamn thing crashing down and slicing me into bloody gobbets.
And the rocks are always flying.
Christ, I’ve rambled on. At this point, I would normally go back and edit this down to something less awful and boring. This time, though, that feels dishonest.
So if you’ve scrolled down to the bottom wondering what my fucking point is, it’s this: It’s a weary life, and most of the time we’re all grunting and sweating (and not in the happy fun way).
But it’s also a life full of surprises. Never give up on it. Focus on the toothpicks, not the rocks.
Whiskey also helps. (Photo credit: Walsh Whiskey Distillery)