Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Wheelchair Has Left the Building

December 13th, 2009

It is currently 4.30am. I am feeling raw and grumpy and terribly unhinged, and these are precisely the times when I make sure not to write anything, but here I am. I also happen to be way, way past caring, which may or may not explain all of this. I wrote in an entry many months ago about how my insomnia had “grown fangs” (or something to that effect), and this has never really gone away. I am as used to this as a person can get who is constantly exhausted. Or, at least I have accepted that this is life as defined by TBW, circa the latter days of 2009, and have become resigned to the task of carrying this cross. Lack of sleep is what happens when outrspecies of hairless apes try to cram far too much into their mushy, gray, three-pound thinking devices, which everyone seems to think are just the best thing to come about since sliced bread. The alternative to having too much on your mind is currently being tested out by a certain former governor from the Federal Park that is Alaska, and early results show that this might actually be far more damaging to a human being (and the country he or she calls home) than having an overfull noggin. More results to follow in time, unfortunately.

Anyways. Some problems in life can be repaired. Some cannot. Some you accept: some you fight. Wisdom, they tell me, is in deciding which battles to engage in, an which to let pass. I’ve spoken of what war, downy blanket that is noble indifference before, and wont waste anyone’s time repeating myself. It may be a mirage, anyways, for my complete inability to get close to it.

Problems, troubles, worries, lamentations; I am awash in my fair share. Most are my own bloody fault. Some are not. Forgive me for how crude and blunt I am about to get, but I am actually going to use this blog in the manner popular culture has deemed to be most acceptable: to bitch and moan. I’m out of options on this issue, though. Some of my battles have no place in the public eye, in my opinion. Most, probably, do not. I think this one does, mainly because I’m buggered if I know how else to deal with it.

Penpals. Penpals, penpals, f-ing penpals. The practice of writing to so many people has long been a bittersweet activity for me. It’s nice to have some friends, especially when most of the world hates your guts. Even pseudo-friends help pass time, even as you know they won’t last long. That is what you sign up for: to be a friend. In life, sometimes that ends up meaning you get converted into a crutch. That is cool, because that is part of the deal, a piece of the “friend contract.” There is no feeling quite like helping to pick someone off the dirty floor. You know what isn’t in the contract, though? Being converted from a crutch into a f-ing wheelchair.

This is how it starts: a small issue comes up in a letter, and you offer what you believe to be a reasonable solution. You don’t claim to be right (at least, you don’t if you aren’t an egotistical bastard). You are simply listening to a friend and offering a solution based on your own life experiences. And it works out. You helped solve a problem, or, at the minimum, you were at least there to listen. And that is exactly as it should be. Here is the problem, and it has cost me much to learn this: some people do not want to have their problems fixed. Before you know it your correspondence has converted into one long, misery-drenched proof io the shittiness of human existence, and you are instantly sucked into the black hole of their morbid self-absorption. You don’t know how the hell you got there, but you do know you never intended for that to happen. You still want to help. And so you keep offering advice, as much as from a desire to see a ship righted as to get the hell out of there in one piece. Only, now that the problems have gotten worse, more raw, the other person no longer wants to listen to your solutions. As I mentioned, some people cannot live without their sadness, their loneliness, their complaining. It has become part of their mode of existence. It’s who they are, down to the core. And since misery loves company, you are welcomed to the seven-course dinner of their concentrated wretchedness. Fine. I think that is a terrible way to go through life, but that is your call.

Here is the thing, though: I am not your psychologist. I am not even remotely qualified to hear about your suicide attempts or your daddy issues or how that bitch Wendy keeps sleeping with your boyfriend and your uncle, sometimes simultaneously. I will help where I can, but look at where I am. Good judgment is maybe not my strong suit. And in any case, I just might have a few teensy-weensy issues of my own to deal with. Problems are relative, and I am not minimizing anyone else’s. I am not saying mine are worse. I am saying that I am at my limit, and I cant handle anymore. I have four people now who are depending on my stupid, slow, brutally deficient, unqualified brain to save their lives, now that their attorneys have gone and buried them. I cannot even begin to explain how insane that type of responsibility makes you feel, especially when you never asked for it. But in lieu of someone good, they only get me. On top of that, I have a few of my own demons to deal with during this time of the year. Please, please, please: solve your own problems for a while. If I were the type to have a nervous breakdown, I would be having it right about now. I can not save you! No one can! You have to figure out how to save yourself. That is life.

This pen-pal thing has gotten out of hand, once again. It deteriorated in similar downward spirals a little more than a year ago, and it looks like I didn’t learn my lesson well enough. Facebook and Myspace are likely soon to take the path of the dodo. I was never all that comfortable with having them in the first place, but when you are desperate, you will try anything. I mentioned that I thought it was pretty much just a world of tweenage girls hormoning and “OMG”-ing about the guys on the latest mind-numbingly stupid program on the CW, but I was told that real, serious business gets conducted there. Really? Could have fooled me. I’m sorry Tracey. You did an awesome job creating those sites, building a place for real, substantive conversation. I’m sorry that people converted them into a gossip board. I don’t know why you put up with me, or the hassle, sometimes.

From the printouts I’ve seen lately, it has become a place for people to ask how to buy illicit drugs, or for nut jobs that I have never met to claim that they are in love with me. That last would be somewhat amusing, if it wasn’t so sad. Or sick. I was never popular with the ladies in the world. Not like this. And here if the thing: I am not now, either. These people don’t like me; they don’t even know me. I am just a stand in for something else, an image reflected from their own lives to take a form that is easier to deal with. That is horrible, and I can sympathize, but that is not my problem to solve. Stop playing with my name! I’ve worked really, really, really f-ing hard to be better than I ever was in my old life. To get over the years of self-hatred and the thousands of ccs of poison I pumped into my veins. When you post that wacky nonsense about being “my girl,” you trash all my attempts at reviction. Good, true people whom I genuinely know and like have a hard time trusting me because of your insane ramblings. Go. Away. I don’t know you, and I don’t care to. Find someone else to stand in for the bad-boy who rode a motorcycle and who never paid attention to you in High School.

I have a few years left in this world, and call me selfish, but I am not spending this time putting out brush-fires in the lives of a hundred different people. I spend hours a day on this, everyday. Have some self-respect. Solve your own life, or stop complaining. Fix the problem decisively, as I am doing here. And have some respect for me, as well, by not making me hear about it incessantly, when you never intended to take my advice in the first place. I've got real things to do with my time, and I am tired of always running out of hours for the things I want or need to do for myself. Grow up. Life sucks sometimes. Get. Over. It.

Or don’t. Your call. Not mine.

The really damning thing is this: only a few times on this site have I ever asked for anyone’s help. Three, that I can think of. The first, was when I attempted to get some of my readers to write to a certain state rep here in Texas, in an attempt to institute a program where Texas prison inmates could legally donate kidneys. Four people wrote emails. Four people believed in me, and tried to help me save some lives.

The second, was when I asked for people to write a letter of support for Kevin Varga. Seven people answered the call, according to the Board of Pardons and Paroles.

The last, was when I shamed myself and asked for a little help paying for my next semester of university classes. Five of you stood by my side, and I will never, never, never forget you. Don’t think I am asking for money. I'm not. It’s not about money. It was about how many of the people who come here were willing to do more than post a comment or two. To see who was willing to stand by me and believe in my goals and in me. And I got my answer. I write more than 100 people. Or, to be more precise: I did.

Maybe this is a nervous breakdown. Whatever it is, things are going to be different around here from now on. I fully intend to address this issue with the people it applies to. Don’t automatically assume that I am talking about you, because I may very well not be. But I felt this needed to be broadcast in general anesthetic form, before I get the scalpel out and do the actual surgery.

I am not saying that I don’t care, or don’t want to help people. I am saying that I am only human, and emotionally not equipped to deal with some of the information being forced onto me. A perfect, recent example: a few months back I helped a lady-friend make a very tough decision to do the right thing for her recently divorced ex-husband. It dealt with a lot of money, basically, and she needed to do the legal thing. I was able to give her a nudge in the right direction. I got to hear way more details about how she still simultaneously loves and hates her ex. For 15 letters, I heard about this. When she finally did the noble thing, I was pleased. Exhausted, but pleased. Then, she actually asked me if there was anything that I needed, and I admitted that I could use a lousy two bucks for a new typewriter ribbon. Her last (and believe me, final) letter scolded (actually scolded!) me for being too materialistic. Can you imagine!

I am sorry if this seems cold-blooded and selfish. I feel however, that I have the right to determine how I spend the last couple of years on this rock, and I cannot tell you how many personally important projects I have had to shelve or abandon because I spend six hours a day playing armchair shrink. A friend will carry the weight of another, until the person learns to walk again. A person who takes advantage of the free ride beyond the point where they can move on their own, all the while knowing the other already has a large load tied to their back, isn’t worthy of the title or the effort in the first place.

“Life, being how it is, isn’t necessarily how it is. It is just simply how you choose to see it.”

16 year old Heshu Yones,
before being murdered by her father, Abdullah Yones, in an “honor” killing.

On a lighter note:

#4 on the Top 5 List Of Shit Not To Put On Your Head

This shampoo falls right behind: ionized gaseous plasma from the center of a star, liquid magma, hydrochloric acid, and followed by Highly Enriched Uranium. Texas Correctional Industries, in case you were wondering, is the “company” that produces virtually every product manufactured by inmate “workers.” Since no one is paid for work in Texas prisons, “slaves” might actually be the correct terminology here, even if it is a somewhat loaded word. This product costs two dollars on the commissary. Mmm, more ethylene glycol monostearate, please! (In case your chemistry is a little rusty, allow me to show off the superiority of my DorkNess: ethylene glycol is a colorless, viscous hygroscopic liquid used, as it happens, as an antifreeze. Also, this chemical is used when making polyesters and in the preservation of waterlogged timbers. No wonder I am going bald. Federal oversight, anyone? Please?)

© Copyright 2009 by Thomas Bartlett Whitaker.
All rights reserved.


e-z-e said...

ethylene glycol is also what they use to de-ice airliners up here in the great cold north.

Miss A said...

I can only speak for myself, but I'm sure there are others who read this who consider you a friend. People who care about you, not just because you are where you are, but because you are a good, and interesting person.

If people aren't behaving the way a friend should, then move on. I'd say it's better to keep in touch with just a handful of people who truly care about you rather than hundreds who are too cheap to pay for a therapist.

Just my two cents though.

Lisa said...

I completely agree with you Thomas; I think it's extremely disrespectful for "friends" to write to you about how miserable their lives are and about their suicide attempts!! Especially considering where you are, on DR fighting for your life and for the lives of the men around you! It’s very, very selfish of these people, and I'm so sorry you had to deal with all of this. But you are not a A-list a*sehole, or a jerk, not at all. You are an amazing man and you are doing what anyone in your situation would have done. I am a true friend who never complains and someone who respects and cares for you a lot.

Anonymous said...

I don't know you, and hardly know of you. I saw a portion of a television program and took a wander on the web. Once I read a piece, a portion, a share (in more than way, no?) of your blog, I realized that I heard of your blog a month or so ago.

In relation to this one particular column the subject which is your own late night wanderings in the insomniacs version of the horse lattitudes, I have a reply. For me, these are the hours when it is unclear whether I am up far too late or far too early I am everything is so still, so far away that I begin jettisoning things from my vessel in order to lighten the load with the hope that I will acheive some movement, produce the smallest of ripples. I begin discarding precious things without regard for what I am moving away from or what I am moving toward and clinging to spurious ideas begotten and misbegotten in the night. Run on sentences are a specialty... Anyway, your particular tale of woe speaks strongly of the lack of a normal, regular female (And God, I know those words are loaded. Another time on that. Or not.) presence in your life. If there were some woman in your life who called upon to you to listen, she would listen to your unnecessary, but probably helpful suggestions of how to fix things, but if she were a woman at all acquainted with herself, she would eventually tell you that doesn't need you to fix it, she just needs you to listen. And I specifically intended to answer only this blog, but maybe because I read them as a body, I cannot help but connect this with your musings about why you write. As this is during those hours, I am going to take some time to let things percolate. I hope you are well as can be under the circumstances.