I have of late, (but wherefore I know not) lost all my mirth, forgone all custom of exercises; and indeed, it goes so heavily with my disposition; that this goodly frame the earth, seems to me a sterile promontory; this most excellent canopy the air, look you, this brave o’er hanging firmament, this majestic roof, fretted with golden fire: why, it appears no other thing to me, than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapors. What a piece of work is man, how noble in reason, how infinite in faculty, in form and moving how express and admirable, in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god, the beauty of the world, the paragon of animals. And yet to me, what is this quintessence of dust? Man delights not me; no, nor woman neither; though by your smiling you seem to say so.
– William Shakespeare (Hamlet: Act 2, Scene 2)
Insomnia has plagued me for the better part of two months now. It was something I struggled with before, but the day my life changed… that day definitely has been weighing on me… causing many a sleepless night and multiple instances of beautifully bruised and puffy eyes from lack of sleep and a maybe a few leaked tears. Hell, I am not too proud to admit that. Which is why I think it’s appropriate that I am keying this, my inaugural post, in the quiet time just before dawn. Even now, my lovable douche bag of a cat is fixing me with some serious side eye from his curled position at the foot of my bed because I have the audacity of interrupting his 18th hour of sleep for the day… though I guess we are technically in a new day so the tally has reset and I am ruining his stats. My bad, little dude (don’t worry, this post is about your namesake, so it’s still all about you).
But I digress…
The day the world as I knew it fell apart, or as I have now creatively entitled it, “The Day,” has caused me to contemplate the words I preceded this post with to the point of near obsession. Contemplate, recite, set to music, feel in every corner of my soul… basically any way I can ruminate on these words, I have. They have brought me comfort because, to me, they are the most beautifully penned reflection of depression I have ever seen. “What is this quintessence of dust?” Essentially: “I can see that this shit, the world around me, rationally, is pretty baller… but right now rationality is not what is defining my world view.”
Bro, I totally feel that.
I am right there, emotionally, with this beautifully misguided prince. Full disclosure, I am not necessarily a totally irrational mess, bent on avenging the wrong that has been done to me and my family (to put it mildly)… Still, I am also not looking at life through rose-colored glasses; which is what brings me here. This “Piece of Work” speech from Hamlet, as it has come to be known, outlines an individual’s inherent struggle with deep seated sadness. Who can say they haven’t been there from time to time? This struggle, this pain, it takes a hold of you and casts a cloud of misery on everything you once enjoyed. Normally, the chemicals in my brain are what cause me to put on my metaphorical rain coat and trudge through the puddles of this affliction. And while that may still be true overall, I can, at least for the moment, largely attribute my existential pain to the doings of a human being (or two, technically). The beauty though, of the speech, is that while it fully acknowledges that life SUCKS at the moment, those things he recognizes as being amazing never cease in their purpose or perceived state of beauty. That acknowledgement instills in me a kind of hope.
Right now, I need that hope. I am seeking my forms of solace and beauty from the ruin that was once my life and more specifically my relationship. So, learning from my young prince’s unfortunate end, instead of murdering my uncle, I am going to weather the storm of emotional suckage by trying to talk my way through it, here. I will draw my breath in pain to tell my own damn story. I will do the bravest thing I can think of and move forward.
It’s Important to Know…
I firmly believe that there is a fine line between self-important rambling and evocative word-smithing. It may be that I am ineptly walking a zig-zag across that line; and it may also be that I am staggering more wholly on the side of the former… But I have these words inside of me. Their sharp nails are tearing up my insides, making it hard to breathe as they scratch their truths deeper and deeper into my rib bones. Their incessant excavation is creating cracks and fault lines around the hard core that I’ve tried to erect around my heart as some form of defense since “The Day”… A heart that definitely has a few cracks of its own, itself the worse for wear after being handled so callously by someone I held dear. I definitely understand if there are people who believe that this is the very essence self-important rambling because this has never been a means of self expression that I have excelled at using. I love using and manipulating words for the purposes of fiction. It’s non-fiction that I struggle with. Speaking my truth, and therefore letting the cracks show. Though I have to say with that, to mix, match, mesh, and mash metaphors (I blame the lack of sleep) cracks must be exposed for any kind of repair to take place. If I use the old adage and consider my body a temple, I want those cracks patched up and water proofed so those suckers don’t ruin my foundation for good, or cause even more damage, as they go ignored. So, to those people who may mock, scoff, snort derisively, and judge these words pulled from my currently over-laden and damaged heart, I say: suck it. Go read something else, the back of a toothpaste tube can be quite interesting, and leave me to my catharsis. As for the rest of you, I promise to do my best not to let you down and to provide some form of entertainment along the way.
I am (I guess, very nearly) single for the first time in almost a decade because my person, my partner, the one who I assumed was the love of my life, decided to give up on our relationship and then fall in love with someone else… without telling me. Essentially he started burying the casket of our relationship while I was still alive inside it. There is so much more to this Daytime Emmy deserving drama of a story but we are not here to dwell or have an excess of pity parties and painful reminiscences. We will just offhandedly hope that Karma is a real, avenging bitch who is firmly aligned with me (ok, that may have been a little vindictive – I swear, it’s a healthy rage and I don’t actually wish bad things on anyone). Though I believed myself to be happy, I was with someone who frequently believed that I was weak, tiring, and after a while, entirely unimportant. These continually reapplied labels did a number on me and, combined with years of low self esteem and dwelling on perceived inadequacies, lets just say that I have struggled to be in any position to feel hope since “The Day.” The small buoy I have had to cling to in this ocean of misery is the reassurance that I am still alive. That though my worst fear came true, it didn’t actually kill me. I may just be true that “I am the hero of this story and I don’t need to be saved.” That basic platitude has bolstered me in my moments that have, quite frankly, resemble despair.
I am here because I recognize that I have to stop living my life as if I am waiting for someone’s permission to exist, to feel, to hurt, to love, or even to breathe. I am not the sidekick in my own story, nor am I an anti-hero. Good, bad, ugly, whatever… I am the lead role. Unfortunately, until this point, I have not been acting the part. I’ve always considered myself secondary, and sought the approval of others before considering myself. Miraculously, what I’m finding with my recent soap-opera-arc of an experience is that I am my most important priority – I have to be. I’ve ignored that priority until this point, allowing my self worth to be determined by others.
I am the hero. I am the one on the white horse who will be riding in and doing the saving. There’s definitely something to be said for the Westworld “Yass queen!” moment when Dolores says “I imagined a story where I didn’t have to be the damsel.” But I have to say I prefer the “hero” version because there’s nothing wrong sometimes with being a damsel; especially one who gets to hang out in a pretty dress (as long as it has pockets), with the dragon (who is actually lovely by the way – and always ready to help make s’mores). This isn’t about gender roles, but about self confidence. It’s about being proud and saving your own damn self from the assholes who want to tear you down. It’s about bravery.
I hope, you beautiful few here with me, are ready to be brave and fight for your right to thrive. And if you are already there, in the land of the thriving, I hope you will chime in to offer some map route suggestions (and maybe some fun roadside attractions) as I begin down this new road…
Photo: E. Campbell (2017)
West Philly, Philadelphia, PA