Saul Bellow wrote that “You never have to change anything you got up in the middle of the night to write.” That’s exactly what happened with the following post. Enjoy…
It seems that lately the perfect irony of my life has been that you don’t really understand how blissful ignorance can be until you’re so far from it that you could never, ever, hope to return to it. There come certain points in our lives where things cannot be undone. For the most part, learning is one of those things. Sure, you’ll forget some details here and there and some concepts become vague with time, but there are undoubtedly some things we learn during the course of our lives that forever change the very core of who we are—or perhaps who we thought we were.
Have you ever laid in bed, knowing you won’t fall asleep any time soon but yet for some reason refusing to get out of bed and do something more productive than let the thoughts in your head play with your psyche? That’s why I’m here. I couldn’t just lay there anymore. I had enough.
“Stuart,” they say, “why haven’t you blogged in a while?” Put quite simply: I don’t know. Let me clarify that statement. It’s not an “I don’t know why,” but rather a “I’m not blogging because I don’t know ______” fill in the blank. Perhaps it’s helpful to understand why I blogged in the first place. Allow me to explain. I thought I had the answers, the right way, the most effective and productive method of doing whatever the hell I was doing or talking about doing. Sure, there were other ways of doing things, I figured, but none of them were really right; my way was the best way.
But when you come to the realization that other people’s ways and means and reasons for doing things are just as valid as yours, nearly everything you know gets turned upside down. When you figure out that some of the people you most admire sold you lies on a regular basis, things start to get a little more fuzzy. When you discover that, in many instances, you have no right at all to tell people what they should or should not be doing, regardless of your convictions and they choices you’ve made, you begin to shift from seeing the world in black and white to seeing it in a million shades of grey.
I’ve come to realize that grey is a beautiful color. Not beautiful in the way a blue or a purple is. Not beautiful in the way that reds, oranges, or yellows are. Grey is beautiful because it is the only alternative to the black and white picture that many of us are given as children. Grey is beautiful because it allows for a more complete picture of the expanses of experience that lie within humanity.
Black and white does no such thing. Black and white allows for two things—black and white. Polar opposites. Wrong and right. Good and bad. Correct and incorrect. But the world is more complicated than those dichotomous pictures allow for. Sure, there are times when beauty can be found in black and white—both literally and figuratively—but more often than not, the more colors we allow ourselves to see, the more wonderful, beautiful, and accurate our perspectives and realities becomes.
And that is, actually, what it becomes—our reality. Each and every person has a different one; there’s no point in arguing otherwise. We can all look at the same piece of art, plate of food, or palace of a king and see as many different things as there would be people present. But my former reality didn’t allow for that. It said that I had to look at it this one way. And so did everyone else.
I can’t live like that. I can’t live knowing that thousands upon thousands if not millions of people have, by some reasoning, invalid realities. My conscience won’t let me.
The road that brought me here has been one characterized primarily by one thing—pain. It hurts when you choose to leave a place, both physically and mentally. It hurts when folks you considered friends no longer talk to you because you chose to leave that place. And while I’m somewhat tempted to say that they all showed their true colors, I believe a more accurate account would be to say that I saw how strong the bond that held us together was (or, in this case, was not). That hurts. Whenever there is disappointment, frustration, angst or change, you can be fairly certain that hurt and pain are not too far behind. For me, if moving from one place to another, more desert like place, was the knife going in, coming to grips with the fact that no one really came with me was an invisible hand twisting the knife ever so slowly.
To be sure, I have no regrets of leaving that physical and mental place. I will never go back there. I have no desire or need to. But that doesn’t do much to lessen the pain.
Sometimes there’s a loud part of my that wishes I could tell the full story, as I know it, of why I left that place. Sometimes I feel it’s not worth the trouble. Sometimes I feel as if, because I am convinced that many, many people got the proverbial wool pulled over their eyes, that they deserve to know. After all, I had people in my life who cared enough about me to tell me the truth that they knew about the place, shouldn’t I pass that information along? What is my duty, my responsibility here? Perhaps it is only to the ones I love. Perhaps, because I have been given a larger platform, via the internet, my responsibility extends further. Yet I wish there was a way to, at the same time, expose the place for what it was for me, and not cause any hurt to those who hurt me. As strange as that may seem, I wouldn’t wish hurt or pain on them. Not consciously anyway.
Like with any pain, healing must occur before one can become a whole and healthy individual again. Emotional healing, just like physical healing, can take a long time and is a daily process. it’s a process that I believe I am working through, yet some days I feel as if I’ve made little progress, if any. A word, a song, a picture or a sound can all trigger a flashback that pulls the pain right back to the forefront of my mind. Then, inexplicably, for days on end I don’t think about all that’s been lost, only what’s been gained (because, thankfully, there have been many things gained during this time).
But mostly there seems to be a lot of “I don’t know.” I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t know where I’m going. I don’t know if this or that is really a good choice. I don’t know if I feel like trusting people again because the last time I let them in, well, suffice it to say that it only when so well for so long. And so, this time, in order to avoid the hurt altogether, let’s just not trust anyone new. Clearly this is a sign that the wounds are still open. I know this. It is still, however, a very, very real feeling.
Perhaps the biggest struggle, especially for someone who is already immensely self-critical, is to learn to trust myself and my judgement once again. Knowing that it led me astray before, knowing that it looked in the faces of people and didn’t see the signs it should have, knowing that it was so convinced that it was right, only to be proved wrong, it is undoubtedly hard to rebuilt that trust. Because the fear—sometimes subtle and sometimes more crippling—is one, very simply, of deja vu. Of doing this whole thing all over again. Correspondingly, whenever I see myself in situations that resemble the past, I tend to high-tail it out of there. Or better yet, I avoid those situations altogether in the first place.
The most accurate metaphor I can think to summon is one with which i have no actual experience, yet I find still to be accurate in my understanding of it—divorce. Obviously I have never been married, and thus don’t know what it feelings like to be divorced. Yet in talking with select other people who have felt the pain I have, they used this metaphor and it immediately struck a cord within me. In moving from this place, everything in your social life changes. Not just who you hang out with on the weekends, or which people you call when you’re bored—everything about you interacting in a social setting changes.
Things, people and activities that once dominated your life and gave it a sense of purpose and meaning are no longer there. Accordingly, the search for these things must begin again—clearly a challenge. The people you formerly associated with and spent a great deal of time with are suddenly absent. Your weekly, sometimes even daily, schedule is now changed. So many things in your life are suddenly different that it’s a shock to the system.
Yet in the midst of—or perhaps because of, or in spite of—all this shit, I have found the beauty that lies in the grey. The beauty where all people have a legitimate story to tell, a legitimate claim to a life they would like to lead, a legitimate concern for their freedom and ability to be able to do both of those things. And these things are legitimated by nothing other than these people’s humanity. The fact that they are alive should ensure them the ability to be able to live their lives, tell their stories, and be able to be accepted for them. After all, isn’t acceptance the one thing that most humans crave more than anything else? Certainly acceptance has a variety of manifestations, but at it’s core, humankind desires to be loved and accepted for who they are, who they choose to be, and the life they choose to live. What audacious thinking would ever allow me to even begin to want to strip that away from them?
This is why I can’t sleep. This is why my mind continues to race. Because I feel as if those who listened to me so seriously before deserve, for whatever reason, some explanation as to why I stopped writing for a while. And the explanation is much simpler than I anticipated. I’m learning to live in the land of uncertainly. Enjoying the grey. Exploring the variety and diversity amongst humanity.
Although I can’t say that this is my re-entry into writing, I can say that, for some reason, I am tremendously glad that I have been able to at least somewhat effectively translate the experiences of the last two years into a hopefully coherent message. It is my hope that someone, somewhere, even if it is only one person, can gain something from my expression of this experience. Perhaps it is so they may take it to heart as a cautionary tale, so that they may avoid it. Perhaps it is so they may find solace in the knowledge that they’re not alone in their feelings or experiences. I cannot pretend to know the breadth of experiences of those who may stumble upon this account. But I hope it does some good, somewhere.
The eight days I spent on the island of Haiti were truly incredible in every sense of the word. My heart broke countless times — not only for the country as a whole, but for the individual lives I saw and had an opportunity to impact in some small way.
Driving through downtown Port-au-Prince, my senses were overloaded. Every where I looked I saw scenes and pictures reminiscent of something on CNN in the days immediately following the quake. But here it was, in front of my own eyes, even more moving and powerful than I could have imagined. (more…)
Have you ever said to yourself, “You know what? I’ve just got to get out of here, get away from all this, and do something different. I need to move!”?
In preparing for my summer travels, I said exactly that. Although I wasn’t planning a permanent move, only a vacation, I still felt that need to get away from the normalcy of my life and do something different. I just needed some kind of change. Little did I know what that change would really mean. (more…)
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