Living with ghosts.
This is going to be a tough post and I’m a bit afraid. It’s personal and important and I really want to get it right for a lot of reasons. It’s about the crap times of a life. A lot of us go through times in our lives which are difficult or simply horrible and I want to talk about those times and their aftermath. It really doesn’t matter what it was; a natural disaster, illness, bereavement, war, divorce, personal problems, your childhood, family problems, money problems or unemployment. It’s about getting through the thing and more importantly, living with it afterwards. None of these are more serious than others in some grand scheme of things but that doesn’t really matter to you because at the end of the day, it’s all very personal and it did happened to you.
You’ve learnt not to talk about it. Sometimes once in a while, maybe you’ve had a drink too many and you hear someone saying something so totally fucking stupid about the thing, you simply can’t hold back. The beast is out of the cage and raging before you even had a chance to grab onto the leash. You’ve done a good job of blending back into the day to dayness of life and suddenly, Shazam, you’ve went from being good ole steady you, to you the maniac in seconds flat. People are a bit shocked.
You soon learn it’s best not to talk about it at all because you’re talking to people who just don’t know the past or the real world can be a lot different to what they think it is. You’re being unfair and selfish and they really don’t know what they’re talking about. I want to talk about it for once and the anonymity of the internet allows me to talk about it freely. Don’t worry folks, I’m not going to dump on you and I’m probably not even talking to you anyway but you can listen if you want. I want to talk to the others still working their way through it and maybe help them get over the thing, adjust and move on because whoever you are, you need to know that you’re not alone. You’re not the first, you won’t be the last and whatever it was, it hasn’t earned you some sort of free pass for the rest of your life.
We all live with ghosts. They live on as memories in your head, which means they’re very real to you. Some of them are people you did things to and you can’t believe now that you’re that same person or ever could have been and some are those who you can easily believe you did things to and you’ve no regrets about them either. Some of the ghosts are the people who did things to you and the older you get, the more you really understand them and maybe hate them even more. Pick your hang-up.
For me, none of them are the problem. It’s the ones I had to leave behind and the ones who were better people than I’ll ever be but got chewed up anyway. These are the ghosts that haunt me.
On the loss of those better people, I can’t in all honesty find anything meaningful to say because there’s just simply nothing to say. Waste is simply waste.
On the others, you just abandoned them in the end to save your ass because despite your best efforts, you knew they were never going to make it and were going to drag you into the danger zone too. You could see it in their faces. It was just too much for them. They didn’t have the heart to keep going and if you got the time to know them a bit, they’d always find their own particular way of telling you to let go of them. Just stop hassling them. They just hunkered down or it was just a certain type of tired smile or a “Relax, just go with the flow” type of conversation and you learnt to accept that. These are the immediate decisions we make as children. Looking back on it across the years, it was always the right call but that doesn’t help.
We’ve all made brutal decisions and put it down to youth and circumstances and yet, there’s no walking away. You did what you did. The whole piece is full of stuff like that; the girl you cared for but there was too much clingy demanding baggage with her and her family, so you walked away to another less complicated girl and you heard later that it didn’t end well. Maybe if you’d stayed, it might have worked out better, maybe not. Who knows? The lamer kid you always gave your work to because his mad parents were totally convinced he was a genius and he was under such pressure, such great pressure. The poor bastard could never take the heat and failed everything comprehensively in the end. All you did was delay the big blowtorch for a couple of years and that amount of heat in one go he just couldn’t take. He found his own way out.
Some of these bad experiences you go through alone, some you get to have company in. Having survived both kinds, I’d have to say the shared crap is preferable but it’s marginal at times. At least there’s someone else in the world who knows what it was like but at the same time, you see them struggling with the ghosts and what it’s doing to them too.
Some turn to God and that can work. We all feel that there’s got to be something better out there than a brutal kill or be killed world but the idea of a supreme being giving everyone some kind of moral test over the course of their life is hard to reconcile with some of the things you’ve seen. It’s so totally random. I lost my faith but can only be envious of anyone who still has that capacity for a real genuine belief but only as long as they don’t ask me to join up. I notice the ones with the true faith never do. As for the rest, if I won’t even join hands any more, just try to get me to join anything. I stopped being a joiner a long time ago but I still care about things or to be more accurate, I care about people.
Others turn to excess. Drugs, alcohol or adrenaline are the self-destructive weapons of choice here. I’ve done my share of these. They lead in the end to incarceration, mental breakdown or a premature death that is a thinly disguised suicide. You either pull out of that particular nosedive or crash and it’s only you who can decide to pull up on the joystick.
It’s fashionable and doable to trace all your ancestors back to the year dot but I’ll never bother because I already know what I’ll find; peasants. I’m a peasant and the latest one in a long line of them. That’s what got me through. Our speciality is survival by sheer brute endurance with any sort of sensitivity viewed as a luxury other people can have. As peasants go, I’m well educated and informed but at the end of the day, I still think like one of them and am thankful for that. I’ve never expected a lot out of life beyond what I could make of it so I’d fail all those wonderful 21st century sensitivity tests. On the plus side, I look at complex situations like a peasant and see the simple truth of them. Don’t piss down my back and at the same time try to kid me into thinking it’s raining.
You have to somehow find your way back home and it can be done. You’ve got through it so it’s behind you, it’s history and not one single damn thing can be changed. You’re back in the world but it’s an alien place and you feel you’re a stranger there now. You can’t stay between those two worlds because as the years pass, you’ll just be some sort of sad damaged old relic of a time people have forgotten and really don’t care too much about. Fitting into the old world feels somehow like a betrayal of the ones you left behind but you’ve got to do it or you’ll never have a home. It’s as simple as that. You’re the one who made it through so you owe it to the others to have the sort of decent ordinary life that they will never have.
What I do know is, if you hang on in long enough and don’t give up, things will change. I still think at heart that I’m a good man but there are always the doubts. I do know that I should have done a lot better at times but I’ve also learnt to go a bit easier on myself and other people.
You can never go back or be the person you once were. That person and the world they thought they lived in are gone forever. Forget about it friend, you have to go forward and find something or still remain open enough to let something find you. It is out there somewhere but you won’t find it by looking back over your shoulder all the time. Behind you, there’s only the wreckage you got through . Whatever it is, it’s in front of you. Exactly what that thing is, only you can discover. Go out and find it.
For me the peasant, it was the simple human thing of meeting and loving a woman and building a life together. In the end, it’s what you can give back to life that makes for a decent life, so if you’re fortunate enough to have something good, be generous with it.
Life is for the living and only for the living.
The faces and the ghosts I’ve never shared will die with me and that’s the way it should be.