I could die and I think my parents would be better off for it.
It's hard not to indulge in pessimism given my shackles, that of disease, that of burden.
At twenty-eight, in the midst of a promising career, nature reminded me who possessed the true power; it was never me. I can not believe I ever felt, for a minute, powerful. Multiple sclerosis was the diagnosis, not necessarily a terminal disease, but a progressive one, and sometimes painfully so.
In my particular case, the progression proceeded with no care about my station in life, a great invasion of my privacy if you ask me.
A couple of months ago, I couldn't stand to work, being outside, walking too much, everything made me so tired. Crowds and interaction turned me into a car with far too much mileage; a broken down mess I became!
I suppose the COVID pandemic and its concurrent restrictions were a relief to me, as it gave me an excuse to become a recluse.
So, home transformed into my tomb. My early sepulcher.
To my credit, I tried to make my living space beautiful. I bought paintings from artists like Pollock and Matisse, Dali, and O'Keefe; I even adorned my hallways with potted plants, scented candles, faux-Egyptian rugs, and various trinkets placed on hand-crafted tables. I thought making my house beautiful would remind me to look on the brighter side of things, of course it didn't, I just pitied myself in silk sheets.
I figured wasn't going to die anytime soon, and I knew most likely, blessed by living in my age, that I could expect a reasonable aging process as well, if I stuck to the right medications. I agreed only with half a heart.
Its difficult to forfeit the kind of pride that comes with becoming successful, one must submit to something more powerful, nature. I thought conquering the workplace, my school, other people, would strengthen me into the proverbial ox
. I felt strong, and maybe I was, but I’m not stronger than the lesions in my brain, not strong enough to make them disappear, at least.
It wasn't that I wanted to die; I didn't.
I hated upending my identity.
So anyway, after the initial shock and concomitant chaos that comes with finding out your old life has disappeared, I decided I had had enough of the world. When I say the world, I mean everything contained with it that gives it meaning: family, friends, work, and the external world. It is clear to me that this isn’t healthy, but neither is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder; I figured why go half measure?
This meant no acquaintances, no visitors, no family, no friends coming over; I hated people coming to check up on me. I didn’t want anyone who knew the old me to see the new me; a cretinous replica of what I used to be.
It wasn’t that I wanted to spare other people from my decline into decrepitude, no, my justification for this isolation was entirely selfish. Other people reminded me of a time when I was a strong person at the top of the heap, a challenger, a horse in the race, if you will. I did NOT want people visit me and try to make me feel better about my situation, how seriously does it irk me to have concerned folk invade my self-loathing with kindness and sympathy.
I WANT NONE OF IT.
If it’s my desire to sit here alone, and writhe in pain, struggle to walk sometimes, lose my speech some days, lose vision in one of my eyes, then it is my desire and ultimately my decision.
Of course, my close family did not enjoy this peculiar fact about my choices in the face of suffering. I wanted to bear it alone; I wanted no one to witness my relationship with the decline.
My mother would come by, knock a bunch, sometimes frantically so, and I would meet her outside, never letting her in, catching up with her only enough to assuage my guilty conscience, assuring her that I was okay. She was a somewhat elderly woman, so my appeal to maintain distance was not met with immediate disdain, maybe even appreciation for the concern.
I wanted the distance for my own reasons, my own selfish reasons.
My father would have resented my actions entirely if it weren’t for COVID. He was a practical man, a rather distant man himself, but never with family, not when it came to serious things. When he sensed that I preferred my spiraling to his support, he probably would have disowned me if he could; there was nothing worse to him than disloyalty. However, because of COVID, and his elderly status, I could rationalize my preference for distance as a manifestation of my concern for their lives.
My newfound extreme introversion was a signal of virtue, not vice, not venality.
What a godsend COVID has been to my condition! I don’t have to feel so bad. A hermit in these times is a savior to mankind, someone who truly cares about other people so much, that he is willing to forgo the enjoyment of the outside, to protect other people. With no irony or self-consciousness, I can say that my decision to become a homebody, makes me a better person.
One can’t really blame another for deciding that staying home, alone, is a better option than most options, these days. Journeying out with too much rigor, too much bravery, is looked down upon. Dare I say, that venturing into the outside world is a sin?
Maybe that characterization of the giddy extrovert, eager to reconnect with other people again, is a tad extreme, but I know. I know that concerned people, between their ears, secretly judge those so comfortable going out again.
We have a responsibility to other people! Stay home! It would be my pleasure! I have everything I need here, except my health.
It’s my birthday. A Sunday.
I hadn’t left the house in several days, but I needed groceries.
On the lone car ride back, I dreamt about my future, my lonely future. I dream about things opening again, and how all will flood out again, ready to continue the movement of life. Then, my despondency will reveal itself to my family, to myself.
I arrived home, pulled up into my driveway, spending a few moments after turning off the vehicle, staring blankly into my garage door.
And there they were, I could see them congregated in my living room, poorly massed behind the couch, to remain furtive about their surprise.
There was my family, some friends, all concerned, yet seemingly coiled with excitement. I doubt they recognized how troubled I had become because of my diagnosis. They thought this was a happy occasion, a “catching up with” as it were, with a character they remembered. I was no longer that interested individual, that focused on the continuation of good times, and the attenuation of bad ones.
As a young child, my father taught me once about anger, he said that true anger was a rip current. True anger requires little to no buildup, no justification, no words, nothing cognitive all; true anger is a primordial, visceral reaction to something about the outside world that simply just won’t do.
He defined true anger to my young self because he had problems with intermittent rage, where he would break things and hurt himself in doing so, over small things like spilling milk, breaking cups.
After one episode, when he finished punching holes in walls, out of breath and bleeding from his knuckles, I met his eyes and pleaded with them for an explanation, and the former was what he gave. I understand my father now.
I don’t remember revving up the vehicle, but a car ripping through a garage door is an explosion, steel into steel, a metal firework. I don’t recall thinking about doing it, only my foot pressing down as much as possible against the accelerator and closing my eyes…
It was not my intention to hurt anyone, and I didn’t, no one was in the garage, but something needed to happen. I couldn’t fight back against disease without destroying myself, but at the very least, I could destroy this door. There is no logic in retaliating against helplessness.
Gasps and screams, of course, emanated from the main living room, but I heard the loud voice of my father command them to remain inside.
He opened the door which leads to my house from the garage and looked for my eyes.
When they met, I expected the most anger, the most embarrassment, but I found something new: sympathy.
He looked at me, almost in half smile, and shook his head in acknowledgement, as if to say that he wasn’t mad, no, not at all, if anything, he was glad.
Now, for the first time in a long time, his child was being honest with him, about his situation, about everything, what more could he ask for? He acknowledges me, leaves through the way he entered, and went back to the living room to say:
“Give him a minute, let’s eat.”
My dad understood that I just wanted to be left alone.