Saturday, May 26, 2012

it's not just a state, it's a state of mind

Two significant things happened to me last week: I won my federal disability case, and I got to see Kansas – a gigantically important band of my youth – in concert.

The disability thing kind of sucks, to be honest. I won in record time because it was clear to all involved that yes indeed, I am severely mentally ill and no longer able to work, or to function as well as the average 40-something adult.

I can assure you that this is not the way I intended my life to turn out. The guys from Kansas kind of nailed it with this song, which originally came out in 1976. I was 11. It saved my life more than once. I’m not exaggerating.

I'm woven in a fantasy, I can't believe the things I see
The path that I have chosen now has led me to a wall
And with each passing day I feel a little
more like something dear was lost
It rises now before me, a dark and silent barrier between,
All I am, and all that I would ever want be
It's just a travesty, towering, marking
off the boundaries my spirit would erase

There was a beautiful young girl in my area, 13 or 14 years old, who a few weeks ago decided killing herself was a good response to being bullied.

I was nearly that girl.

Kansas and their counterparts, Styx, got me through. I was a sensitive kid, loved to write, loved poetry, and these songs spoke deeply to me. If I could just get up to my room, close the door and crank the records, I would be OK for awhile. It’s not like anyone would listen to me (my parents blew off my depression as teen angst), so I had to find help somewhere else. Help from complete strangers who had no idea they were helping me worked fine.

To pass beyond is what I seek, I fear that I may be too weak
And those are few who've seen it through to glimpse the other side,
The promised land is waiting like a maiden that is soon to be a bride
The moment is a masterpiece, the weight of indecision's in the air
It's standing there, the symbol and the sum of all that's me
It's just a travesty, towering, blocking out the light and blinding me
I want to see

Mercifully, I had one teacher who tried. Would you believe we’re still in touch? Eighth grade was many decades ago. I don’t think he even really knew the depths of the problems I was having, whether with my peers (who were pretty heartless) or my parents. But he was the best mediator ever, and he listened. It helped.

Life went on, again not as planned, nor as most people get through it. I quit college to chase after a guy who claimed to love me. (I was beyond wrong.) I did finally get a degree – two of them, actually – and then kept getting jobs that, for the most part, I enjoyed but didn’t pay. My mental health – battered by years of maltreatment and a rotten sense of self-worth – continued to deteriorate. And now, while my friends who grew up to be doctors and lawyers and architects are advancing their careers, I no longer have one. It’s hard. I was good at what I did, and now I largely have to give it up.

Gold and diamonds cast a spell, it's not for me I know it well
The riches that I seek are waiting on the other side
There's more that I can measure in the treasure of the love that I can find
And though it's always been with me, I must tear down the Wall and let it be
All I am, and all that I was ever meant to be, in harmony
Shining true and smiling back at all who wait to cross

That last verse? Always left me sobbing. Did last Friday, too. How can you rightly say you’ve lost nothing when you’ve lost everything? These guys have been singing this song for 36 years now. They must have a clue. I would love it if someone would find one for me.

But, unlike that 13-year-old girl – I’m still here. There are plenty of days I wish I wasn’t, but I am. I am totally unafraid to die and totally unafraid of what lies beyond. Maybe that’s my clue: I’ll unravel my purpose if I figure out why I’ve stuck around. It’s not a bad challenge for anyone: Is there loss or joy behind your Wall?

No comments: