Thomas Wictor

But what does it say about YOU?

But what does it say about YOU?

Yesterday I changed. Permanently. It’s neither a good nor a bad change. However, it was necessary. I didn’t intend to change; June 23, 2014, was going to be just another day. But something happened that set in motion a whole series of thoughts and conclusions, and by nightfall I was a different person. I would never ask somebody this question directly, because the very characteristic I’m about to describe would prevent the person from answering. Still, what does it say about you when you can’t deal with others’ troubles?

Here’s a subtle metaphor for what you are.

So, this is what changed me: Yesterday I wrote a post on a Website that asked how people deal with terrible news. I used a pseudonym, but I described my life and the things I’ve recently learned. The post was deleted without explanation.

I’ve been deleted without explanation more times than I can count, but yesterday’s deletion flipped a switch, and I became this.

Isola_di_loreto

It’s not an occasion for sadness or celebration; this is just a natural outgrowth of my experiences in this particular cycle. I’m going to be fine. Very early this morning, I had a long conversation with a clerk at the drugstore. I asked her how she was doing, and she said, “Not very well.”

I asked her what was up; she told me.

She was raised by a very strict man, so one day she ran away. On the bus she met a handsome young fellow who swept her off her feet. She and the man decided to get married. At first her father was violently opposed, but then he relented. After the clerk and her husband had four children, he cheated on her with the maid. She divorced him and then her father was diagnosed with terminal cancer. He died before she could get home to see him. She remarried, and her new husband was killed in a car accident three years later. Giving up on relationships, she moved in with her mother. Two years ago her oldest son was murdered for his cell phone. Last week her brother’s wife dropped dead of a heart attack.

We talked for an hour. Since this was from 2:00 to 3:00 a.m., the store was empty. Nothing she said depressed me. In fact I thanked her for confiding in me.

“Sometimes I feel like killing myself,” she said.

“Why bother?” I asked. “We’re all going to die anyway. Just wait long enough, and the problem will take care of itself.”

She laughed and shook my hand. When I left, she said she felt a lot better.

My experiences separate me from society. I accept that. It was definitively proven to me yesterday. If I shared my story with the drugstore clerk, she couldn’t hack it. Even though I’m now on the fringe, I’m better equipped for life than people who are out there trying to make their marriages work, trying to raise their kids, trying to earn a good living, and trying to not go out of their minds from stress. I’m immune to shock and despair.

The first crippling PTSD attack I remember having was when my father took me to The Battle of Britain. I was seven and excited to see a war movie. At some point the gunner of a German bomber had his eyes shot out.

Battle_of_Britain

I became absolutely hysterical. Screaming, I ran blindly toward the exit. Dad was amused but pretended to be concerned. He took me home, and I slept with the lights on for months. Even now, forty-four years later, that image upsets me greatly. It makes my heart race. The helpless, flailing hand is very painful. If you want, you can read about how I’ve dreamed of it many times.

Though I disassociate and have nightmares, I don’t drive away my fellow humans due to their problems. The drugstore clerk’s tragedies didn’t make me think about me. I can listen to anything from anybody. There’s literally nothing you could say to me that would make me want to delete you.

That’s the silver lining of having lived in darkness for so long. I recognize that terrible things happen. From now until the Big Gulp, nothing will knock me off my rails. The phrase that comes to mind is “I’ve seen the elephant.” Once you see the elephant, you’re different. The only people who understand are those who’ve also seen that transformative pachyderm.

I once knew a woman who took an art class. The teacher looked at her work and said, “This is a person who doesn’t like shadows.”

He was right. And the painter’s inability to walk through shadows ended up killing her.

In my case it wasn’t that I couldn’t face the darkness; I was simply unaware of its origin. This caused me tremendous difficulties. In college I saw the movie Scarface. It made me think I was going insane. The horror of the violence—especially the chainsaw scene—was indescribable. Scarface was a descent into hell. I had to get vomiting drunk to finish it.

The first three minutes of the movie Goodfellas gave me such a massive PTSD attack that I got up and raced out of the theater. I was seven years old again. Carmen the Cardinal Ghost was mortified and disdainful, as though I were breaking wind like the elephant I didn’t know I’d seen.

At the time I had no idea why the opening scene of Goodfellas made me lose my mind. The same thing happened when Carmen and I saw Wild at Heart. Without conscious thought I jumped to my feet and sprinted away from the head being smashed.

It took me four attempts, but I finally watched Goodfellas all the way through. I’ve never seen Wild at Heart. There’s no need.

As I said, I’m genuinely all right. This isn’t the life I wanted, but on the other hand, everything is fully explained. I don’t have to plug my ears out of fear that I might have to face unpleasant realities. These realities have been faced and are in the process of being accommodated.

Therefore it’s not necessary for me to delete people whose lives are in turmoil. I used to see myself as the biggest weakling who ever lived. Yet the whole time, I was actually carrying an elephant on my shoulders.

How many people are strong enough to do that?

Elephant


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