Posted by: Jack Hope | Tuesday August 14, 2012

Two to Go

Dear Terry,

I saw Daryl this past weekend, for the first time in what must be almost five years. It was at Charlotte’s birthday party and it was at first more than a little nerve-wracking. How would he react to me? How would he feel about me after all these years? Was there a possibility for a reconciliation?

There’s no denying that it was awkward at first. A party isn’t exactly the type of event that facilitates one on one conversation that covers deep-seated issues.

Charlotte had let me know ahead of time that he had been invited and would likely be attending. Which was a good thing too, as being caught off guard can sometimes throw me, especially if I happen to take a downward turn (so far, I haven’t). That would be the last thing that I needed.

But going over and over the situation in my head again and again can’t really prepare you for the reality.

I’d come to the conclusion in recent days that it’s time to stop letting all of the unfinished business lie around, creating an emotional minefield that might go off at any moment. I know I can’t stop things from happening to me but why leave them lying around to cause future emotional trouble? Emotional stability is something that I have come to prize greatly over these last few years.

More than that, there’s still a few people where I just want to let them know that I still care.

In one sense I suppose, Daryl represented a bit of a test run for how this might go. A test of my ability to face some of my own lingering fears and doubts. An opportunity to re-open lines of communication with an old friend and also to prepare for more difficult attempts down the road.

After the initial awkwardness, things improved considerably once we separated ourselves from the party for a walk around the block. It was amazing how much old, familiar patterns quickly re-emerged and how much easier it was to talk one on one.

We both quickly agreed that the issues that had caused this prolonged silence were trivial. And it was soon readily apparent that a lot of this silence had been simple neglect and inertia. And a lack of a way to reach out.

It’s not easy to bring someone up to date on years of your life, especially when the years have been as hard as these last few have been for me. But I was able to give him the Coles Notes version of my battle with Clinical Depression.

It’s amazing how all that history makes such a huge difference. It wasn’t easy to say everything that I did but compared to relating my story of mental illness to a stranger, explaining to Daryl what had happened to me wasn’t very difficult. There’s a strange duality to it, as though I’m introducing him to someone who’s a new person but also being re-connected with my own past self. Going back to myself.

It’s never easy to talk about mental health issues and mental illness. And it’s something that I want to get better at, something that I really feel I could help with. Silence about mental illness is devastating for its victims. More people speaking out, more people like me, could make a difference. If only I could manage to do it.

But the history here makes it an entirely different experience, at least for me. The words flowed out much more easily than I anticipated. It wasn’t an ‘easy’ thing to do but it wasn’t nearly as hard as it could have been. Perhaps the practice will extend to eventually sharing my experiences (in person) with strangers.

But what struck me most was the amazing, overwhelming sense of relief.

A weight I did not even know I had been carrying was lifted. A burden was removed that I had not realized was there has now been taken away and I feel much better for it.

It’s strange how you can lose touch with someone and, if the parting was not acrimonious, not realize after a time that their absence is still there, still a gap in your own life. I hadn’t realized what this long absence had really meant to me and that there was something more that I needed beyond just a tidying up of loose ends.

We’re going to talk again this week and try to arrange to get together again soon. We’re not trying to pick up from where we left on but we are going to start building again from what came before.

Daryl is the first of three people with whom there things still left unsaid, things that still need some sort of resolution. Unfinished business must be concluded, outstanding accounts must be closed. Things unsaid must be said.

One down, two to go.

Love,

Jack

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Responses

  1. I’m so glad that you have begun on this road to cleaning up loose ends. There are so many things I wish I could say to people who are long gone with no chance to say them in this life.

    • Thanks very much for the comment!

      I’ve learned over this whole experience that regrets are most often the things that I did not do. I’ve made plenty of mistakes, but regret almost always stems from a failure to do something.

      I am trying to make sure that I don’t have any regrets in the area of letting the people in my life know that I care about them, no matter what may happen. Life happens, sometimes with enormous speed, and before you know it the chance can be gone forever.

      If there’s any lesson that I am trying to take to heart from this whole experience, this is it.


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