Monday, January 30, 2012

Dealing With Demons

I’ve been trying to figure out a way to write about an emotional dilemma that’s been possessing me lately without being nakedly (and boringly) personal about it--and look--as usual, when I let my fingers do the writing, I managed to answer my own question by my use of the word “possessing” at the beginning of this sentence.  Because I am literally possessed by this thing.  I cannot stop thinking about it, or hearing it talk in my head.  (“Talk.”  Heh.  I’m lucky if it’s not shouting, and I’m lucky if I’m not shouting at the same volume when I’m arguing with it.)  And I think it’s a common enough occurrence for all of us to be so possessed--by an event, a fear, a person, a loss--that it might be entertaining and instructive for y’all to see how I’m dealing with it.

“With what?” I hear you ask.  Call it a demon.  From the ancient Greek daimon (δαίμων), a disembodied spirit.  (Which totally fits one of its attributes, since being possessed by one is like having an alcohol problem.  See below.)  And this spirit is almost totally negative, or a negative influence.  When I’m possessed by something positive, I want to hang onto it as long as possible and it always seems to sift through my fingers.  But when I’m possessed by something negative, even a court order can’t get it to vacate the premises. 

So how do I try to evict it?  Several different ways, all of them useless:

TALKING TO YOURSELF PERPETUATES THE  NON-CONVERSATION.  As I said, this thing has got me talking to myself a lot.  This talk consists of equal parts fantasy conversation (where I win all the arguments with God), zingers I could have said and didn’t (“If promises were cash, you’d be bankrupt.”), and relentless repetition of the same point, like someone trying to hammer a nail into a stone (which pretty much boils down to the same three words: “How could you?”)  Are any of these three going to solve the problem, never mind make me feel better?  Hell no.   None of them are conversations--they’re all monologues.  And monologues are great for venting, but for getting rid of a daimon?  Forget it.  This is why, if I'm talking to myself a lot and getting nothing in return but an echo, then the next logical step is to look for an echo outside of myself.

TALKING TO OTHER PEOPLE PERPETUATES THE NON-CONVERSATION.  On one side, I get the pleasure of hearing my friends tell me that God owes me one, that Life is unfair, that I have good reason to feel hurt and lost, and that I deserve better.  On the other hand, every time I speak of it, my daimon hugs me even closer.  It doesn’t define the problem--the problem defines me.  And the one thing I need all this talking to do--give me clarity--is the one thing it can’t do--it makes everything muddier--it’s like swirling a stick in a pond, it brings up all the crap from the bottom that should stay on the bottom.  And I'm back at square one, trying to clean myself off and not blame someone else for getting me dirty.    

BEING REASONABLE IS LIKE USING A BAND-AID ON A SUCKING CHEST WOUND.  The failure of reason in situations like this points up the (heh) reason why the word “rationalize” has a pejorative connotation.  I can rationalize all I want about an emotional situation: I can stand face to face with Death and say “It happens to everybody,” I can look Loss in the eye and say “Yes, you took that one thing, but look at how much I still have,” I can smile at Rejection and say “And it’s your loss, not mine,” and I might actually feel good for a few minutes.  Fifteen minutes.  Thirty tops.  Till the daimon finds a chink in that rational armor of mine and starts poking me in The Hurt Place again, and Reason goes back to the blacksmith for another try at making itself impenetrable.  Which will never ever happen.  I can cause a blackout by using all the power on the entire East Coast to be rational and reasonable, and the daimon will be totally unaffected, like it has its own generator.  Which it does.  And the generator is inside me, powered by resentment, pain and the desire to hurt something.  Which is the outward expression of the desire to keep the wound open.  So how do I close the wound?

CONFRONTING THE SOURCE IS LIKE THROWING OIL ON THE FIRE.  If it’s a person, the urge to do this is overwhelmingly seductive, because (rationally) I should be able to cure the problem by going to the source, right?  Except that I don’t really want to cure the problem, I want  my pound of flesh.  I want to shake the source of that daimon until it hurts like I do, until he or she or it feels shittier than an overflowing outhouse.  And it will never happen.  Remember: the daimon is Popeye--he will answer everything with the same five words: “I am what I am.”  Meaning "It’s your problem, pal, so deal with it."  Is it fair?  No.  Will I shout myself hoarse trying and failing to get the source of my daimon to realize that it’s unfair?  You bet.  Does that make him, her, or it a cold unfeeling SOB?  God yes.  And don’t we all wish we could be so unfeeling.  There’s a great comfort in unfeeling.  Which is why there’s that extra tang of jealousy in my voice when I'm yelling “How can you be so unfeeling?”  And why saying it and either not getting a response or getting a response I don't want only makes matters worse.

THAT DOOR IS NEVER GOING TO OPEN.  You can bang on it all you want.  God is not going to answer you.  The guy who made all those promises and now acts like you’re a complete stranger won’t answer you.  The girl who used you as a sublet between Guy Apartments won’t answer you.  And here’s the thing: even if the door opens?  You are not going to get the answer you are looking for, because what you are looking for is a time machine--you are looking for a way to drag everything back to the point where it all went wrong, so you can make it go right.  The Arabs actually invented a number to express how many times that’s happened in the life of the universe; it’s called zero.  Which won’t stop you from trying, because there’s always a first time for everything, but you should also consider the implications of what you’re doing.  Or rather, where you’re standing.  And where is that?

YOU ARE ROOTED IN THE PAST.  This is probably the most aggravating thing of all--the fact that everything moves.  When you feel left behind by an event or a person, you have two choices--you can either start walking, or you can stand there and repeat all those hopes you had for the future, or all those vows that were made to you, as if they still apply.  But they don’t apply--which is why you’re standing there like someone bitching about a Windows XP program after your operating system changed to Vista.  It’s the equivalent of a sign that says I LIKED IT BETTER BEFORE.  And of course you did.  The important thing is to realize that it’s not stupid to feel that way.  The important thing is to realize that you were stupid to get attached in the first place, because (to be totally Zen about all this) all attachments are pain.  (Which is why Zen Revenge is the best revenge of all.  You chose her over me?  You moved in with him?  That’s an attachment, and all attachment is pain.  Which is the sound of one throat sub-vocalizing “Nyah nyah!”) 

YOU NEED TO MOVE ON.  Does that mean you have to stop caring?  You bet it does.  It’s the emotional equivalent of “You can’t fire me--I quit!”  And yes, it’s another suit of armor, and yes, your daimon will reach inside it and poke around at that wound like the armor isn’t even there.  But only if you stand still.  Motion is the daimon’s kryptonite.  Which is not to say that motion doesn’t hurt.  It does.  It’s just a better class of pain.  Think of it as pain with protein.  Pain with benefits.  Chief benefit?  When you leave the cause of your pain behind, you leave the thing that’s nagging you about the pain there with it.  It only travels if you carry it.  And if you move on and carry it with you, then it’s your own stupid fault.  Because bottom line, what you’re dealing with here?

WHEN IT COMES TO [INSERT PROBLEM HERE], YOU'RE AN ALCOHOLIC.  You are ingesting a poison that makes you think it’s a vitamin.  It’s not giving you what you need to live; it’s giving you what it needs to stay alive.  And the only way to get it out of your system is to cut it out entirely and go cold turkey.   Turn your back on it.  Walk away.   Do not turn around, no matter how many promises it makes.   Remember that you are walking away from a sweet but deadly lie--from something that time and circumstance changed from something you could depend on into something you can't rely on--from something you once believed in to something you need to keep believing in because it was who you were once. (Repeat when necessary: once.)  So if you want to believe in a lie?  If you want to live in the once and not the now?  Turn around.  Talk to that daimon.  Hug that needy clinger close.  Otherwise?  Cover your ears, shut your mouth and start walking.