Sunday, March 28, 2010

The truck shifted into 4WD and the rear-view mirror saw a paved highway shrink into nothingness. Early morning rain lighted on the windshield like tiny, velvet butterflies. Words alone cannot describe the serenity of this road less traveled, and neither can they begin to convey my disappointment as it evaporated. In sharp and unpredictable bounds the driving conditions deteriorated, settling somewhere south of treacherous. The unceremonious meeting of my head with driver’s side glass reinforced the need for evaluation. A sane man would have turned back and perhaps by saying as much I’ve given you more insight to my condition than necessary. Even as a lad I believed conformity a poison, so by default I dismissed the idea of retreat entirely. Not that turning back was devoid of merit, but as each day passes I find myself powerless against the icy grip of those things familiar. How dreadful past compulsions can be. Without regard to outcome, I retrieved a handful of colorful pills, chased them with a shot of bourbon, and forged onward.

As I ascended the mountain my mind gave way to odd and various considerations, but none more perplexing or titillating than time dedicated to the designer of such a narrow and winding road. I found his plans for razor thin margins commendable, and the sheer depth of canyons on either side serving as punishment for miscalculation—genius indeed! I attacked this course with fervor, as I believed any lesser attempt would have deeply offended his creativity.

Yet as fire turns to ice, I briefly shared the cab with my dead mother. Her eyes were as cold and unapproachable as when living. She insisted on frittering away precious moments expounding upon what a thorough and significant disappointment I had been. She was still yammering about nothing when I dismissed her unwelcomed company in favor of a warm fuzzy haze.

When the truck rolled around the final bend one of two things occurred. At the time my condition did not allow me to readily identify which, and oddly I had no preference. After intense scrutiny I discovered it was indeed a heavy sigh and not the hissing of my ruptured spleen.

With my mental state vaguely laid bare and the introduction to my dysfunctional mother, I find no value in withholding other unsavory details of my journey. A victim of diminished capacity, I was unsuccessful in synchronizing the jerking of my eyes and the elusive hands of a watch, so estimates must suffice. After three failed attempts to negotiate the cabin door, I figure it was noontime when I crawled through the threshold and approaching sunset when I fell onto a bed fully clothed.

As morning rose my nostrils swelled with the aroma of stale earth and time. I was content eavesdropping while the rudimentary accommodations murmured of their simplicity. All in all I found the cabin and its contents quite pleasing. Never had she promised a five-star suite, only an escape from those things in heavy pursuit. Where psychiatrists are concerned Dr. Julie Martin was beyond compare. At first I was convinced she had taken me on such short notice because we shared the same office building, but perhaps it was more than book learning that provided such keen insight to my streaks of madness. Nonetheless, offering the use of her cabin for the weekend qualified her as a genuine friend with a sincere interest in my mental well being.

I suppose it is inevitable that at some point one assigned to care for another’s demons cannot help but be consumed by their own. Certainly, it was my own inability to properly defend those placed in my care that has driven me to within arms reach of the edge. Every hour on the hour I pour through the files of three deceased patients of mine who chose to end their own lives. I’ve played back our conversations searching for clues I missed, some occasion when I selected the wrong words, or failed to respond when required.

These distasteful circumstances seem much more palatable if only we adhere to the philosophy whereby we are all simply victims of circumstance. Abusers raise abusers, addicts give birth to addicts, and the poverty-stricken are destined to breed another generation of peasants. There is liberation in believing we are completely helpless to change or otherwise affect our miserable lives, but when we speak in these terms we completely undermine the capability of humankind and give ourselves a free pass to fail regularly and feel good about it.

Yet if we deny such thinking it suggests we have some control of our behavior, actions, and ultimately responsibility for outcomes we clearly did not intend. Perhaps that is too painful and far too heavy a burden for me to carry just now.

The dusty journal entry of Dr. Julie Martin provided me with inspiration. Before the weekend was done I considered others she might send here in the future and was compelled to leave an entry of my own.

Cynicism creeps in slowly, like a wolf stalking a lamb, but among these whispering pines I find refuge. Nature sucks the venom from my soul while mountain breezes sweep away the ashes and songs of birds in hiding sooth the jagged edges of my heart.